Workmanship Ideal or Convenience?

One of the biggest issues I have with modern, Western political theory is Locke‘s so-called ‘workmanship ideal‘, a concept stemming from the Enlightenment belief that a maker of something should be the rightful owner of something. The Age of Enlightenment (AKA Age of Reason) was supposed to have divorced science from other rationale, whether divine rights (as ascribed to kings) or something else. The problem—the same problem Descartes had in his Discourses—is that God (even if vis-a-vis ‘nature‘) is injected exogenously and irrationally into the works. Philosophers even into the 21st century, if barely, have concluded that this concept breaks down when we attempt to secularise it, but we are subjectively comfortable with the notion. Of course, the more our beliefs lean towards ‘higher powers‘, intelligent design and the such, the more comfortable we are apt to feel.

I was originally inspired to write this when researching Rawls and happening upon Ian Shapiro‘s Yale open course, The Moral Foundations of Politics. James Murphy has this to say in his essay, The Workmanship Ideal : A Theologico-Political Chimera?

6 thoughts on “Workmanship Ideal or Convenience?

  1. By God, I feel perfectly comfortable with the workmanship ideal. If I pick up a watch and examine it, it occurs to me that, Great Merciful Heavens, somebody MADE this! Likewise, when I look at Mount Rushmore. The complexity of some other things like an unaltered landscape, a bristlecone pine, or the human body is only a speed bump on my path to belief and glory. The more you leftist radicals attack the idea of a “higher power,” the more the rest of us dig in our heels. Secularism is plain wrong. Can you PROVE to me there is no such higher power. No? Q.E.D.

    Most cordially yours,
    Alex Jones at Infowars.

    Only kidding. I’m taking Shaprio’s course on Coursera too and can’t quite get the workmanship ideal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Evolutionary psychology can explain all our intuitions, including why we feel like we own whatever it is we worked on. If our ancestors worked altruistically, they would be easily taken advantage of by others. This is not conducive to his fitness. Thus, this non-reciprocal altruism will be quickly weeded out of the gene pool. And so, over time, all that is left in the gene pool are genes that make us think: I worked on it, I own it, and if you want it, you better trade for it. It is this evolutionary adapted instinct that is the foundation of our economy.


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