Tag Archives: john locke

John LOOOcke – An Object-Oriented Ontological Critique of Lockean Property Acquisition

Part 0: Meta

What follows is a retooled version of a paper I wrote a while ago for a political science class. I did some reworking and editing both to make the argument better as well as to make sure the formatting was decent (eg. photos, relevant addons, etc.), but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it!

 Part 1: Introduction

Although John Locke’s conception of the generation of private property from common property is profound in that it provided a new, pre-materialist[1], model of understanding how private property and value are created, it, like so many other historical models, has its own issues. Specifically, Locke’s view of nature as the common gift given by God to man in order to exploit for his own devices – namely for man to act upon and change to create value and property – is a fundamentally troublesome way of viewing the world because it defines humans as the sole arbiters of valuation and value creation by elevating the ontological status of humans above non-human objects in the world thus privileging an anthropocentric mindset. The creation of, what I call, an arborescent ontology that is inherent in this mode of thinking not only has been the justification for the destruction/objectification[2] of Indigenous Peoples (among other, “lesser” beings) and the expansion into America that Locke mentions, but also is a poor epistemic starting point for understanding policy making and governmentality as it already assumes some inherent “natural order” or teleological end point and is not self-reflective. This paper serves to function as an object-oriented ontological/epistemological critique of Locke’s concept of value creation and the implications thereof – the implications being arborescent ontology – in favor of a less hierarchical[3], more or rhizomatic ontology – flat ontology.

Before continuing, however, I feel as though some key terms and concepts ought to be defined and described in order to avoid confusion later on. Although I am using words like “arborescent” and “rhizomatic” in their Deleuze and Guattarian sense, I do not intend to drag along the baggage that comes with Deleuze and his seeming disdain for non-human object focus. When I say “arborescent ontology” I mean a very hierarchical focus on understanding being in the world such that one’s description of is very rigid and tree-like, that is to say very “unidirectional”.[4] When the rhizome is discussed (in the context of rhizomatic forms of knowledge), I mean less rigid and more free flowing – that is, grass like – forms of knowledge and understanding (at the least, bidirectional and arguably polydirectional).[5] Finally, when object-oriented ontology is discussed, I feel like there is no better definition than the following one given by Ian Bogost: [6]

Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally–plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players, and sandstone, for example. In contemporary thought, things are usually taken either as the aggregation of ever smaller bits (scientific naturalism) or as constructions of human behavior and society (social relativism). OOO steers a path between the two, drawing attention to things at all scales (from atoms to alpacas, bits to blinis), and pondering their nature and relations with one another as much with ourselves.[7]

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Paper(s) in Progress

Hey all, I know I haven’t posted anything long/of major substance lately, but that is due to me working on two major arguments. First, I am (albeit slowly) working on finishing Part 4 of the [IDEOLOGY IN PROGRESS] series which should be rather hefty. But second, and more pressing, I am writing a paper discussing John Locke’s justification for property acquisition from a flat ontological/critical anthropocentric standpoint. As a taste of what is to come, here is the working thesis:

“John Locke’s view of nature as the common gift of God unto which humans act upon and change in order to create value and ‘property’ is fundamentally rooted in an anthropocentric mindset and a mindset that privileges the human subject placing them above the non-human object. This mentality is a poor model of understanding human/non-human relationships for [x, y, z] reasons *these will be the paragraphs, of course*.”

The latter should be done in the next few weeks and the former should, hopefully, be done not too far after.

Part 3: The State of Nature – The Individual, The Environment, and The Rise of the State

This is a post I’ve been putting of writing for a while now because I didn’t really know how to start it and, although I’m not confident, I’ll give you what I have.

“Liberal” theorists from Mencius to Augustine to Locke have argued, in some form or another, that humans are innately good – that is, humans are born pure and clean and are corrupted and/or succumb to evil desires due to extraneous circumstances. John Locke, for example, popularized the idea of tabula rasa, or “blank slate”, which states that all humans are born empty, arguably without any intrinsic behaviors, and learn how to act (thus becoming “good” or “evil”) based on interactions with other humans.

Conversely, theorists such as Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Schmitt have argued that humans are innately bad and have a tendency to act selfishly and in ways that harm greater society and, more often than not, degenerate in pure hedonism and personal expansion.

It is my view, and the view that will be advanced after the jump, that humans are fundamentally irrational and, when unrestrained, resort to violence, environmental degradation, and societal destruction to further their self interests. The result of the above is not “spontaneous order”, which anarchists like to argue, but rather chaos.

Albeit cliché, I believe the statement made in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, “Absolute freedom is no better than chaos”, is fundamentally correct and is a good tool for analyzing governmental institutions.

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