. 2
( 9)


Adam and Eve context “ in some notorious observations that he makes
about marriage and about the location of ¬nal authority in what he calls
“Conjugal Society.” The Second Treatise passage on this is pretty well-known.
It begins with equality of individual rights. The basis of marriage, says
Locke, is “a voluntary Compact between Man and Woman” consist-
ing “chie¬‚y in . . . a Communion and Right in one another™s Bodies.”
It includes also obligations of “mutual Support, and Assistance” and a
“Communion of Interests” uniting their care and affection, and provid-
ing of course for their children (nd T: ·). Intriguingly, in the posthu-
mously published Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, Locke even
produces an argument for reciprocity so far as rights in one another™s
bodies are concerned. Commenting in a footnote to his paraphrase of
± Corinthians ·:,± Locke observes:
The woman (who in all other rights is inferior) has here the same power given
her over the mans body, that the man has over hers. The reason whereof is plain.
Because if she had not her man, when she had need of him; as well as the man
his woman when he had need of her, marriage would be noe remedy against
fornication. (P&N: i.±“°°)
At any rate, having set up these reciprocal right and duties in the Second
Treatise, Locke then introduces a sickeningly familiar asymmetry, along
the following lines:
But the Husband and Wife, though they have but one common Concern, yet
having different understandings, will unavoidably sometimes have different wills
too; it therefore being necessary, that the last Determination, i.e. the Rule, should
be placed somewhere, it naturally falls to the Man™s share, as the abler and the
stronger. (nd T: )
“[N]aturally . . . the Man™s share, as the abler and the stronger.” What
does this portend for our project?
It™s pretty obvious that this position on marital authority sits uneasily
with any principle of basic human equality. But where exactly does the

± ± Corinthians ·:: “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise
also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”
° God, Locke, and Equality
inconsistency lie? It™s hard to tell, because the meaning of the passage is
unclear. We can read it in two ways. The reference to strength “ “the abler
and the stronger” “ might suggest that what we have here is a relationship
based on conquest and violence. I don™t think that was what Locke meant.
It would straightforwardly contradict his contractualist account of mar-
riage. “Conjugal society,” he says, “is made by a voluntary compact”
(nd T: ·), and there is no suggestion (as there is in Leviathan, for ex-
ample) that the voluntariness of such an arrangement could be compat-
ible with its being the upshot of coercion.±µ I think that Locke cannot
plausibly be read as saying that the husband™s matrimonial authority
may be established by force, not only because it would embarrass the
fundamentals of his contractualist account, but also “ perhaps para-
doxically “ because Locke conceded that although this was likely to
happen in fact, its happening in fact did not determine the right of
the matter. I have in mind here the distinction between prediction and
prescription which we talked about a little while ago.± Remember his
comment about the prediction of pain in childbirth not prohibiting
there is here no more Law to oblige a Woman to such a Subjection, if the
Circumstances either of her Condition or Contract with her Husband should
exempt her from it, th[a]n there is, that she should bring forth her Children in
Sorrow and Pain, if there could be found a Remedy for it . . . (±st T: ·)
In general Locke was quite careful to distinguish de facto probabilities
from prescribed or legitimated outcomes. This is a point I shall empha-
size several times.±· In the Letter Concerning Toleration, for example, he was
adamant that the physical ability of a magistrate to prevail over a subor-
dinated minority didn™t make his prevailing right: “You will say, then, the
magistrate being the stronger will have his will and carry his point. With-
out doubt; but the question is not here concerning the doubtfulness of the
event, but the rule of right” (LCT: ). Might is not necessarily right; so
the right of male rule is not established by the mere fact of male strength.
±µ Cf. Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. ±, p. ·: “Covenants entred into by fear, in the condition of meer
Nature, are obligatory.” Hobbes of course did not concede that male strength inevitably prevailed:
“[T]here is not always that difference of strength or prudence between the man and the woman
as that the right can be determined without War” (ibid., Ch. °, p. ±).
± In ±st T: ·, Locke says that Genesis :± “ “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule
over thee” “ can be read as a prediction rather than a prescription: “God, in this Text, gives not,
that I see, any authority to Adam over Eve, or to Men over their Wives, but only fortels what
should be the Womans Lot.”
±· See also the discussion of slavery in Chapter ·, below, pp. °“.
Adam and Eve
(As an aside, let me say that I also don™t agree with John Simmons™s
suggestion that there is anything in common between Locke™s argument
here about male strength and his argument in the Second Treatise about
majority rule “ “it being necessary to that which is one body to move one
way; it is necessary the body should move that way whither the greater
force carries it” (nd T: ).± The only thing in common in the two
situations is the need for a decision rule, and as I argued in The Dignity of
Legislation,± the majoritarian argument does not really involve an appeal
to physical strength at all.)
However, there is another way of reading this passage about the will of
the husband prevailing. It™s a more plausible reading, but it still involves
a head-on challenge to the principle of basic equality. Locke™s suggestion
might be that male strength and male ability constitute an entitlement to
authority “ strength and ability in the sense of a superior capacity to carry
out the tasks involved in the relationship. It™s a distinction of authority
based on an allegation about a distinction of merit.
Is this necessarily a problem for basic equality? Even in his most
egalitarian moments, Locke does not deny that there are important
distinctions in capacity among human beings “ and hence functional
distinctions in merit. Actually he insists on the point: “Though I have
said above, Chap. II. That all Men by Nature are equal, I cannot be supposed
to understand all sorts of Equality: Age or Virtue may give men a just Prece-
dency: Excellency of Parts and Merit may place others above the Common
Level” (nd T: µ). The trouble is that Locke also wants to insist that
differences like these are consistent with basic equality of authority. The
passage just quoted continues:
and yet all this consists with the Equality, which all Men are in, in respect of
Jurisdiction or Dominion one over another; which was the Equality I there spoke
of, as proper to the Business in hand, being that equal Right, that every Man
hath, to his Natural Freedom, without being subjected to the Will or Authority of
any other Man. (nd T: µ)
But that is exactly what this business about the superior ability of the
husband denies. In the passage about husbands and wives, Locke is
not just noticing a difference in ability, he is inferring a difference in
authority from a difference in the capacities of human beings; and that
is fundamentally at odds with what he wants to say generally about
± Simmons, Lockean Theory of Rights, p. ±·.
± Waldron, Dignity of Legislation, pp. ± ff. See also Chapter µ, below, pp. ±“°.
 God, Locke, and Equality
equality. The inconsistency is the more striking because, as far as I can
tell, this is the only place in his mature thought where Locke bases
entitlement to authority on superior capacity.° He does say in a few
places that people might choose their ruler on the basis of ability.± But
still, consent is the basis of authority and although the recognition of
ability may be a reason for giving consent, it does not trump or override
it. Nowhere, except in this passage about husbands and wives, does he say
that ability confers authority in default or perhaps even in contradiction
of consent.
True, Locke does talk about the power of a parent over a child as
based on the difference in their respective capacities. But there the point
is that the child really has no will or understanding of its own. In the case
of husbands and wives, the passage about the husband™s ability is pred-
icated on the assumption that the husband and wife are both rational
beings and it is simply a matter of whose will is to prevail: “the Husband
and Wife, though they have but one common Concern, yet having differ-
ent understandings, will unavoidably sometimes have different wills too;
it therefore being necessary, that the last Determination, i.e. the Rule,
should be placed somewhere” (nd T: ). The issue is undeniably one
of authority, then “ authority among beings who are without question
supposed to be one another™s equals so far as authority is concerned.

I wish this wasn™t what Locke said and meant: it would make my life
easier as an exponent of his theory of basic equality. But there is no way
round it.
The position cannot be saved by saying, “Well, Locke just accepted
the custom of his day.” Locke was a consistent critic of the customs
° He never makes any such claim about the magistrate or about legislative representatives in
the Second Treatise. In the Letter Concerning Toleration he goes to considerable pains to deny that
magistracy is best understood in terms of superior ability: “Princes, indeed, are born superior
unto other men in power, but in nature equal. Neither the right nor the art of ruling does
necessarily carry along with it the certain knowledge of other things” (LCT: ).
± See Locke™s discussion in nd T: ·µ and ±°µ of adult children™s reasons for choosing their fathers
as rulers in primeval political society “ “He was ¬ttest to be trusted; Paternal affection secured
their Property and Interest under his Care . . . If therefore they must have one to rule them . . . who
so likely to be the Man as he that was their common Father; unless Negligence, Cruelty, or any
other defect of Mind or Body made him un¬t for it? But when either the Father died, and left his
next Heir, for want of Age, Wisdom, Courage, or any other Qualities, less ¬t for Rule; or where
several Families met, and consented to continue together; There, ™tis not to be doubted, but they
used their natural freedom, to set up him, whom they judged the ablest, and most likely, to Rule
well over them.” (See also the discussion in Chapter µ, below, pp. ±“.)
Adam and Eve
of his day on all sorts of topics, and he was well aware of the “gross
absurdities” to which “the following of Custom, when Reason has left it,
may lead” (nd T: ±µ·). He was at least as capable of distancing himself
from the assumptions of his culture as we are from ours. Moreover,
in both Treatises he talked about law and custom in regard to men and
women, and he made his argument about the “foundation in nature”
for male superiority explicitly as a point in addition to that. Or, more
precisely, what he said was that there is a natural presumption in fa-
vor of husbands that can be displaced either by the contract between
husband and wife or by some contrary custom or local law. But even
the idea of a defeasible natural presumption here is at odds with basic
Nor can the consistency of Locke™s overall position be saved by saying
that this is a subordination of wives in the speci¬c circumstance of mar-
riage, not a general proposition about the inequality of women. Strictly
speaking, that is true, though Locke™s point in the Treatises is that the
subordination of wives is based on the natural inferiority of women.
Elsewhere in his writings, Locke describes women as the “weaker” and
“the more timid” sex. He talks also in the Essay, of nurses and maids as
sources of myth and disinformation. In the footnotes to his paraphrase
of ± Corinthians, Locke talks freely of “the subordination of the sexes,”
the undesirability of setting “women at liberty from their natural sub-
jection to men,” “the confessed superiority and dominion of the man,”
and “this subordination which god for order™s sake had instituted in the
world” (P&N: i.).µ
In an excellent essay on Locke and feminism, Melissa Butler has
observed the “hesitant” tone in which Locke talks about conjugal
 Lorenne Clark is rightly insistent on this point: “Locke was quite prepared to challenge the
deepest principles of English land law” (Clark, “Women and Locke,” p. ).
 Locke, Essays on the Law of Nature, p. ±±; Locke, “Virtue B,” p. .
 Early in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke suggests that “Doctrines, that have been
derived from no better original, than the Superstition of a Nurse, or the Authority of an old
Woman; may, by length of time, and consent of Neighbours, grow up to the dignity of Principles
in Religion or Morality” (E: ±..). Later he offers this observation about the idea of goblins and
sprites: “[L]et but a foolish Maid inculcate these often on the Mind of a Child, and raise them
there together, possibly he shall never be able to separate them again so long as he lives, but
darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful Ideas” (E: ..±°). See also the
references in Walker, “Locke Minding Women,” pp. µ°“.
µ One always has to be careful with one™s use of Locke™s Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles “ careful
that one is citing Locke and not St. Paul (in Locke™s reconstruction of his teachings). Mostly I
shall cite only the footnotes in this posthumously published work, for it is there that Locke seems to
comment in his own voice on the Epistles. (These footnotes amount to substantial commentaries:
for example, the footnote from which I have taken the phrases cited in the text runs for three
 God, Locke, and Equality
inequality. He quali¬es it, she says, and he does his best to mitigate
it and limit its impact on the rest of the theory. She is right “ up to a
point. According to Locke, the husband™s authority affects only matters
of common concern. It does not affect the wife™s personal property. It
may be offset by the contract between them or by municipal law. And it
may be terminated by divorce, “there being no necessity in the nature
of the thing, nor to the ends of it, that [this relationship] should always
be for Life” (nd T: ±).· And Professor Butler is right in the further
point she makes, about Locke™s argument that a husband™s authority has
nothing to do with political power. It is, says Locke, at most,
only a Conjugal Power, not Political, the Power that every Husband hath to
order the things of private Concernment in his Family, as Proprietor of the
Goods and Land there, and to have his Will take place before that of his wife in
all things of their common Concernment; but not a Political Power of Life and
Death over her, much less over any body else. (±st T: )
Still, even this does not really reconcile the position to the principle of
basic equality. Locke may insist on a verbal difference between conjugal
and political society, and even a difference in content “ the husband
has no power over the life of his lady, whereas the magistrate does. (And
we must bear in mind Mary Astell™s response: “What tho™ a Husband
can™t deprive a Wife of Life without being responsible to the Law, he may
however do what is much more grievous to a generous Mind, render Life
The fact is that Locke has built a difference of authority among two
adult human wills on the basis of natural differences. And that in itself,
being quite at odds with what he says about equality, is enough to cast
doubt on the general premise “ which is essential to his politics “ that
no such construction is legitimate. Locke™s political theory depends on
¬‚attening out the traditional hierarchies within the human species, and
 Butler, “Early Liberal Roots of Feminism,” p. ±.
· And Locke continues: “But this reaching but to the things of their common Interest and Property,
leaves the Wife in the full and free possession of what by Contract is her peculiar Right, and gives
the Husband no more power over her Life than she has over his. The Power of the Husband being
so far from that of an absolute Monarch, that the Wife has in many cases a liberty to separate
from him; where natural Right, or their Contract allows it; whether that Contract be made by
themselves in the state of Nature, or by the Customs or Laws of the Country they live in; and
the Children upon Such Separation fall to the Father or Mother™s Lot, as such Contract does
determine.” (nd T: )
 Cf. Pateman, Sexual Contract, p. µ: “The battle is not over the legitimacy of a husband™s conjugal
right, but over what to call it.”
 Astell, Re¬‚ections Upon Marriage, pp. ±·“±; see also Springborg, “Mary Astell,” p. .
Adam and Eve
he does that by denying that natural differences among humans give rise
to basic differences of authority. Once that is compromised, as it certainly
is in this instance, the credibility of the general position is shaken.°

Carole Pateman believes that a consistent position is salvageable if we
take seriously the propositions we have just been examining about women
and conjugal authority. What we have to realize, says Pateman, is that for
Locke the issue of political power over women does not arise. In Locke™s
scheme of things political power is a relation between free and equal
individuals; conjugal power on the other hand is a relation between a
free individual and a creature that is something less than a free individual.
It is a form of “natural subjection” and it is simply unregulated by the
equality-oriented principles associated with politics. Hence Pateman™s
conclusion concerning Locke™s discussion of husbands™ authority:

None of this disturbs Locke™s picture of the state of nature as a condition
“wherein all the Power and Jurisdiction is reciprocal, . . . without Subordination
or Subjection.” . . . The natural subjection of women, which entails their exclu-
sion from the category of “individual,” is irrelevant to Locke™s investigation.±

In other words, consistency is saved for Locke (according to Pateman) by
inferring that when he says all men are equal, he does after all mean “men”
in the narrow gendered sense. I have a lot of respect for Carole Pateman™s
work (not just her work on Locke), and I am tempted to concede at least
the following: if consistency is to be attributed at all costs to Locke™s
theory in the Second Treatise, then “[w]omen are excluded from the status
of ˜individual™ in the natural condition . . . the attributes of individuals are
sexually differentiated; only men naturally have the characteristics of free
and equal beings.” That will be the price of insisting that the claims
about equality have to be reconciled somehow with the claims about
superiority: the only way to reconcile them is to read “Men” in “all Men
by Nature are equal” (nd T: µ) as referring only to males.

° This, by the way, was exactly Mary Astell™s critique of Locke in Re¬‚ections Upon Marriage, p. ±·:
“[I]f Absolute Sovereignty be not necessary in a State, how comes it to be so in a Family? or if in
a Family, why not in a State; since no Reason can be alleg™d for the one that will not hold more
strongly for the other.”
±  Ibid., p. µ.
Pateman, Sexual Contract, p. µ.
 God, Locke, and Equality
And if we go this far, we won™t have to go very much further to infer
that John Locke did not believe married women could own property
or participate (as property-holders) in politics. Locke insists that no one
truly has property in anything which another can rightfully take from her,
when he pleases, against her consent (nd T: ±). It seems to follow then,
from the claim that a husband™s decisions about family property take
precedence over his wife™s, that wives cannot really be property-holders at
all. Moreover, if there is any question about whether the family property
is to be brought under the auspices of civil society in the social contract
for its better protection, again it would seem to follow that the husband™s
will should rightfully prevail so that married woman are not normally to
be understood as parties to the social contract in their own right. And
so the whole fabric of apparent gender-equality unravels. Locke may
have tried to give the impression of arguing against patriarchy, and he
may even have pulled the wool over the eyes of a few gullible twentieth-
century liberals. But it was all a trick, and feminist commentators are
not fooled. They know that this is really a chauvinist wolf in egalitarian
The position is still not entirely consistent of course. For Locke does
talk about married women having their own property; in his discussion
of just war towards the end of the Second Treatise, he insists that even a
justly conquered husband does not forfeit his wife™s estate: “For as to the
Wife™s share, whether her own Labour or compact gave her a Title to it,
™tis plain, Her Husband could not forfeit what was hers” (nd T: ±).µ
In the First Treatise, too, Locke will not allow Filmer to evade the force of
his insistence that God gave the world to Adam and Eve, not to Adam
alone, on the basis of Eve™s subordination:
the Grant being to them, i.e. spoke to Eve also, as many Interpreters think
with reason, that these words were not spoken till Adam had his Wife, must not
she thereby be Lady, as well as he Lord of the World? If it be said that Eve
was subjected to Adam, it seems she was not so subjected to him, as to hinder
 Cf. Norton, Founding Mothers, p. °: “If property holders by de¬nition could not be subject to
the whims of another person, then no wife “ no woman “ could be the sort of property owner
who could participate in the establishment of government.”
 Why Locke should have wanted to conduct this elaborate charade is another question. He had
no particular incentive of “political correctness” in this regard. On the contrary, I suspect that in
the late seventeenth century his costume of respect for gender-equality would cause him more
trouble than the patriarchalism he was supposed to be trying to disguise. But we will let that pass,
as we pursue the Pateman interpretation.
µ Mary Beth Norton mentions this passage in a footnote (Norton, Founding Mothers, p. µ n. ±)
but quite understandably does not attempt to reconcile it with her interpretation that “[w]ives
by de¬nition owned no property” (ibid., p. °).
Adam and Eve
her Dominion over the Creatures, or Property in them: for shall we say that God
ever made a joint Grant to two, and one only was to have the bene¬t of it?
(±st T: )
And this is followed by the great passage I quoted earlier (I: °), to the
effect that the word “Man” must cover Eve as well “ not just as a matter
of semantics, but because she too bears the image of God, an intellectual
nature, which does not belong to the male sex only. (Even if it were
just a matter of the semantics of words like “Man,” one might think it
worth mentioning the passage in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding
where Locke talks about the way children learn the meaning of that
word “ generalizing from nurse, and mother and father, and from any
“complex idea they had of Peter and James, Mary and Jane.”· There is
no discernable masculine bias in Locke™s account of the way the meaning
is formed.)
So these inconsistencies remain even if we adopt Carole Pateman™s
interpretation. And there are others. Since Locke insists explicitly on the
contractual (and determinable) nature of marriage, do we not have to
infer that women can enter into contracts after all? Also what is the status
of unmarried women, according to Locke? Subjection to their fathers,
brothers, or nearest male relation? Locke makes fun of that position in
regard to the authority of Elizabeth I, as he makes fun also of the idea
that in England Mary Tudor was subject to her husband (±st T: ·). What
about widows? What about women who have decided to divorce their
husbands? Locke says
The Wife has in many cases a Liberty to separate from [the husband]; where
natural Right, or their Contract allows it, whether that Contract be made by
themselves in the state of Nature, or by the Customs or Laws of the country they
live in; and the Children upon such Separation fall to the Father or Mother™s
lot, as such Contract does determine. (nd T: )

 The passage is quoted in full, above, at p. µ.
· “There is nothing more evident, than that the ideas of the persons children converse with . . . are,
like the persons themselves, only particular. The ideas of the nurse and the mother are well
framed in their minds; and, like pictures of them there, represent only those individuals. The
names they ¬rst gave to them are con¬ned to these individuals; and the names of nurse and
mamma, the child uses, determine themselves to those persons. Afterwards, when time and a
larger acquaintance have made them observe that there are a great many other things in the
world, that in some common agreements of shape, and several other qualities, resemble their
father and mother, and those persons they have been used to, they frame an idea, which they
¬nd those many particulars do partake in; and to that they give, with others, the name man, for
example. And thus they come to have a general name, and a general idea. Wherein they make
nothing new; but only leave out of the complex idea they had of Peter and James, Mary and
Jane, that which is peculiar to each, and retain only what is common to them all.” (E: ..·)
 God, Locke, and Equality
Can such a female head of household not enter the social contract, for
the better protection of her own and her family™s property?
Then there are also some less tangible problems for the Pateman
view, from the perspective of the history of ideas. Pateman is certain
that, according to Locke, women could not be involved in setting up civil
society. I will offer some more detailed comments on this in Chapter µ,
when we consider the de¬nition of “the people” in Locke™s theory of
the constitution of political society. There I shall argue that Locke is
precluded by his own logic from saying both that women are subject to
natural law and that they are not to be considered as members of the
people, for the purposes of the institution of political society. In the
meantime, it is worth observing that Pateman offers no explanation of
why Locke does not follow Samuel Pufendorf and his own friend James
Tyrrell in making this explicit. They spelled it out. Pufendorf said that
“states have certainly been formed by men, not women” and this is why
the right of the father prevails. Locke said nothing of the sort. But why
would he be less forthcoming than Pufendorf if this (as Pateman suggests)
was the main point of his argument? James Tyrrell said that “women are
commonly un¬t for civil business.”° Again, why would Locke be less
forthcoming on this than his friend?±
We know Locke was prepared to acknowledge that almost all states
have been patriarchal in their actual historical origins. He talks about
“how easy it was in the ¬rst Ages of the World, . . . for the Father of the
Family to become the Prince of it” (nd T: ·). And he says that it was
important that people chose someone they naturally loved and trusted
as their primeval ruler, for “without such nursing fathers tender and
careful of the public weal, all Governments would have sunk under the
Weakness and In¬rmities of their Infancy” (nd T: ±±°). Yet Locke is
adamant about inferring nothing from this about the appropriate shape
or personnel for modern politics, except that it is sometimes a good idea
to give political authority to people you trust. With regard to fathers,
  Pufendorf, On the Duty of Man and the Citizen, p. ±µ.
See below, pp. ±°“µ.
° Tyrrell, Patriarcha Non Monarcha, p. . (This passage is actually cited in Pateman, Sexual Contract,
p. ··.) Tyrrell also observed, Patriarcha Non Monarcha, p. , that “[t]here never was any Gov-
ernment where all the Promiscuous Rabble of Women and Children had Votes, as being not
capable of it.” (See Butler, “Early Liberal Roots of Feminism,” p. ±.)
± For the signi¬cance of Locke™s silences compared with what his contemporaries and predecessors
were writing, see Skinner, “Meaning and Understanding,” p. .
 This intriguing phrase is biblical in origin. See Isaiah :: “And kings shall be thy nursing
fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face
toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for
they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.”
Adam and Eve
husbands, and males generally being appropriate occupants of political
of¬ce, the conclusion is insistent: “an Argument from what has been,
to what should of right be, has no great force” (nd T: ±°). This is
quite at variance with the style of argument of those in the seventeenth
century whom we know held the position that Pateman is attributing to
Finally we ask: why is Locke at such pains to insist that the Fifth
Commandment is a commandment equally to love and respect one™s
mother as well as one™s father, if he held the basically patriarchal view
that Pateman attributes to him? In this, as Melissa Butler notes, “Locke
broke with one of patriarchy™s strongest traditions.”µ His insistence on
including mothers as well as fathers is strident and repetitive: it goes on
for more than six pages in the First Treatise. The Fifth Commandment
establishes equality between the parents, says Locke; and he cites a dozen
other biblical verses that join “father” and “mother” in the same way.·
“Nay, the Scripture makes the Authority of Father and Mother . . . so equal,
that in some places it neglects even the Priority of Order, which is thought
due to the Father, and the Mother is put ¬rst, as Lev. ±. ” (±st T: ±). He
rejects out of hand Filmer™s suggestion that the man as “the nobler and
the principal agent in generation” of children is entitled to the greater
bene¬t of the Fifth Commandment. If anyone has priority it is the
For no body can deny but that the Woman hath an equal share, if not the greater,
as nourishing a Child a long time in her own Body out of her own Substance.
There it is fashion™d, and from her it receives the Materials and Principles of
its Constitution; And it is so hard to imagine the rational Soul should presently
Inhabit the yet unformed Embrio, as soon as the Father has done his part in
the Act of Generation, that if it must be supposed to derive anything from the
Parents, it must certainly owe most to the Mother. (±st T: µµ)

 See also Waldron, “John Locke: Social Contract versus Political Anthropology.”
 See ±st T: , ±±, and °“. Locke says that if “Honor thy father” is a basis for kingship, then the
Law also “enjoyns Obedience to Queens” (±st T: ±±), and certainly by including the mother, it
“destroys the Sovereignty of one Supream Monarch” (±st T: µ).
µ Butler, “Early Liberal Roots of Feminism,” p. ±.
 Would it be unfair to call Pateman™s observation that “Locke points out more than once that the
Fifth Commandment does not refer only to the father of the family” (Sexual Contract, p. µ “ my
emphasis) a grudging concession? On my count, the point is discussed not just more than once,
but explicitly and at length in each of twenty different paragraphs of the Two Treatises.
· ±st T: ±. Indeed this is one of the rare occasions in the First Treatise when Locke cites the Gospel “
“For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or
mother, let him die the death” (Matthew ±µ:). See also ±st T: .
 Filmer, Observations on Mr. Hobbes, p. ±, cited in ±st T: µµ.
° God, Locke, and Equality
True, Locke occasionally slips back into describing parental authority
as “paternal” authority (nd T: ±·°). And since he is arguing against
any patriarchialist inference from the rights of a father over his child he
often argues explicitly on that ground (nd T: ). But as Mary Shanley
has pointed out, whenever the issue of mothers™ rights was raised, Locke
was self-conscious in his insistence that paternal power should be termed
parental: “For whatever obligation Nature and the right of Generation lays
on Children, it must certainly bind them equal to both the concurrent
Causes of it” (nd T: µ).
Of course, none of this actually contradicts the Lockean claim that
we are ¬nding problematic “ namely, that men and women are unequal
on the basis of their own abilities, quite apart from their relation to
their children. But still, Locke™s emphasis on equal rights for mothers
and his dependence on such passages to knock away one of the ma-
jor platforms of Filmer™s patriarchalism does sit rather ill with Carole
Pateman™s view that Locke himself was a consistent patriarchialist and
proud of it.

I have no tidy resolution to offer. Locke™s position on the natural subjec-
tion of wives is an embarrassment for his general theory of equality. And
there is not, as Carole Pateman thinks there is, an alternative consistent
position “ Lockean patriarchalism “ into which the claims about the sub-
jection of women ¬t comfortably. What we are left with is a mess. Bible
and nature are cited for the proposition that women are men™s inferi-
ors; and Bible and nature are cited for the proposition that women and
men are one another™s equals, endowed intellectually “ both of them “
with sense, will, and understanding in the image of God. The combi-
nation of the two positions leaves us unclear about how wholeheartedly
Locke was prepared to follow through on his convictions about equal-
ity in this fraught and contested terrain. They con¬rm the hunch with
which I began, that we what have here is a philosopher struggling not
altogether successfully to free his own thought as well as the thought of
his contemporaries from the idea that something as striking as the dif-
ference between the sexes must count in itself as a refutation of basic
 Shanley, “Marriage Contract and Social Contract,” p. ··.
Adam and Eve
My theme is the Christian foundations of Locke™s political thought,
and I want to end this chapter by referring again to Locke™s notes to
his Paraphrase of Paul™s First Epistle to the Corinthians. I said earlier that
those notes contain some of Locke™s choicer phrases about the subjection
of women. But Locke also made some interesting remarks about the
speci¬c argument of ± Corinthians ±±:“± about women covering their
heads when they pray or prophesy.µ° He refuses to view the passage “ he
calls it “[t]his about women” “ as straightforward. It seems, he says, “as
dif¬cult a passage as most in St Pauls Epistles” (P&N: i.°, note a). In
his long note he is at pains to interpret Paul™s strictures about women
covering their heads when they pray or prophesy as referring not to their
ordinary participation in a congregation “ for he can™t imagine that there
would be any issue about that “ but to the extraordinary “performing of
some particular publick action by some one person,” a particular woman
moved by the Holy Spirit, while the rest of the assembly remained silent
(ibid., note c). And he says that although St. Paul was not countenancing
the possibility of women taking it upon themselves to be regular “teachers
and instructers of the congregation” (ibid., note x) “ “This would have
had too great an air of standing upon even ground with men” (ibid.,
note y) “ still that background subordination “hinderd not but that by
the supernatural gifts of the spirit he might make use of the weaker sex
to any extraordinary function when ever he thought ¬t, as well as he did
of men” (ibid., note z).
There is a story that when John Locke himself attended a service
led by a woman preacher in ±, he wrote afterwards to the preacher,
Rebecca Collier, congratulating her on her sermon and observing that
“[w]omen, indeed, had the honour ¬rst to publish the resurrection of
the Lord of Love,” and why should they not minister again in modern
µ° Here is Locke™s paraphrase of ± Corinthians “±° (which we must remember is not necessarily
his own view of the matter):
Christ is the head to which every man is subjected, and the man is the head to which every
woman is subjected . . . Every man that prayeth or prophesieth . . . in the church for the edifying
exhorting and comforting of the congregation haveing his head covered dishonoureth Christ his
head, by appearing in a garb not becomeing the authority and dominion which god through
Christ has given him over all the things of this world, the covering of the head being a mark
of subjection. But on the contrary a woman praying or prophesying in the church with her
head uncovered dishonoureth the man who is her head by appearing in a garb that disowns her
subjection to him. For to appear bareheaded in publick is all one as to have her hair cut off,
which is the garb and dress of the other sex and not of a woman . . . A man indeed ought not
to be veyled because he is the image and representative of god in his dominion over the rest of
the world, which is one part of the glory of god: But the woman who was made out of the man,
made for him, and in subjection to him, is matter of glory to the man. (P&N: i.±“)
 God, Locke, and Equality
times to “the resurrection of the Spirit of Love?”µ± The question re-
mains unanswered, and it has been suggested that the attribution of this
letter to Locke is spurious.µ Be that as it may, it is perhaps not alto-
gether surprising “ and this may be as good a point as any on which
to end an inconclusive chapter “ to ¬nd that among the early readers
of Locke™s Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul there was one
Josiah Martin who read the passages I have just quoted, “and tran-
scrib™d them into my Common-Place-Book, thinking they might be of some
Service, to vindicate the Doctrine of Friends [i.e. Quakers] concern-
ing Women™s Preaching in the Church.”µ Martin was impressed by Locke™s
gloss, and he challenged other readers and “all unprejudiced Persons”
to consider

[w]hether the Notes above-cited were not intended to evince and demonstrate,
That Women as well as Men had and were to have the Gifts of Prayer and
Prophecy . . . and whenever Women were moved or inspired by the Holy Ghost,
they had the same Liberty to speak in the Congregation as the Men.µ

For his part, Martin was convinced that this was what “Judicious Locke”
meant, and that his sentiments were occasioned by an incident some
years earlier:

John Locke being at a Meeting, where a certain North-Country Woman was, who
had been travelling on Truth™s Account, [sic] was so affected with her Testimony,
as to say afterwards in Words to this Effect That something Divine and Extraordinary
affected the Preaching of that Woman.µµ

This seems to comport with the tenor of the letter Locke allegedly wrote
to Rebecca Collier.
I accept that there is nothing probative in any of this. It is perfectly
possible to say that women may be preachers “ even divinely inspired
and extraordinary preachers “ and still to believe they are naturally sub-
ordinate to men. As I said, I don™t think we can attribute a consistent
µ± Locke to Rebecca Collier, Nov. ±, ±, reprinted in Fox Bourne™s biography of Locke, p. µ
(cited in Butler, “Early Liberal Roots of Feminism,” p. ±µ°).
µ See the editorial comment in Locke, Correspondence, Vol. µ, p. ·±.
µ Martin, A Letter to the Author of Some Brief Observations, p. .
µ Ibid., pp. “±°. (Wainwright™s “Bibliography” in Volume ± of his edition of Locke, Paraphrase and
Notes, p.  indicates that Martin also published in the following year (±·±·) another book on the
subject, with the pithy title: “A Vindication of Women™s Preaching, as well from Holy Scripture
on Antient Writings as from the Paraphrase and Notes of the Judicious John Locke.”)
µµ Martin, A Letter to the Author of Some Brief Observations, p. .
Adam and Eve
position to Locke. Still, the impression he left on Josiah Martin is worth
remembering. And I hope it is not too much of a concession, on my part,
to the historians and the contextualists, to say that the things that strike
us as evidence that Locke shared his contemporaries™ views on the sub-
jection of women did not always or necessarily strike his contemporaries
that way.

Species and the Shape of Equality

When I was in Oxford in ±, I heard the Carlyle Lectures deliv-
ered that year by Alasdair Macintyre.± I remember being very struck by
Macintyre™s observation that, as he read the Two Treatises of Government,
the arguments of John Locke concerning basic equality and individual
rights were so imbued with religious content that they were not ¬t, con-
stitutionally, to be taught in the public schools of the United States of
America. And maybe he is right: a constitution interpreted in a way
that prohibits even a non-sectarian blessing by a rabbi at the beginning
of a public high school graduation is certainly in no position to allow
students to be instructed in a doctrine of equality or equal protection
that takes as its premise the proposition that we are “all the Workman-
ship of one Omnipotent, and in¬nitely wise Maker; All the servants of
one Sovereign Master, sent into the World by his order and about his
business” (nd T: ). But I also remember in ± balking at this char-
acterization of Macintyre™s, fancying myself as an expert on the Second
Treatise, and arguing (in a paper that I still have, but had the good sense
not to try to publish) that the theology could be bracketed out of Locke™s
theory and that, if it were, a defensible secular conception of equality
would remain.
Readers may reasonably assume that, seventeen years later, I would
not have given the lectures on which this book is based, under the heading
of “Christian Equality in the Political Theory of John Locke,” had I not
had second thoughts about that bracketing possibility. So let me put the
question: Why are we not able to bracket off the theological dimension of
Locke™s commitment to equality? Why can™t we put the religious premises
in parentheses “ leaving them available for anyone who needs that sort
of persuasion, but not presented as an integral part of the package “ and

± These lectures were later worked up into his book Whose Justice? Which Rationality?
 Lee v. Weisman, µ°µ US µ·· (±).

Species and the Shape of Equality
still be left with something recognizably egalitarian in its content, which
even an atheist could support?
The hope that some trick like this can be pulled off, the belief that some
such bracketing must be possible “ if not for Locke™s theory, then perhaps
for Kant™s, or at least for some recognizable commitment to equality “
this hope is crucial for modern secular liberalism. Political liberalism (in
Rawls™s sense of that phrase) depends absolutely on the success of some
such maneuver. Rawls™s system de¬nitely requires a premise of equality, a
premise strong enough to structure the original position and substantial
enough to provide a basis for mutual respect in a well-ordered society;
and Rawls™s view is that any premise supporting that structure has to
stand by itself on the plateau of political values, free of any religious
entanglement. Of course, a religious argument for basic equality may
be entertained in certain circles in a pluralistic society; but according
to the Rawlsian scheme, the very same principle of equality must be
conceivable and defensible from a variety of philosophical perspectives,
some religious and some not. My approach in the present book indicates
that I am doubtful that this Rawlsian strategy will work. What is the basis
for these doubts?

The hypothesis that we might be able to bracket out the religious content
and concentrate on equality itself presupposes that the religious content
has a purely external relation to the equality principle. By an external
relation, I mean a relation that does not go to the meaning of the princi-
ple in question. Consider, for example, the relation of some proposition
about a commander to the content of his command. A given command
with a constant meaning might be conceived of as issued by any number
of commanders (and by commanders of quite different kinds). For exam-
ple, the Sixth Commandment has a content “Thou shalt not kill” which
seems logically quite independent of any proposition about whose com-
mandment it was or is, a content which may be debated and responded
to quite independently of any issue about what one might call the preface
to the Decalogue “ “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee
out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”µ The latter
 Rawls, Political Liberalism, pp. ± and ±°; for the connection to the original position, see
ibid., p. ·.
 For “political” values and the idea of overlapping consensus, see ibid., pp. ± ff.
µ Exodus °:.
 God, Locke, and Equality
material is incontestably religious. But the meaning of the command-
ment itself does not appear to depend on it. (That™s what I mean by an
external relation.) Now this is arguably not the case with regard to the
Noachide version of the prohibition on killing. The commandment to
Noah prohibiting murder cites as a reason the fact that potential victims
of murder are made in the image of the person (God) who has issued
the commandment. There the religious aspect seems to have an internal
relation to the commandment, by which I mean a relation that affects
or pertains to its content or its meaning.
Someone might object that this confuses content with reasons. A given
principle, with a speci¬c content, might be supported by any number of
different reasons, each independent of the others, so that if one were
taken away the others would remain, and the principle “ the same princi-
ple “ would still be supported.· So the fact that P is cited as a reason for
Q doesn™t mean that P is indispensable for understanding the meaning
of Q. (For instance, the fact that men are made in the image of God may
be interesting, but not indispensable for understanding the Noachide
prohibition on murder.) Now this is sometimes true, especially where the
reasons in question establish nothing but an instrumental relationship
between the principle and some consequentialist value. But I think the
Rawlsians overestimate the extent to which it is true generally, partic-
ularly in the domain of justice. Abstract principles of justice and rights
characteristically need to be ¬lled out and interpreted and it is quite
implausible to suppose that this can be done without reference to the
reasons that support them. I have argued this elsewhere with regard
to John Stuart Mill™s “Harm Principle.” What counts as “harm” for
the purposes of Mill™s principle “ whether, for example, an acute and
painful form of disapproval can count as harm to the disapprover “
cannot just be read out of a dictionary. It is necessarily sensitive to the
reasons that are given in support of the principle, and no argument for
interpreting “harm” one way or the other would be complete without
reference to those underlying reasons. I think this is particularly the
case where a moral principle involves predicates whose extension is not
 Genesis :.
· Consider, for example, the multifaceted defense of the principle of liberal neutrality in Ackerman,
Social Justice in the Liberal State, pp. ±± “±. Ackerman envisages four possible lines of argument for
neutrality, and says it doesn™t matter which one we rely on.
 Mill, On Liberty, Ch. ±, p. ±. See Waldron, “Mill and the Value of Moral Distress,” pp. ±±“°.
See also a similar argument about the meaning of “liberal neutrality,” partly responding to
the Ackerman approach mentioned in footnote · above, in Waldron, “Legislation and Moral
Neutrality,” pp. ±µ± “.
Species and the Shape of Equality
given determinately apart from the principle in question. This is true of
“harm”: there are some paradigm cases, but there are many marginal
cases as well, and many different possible ways of drawing lines at the
boundaries. No doubt we will have some indeterminate cases wherever
the line is drawn. Even so, the extension may be determined in quite
different ways or in ways that are quite differently shaped by our sense
of why this predicate matters. And our sense of why it matters is unlikely
to be separable from our understanding of how and why it features in
various normative contexts.
I believe this is also true of the predicate “human” in the principle
of basic human equality. I shall argue in this chapter that, in Locke™s
account, the shape of human, the way in which the extension of the predi-
cate “human” is determined, is not in the end separable from the religious
reasons that Locke cites in support of basic equality. If someone arrives at
what purports to be a principle of human equality on other grounds (e.g.,
non-religious grounds), there is little reason to believe that that principle
will have the same shape or texture as the Lockean principle. It may be
better or worse, and more or less robust as a principle; but we should not
kid ourselves that we are dealing here with the same principle, arrived
at by a different route.
What I am saying here about the reasons that shape our notion of
equality is a version of a point sometimes made as a criticism of a cer-
tain program of analysis in ethics. Many non-cognitivists assume that
moral positions are subjective responses to factual features of the world
that can be speci¬ed quite independently of the response. They think
this is true not just of moral positions like “Causing pain is wrong,”
where it is clear that we can use the descriptive words “causing pain”
to identify the actions concerned in a way that is independent of the
particular response (condemnation using the word “wrong”), but also
that it is true of moral positions involving “thick” moral concepts, posi-
tions like “Honesty is the best policy” and “Courage cannot be taught.”
The idea is that “thick” concepts like honesty and courage can be analyzed
into descriptive components referring to some fact about the world and
evaluative components indicating some attitudinal or prescriptive re-
sponse to that fact. (So, for example, the term “courage” is supposed
to refer descriptively to a certain steadfastness in the face of danger, and
to connote evaluatively an attitude of approval to that character-trait.)
John McDowell and others have expressed doubts about the general

 For a recent vote of con¬dence in this strategy, see Hare, Sorting Out Ethics, pp. °“.
 God, Locke, and Equality
applicability of this pattern of analysis. What, asks McDowell, makes us
so con¬dent that we can always disentangle the descriptive properties
from the evaluative response? Why should we think that, corresponding
to any value concept, “one can always isolate a genuine feature of the
world . . . that is, a feature that is there anyway, independently of anyone™s
value-experience being as it is,” something “left in the world when one
peels off the re¬‚ection of the appropriate attitude”?±° The descriptive
features underlying a given normative attitude might well seem weird
or “shapeless”±± “ who would be interested in them, under exactly that
description? “ apart from the attitude which is supposedly a response to
I think a version of McDowell™s point may apply to the concept hu-
man embedded in our commitment to equality. When we say that all
humans are basically one another™s equals, it sounds as if we are tak-
ing a descriptive predicate “human” and associating it with a particular
prescription or practical orientation. But our concept human may be
partly shaped by our commitment to equality, and may not be intel-
ligible in a free-standing way, once that commitment is “peeled off,”
to use McDowell™s phrase. Of course even if this is true, more argu-
ment would be needed to show that our notion of human is shaped
by a speci¬cally religious account of equality. (That argument is what
I shall develop in the rest of the chapter, so far as Locke™s theory is
concerned. I will show that Locke™s religious premises help to make
sense of or give shape to a certain cluster of human characteristics that
are then treated as the basis of equality, a cluster of characteristics that
might seem arbitrary, shapeless, even insigni¬cant apart from the reli-
gious context.) On its own, however, the shapelessness point deprives
the Rawlsians and others who favor the bracketing approach of a quick
and easy victory. They cannot say simply that there are facts about hu-
manity to which we might take up egalitarian attitudes (for whatever
reason). The facts about humanity to which the egalitarian draws our
attention are facts which are shaped by his reasons for committing him-
self to the principle of basic equality. Take away those particular reasons,
and there may not be any “there” there that is reachable by another

±° McDowell, “Non-Cognitivism and Rule-Following,” p. ±.
±± The term “shapeless” is used by Simon Blackburn to capture McDowell™s point: see Blackburn,
“Reply: Rule-Following and Moral Realism,” p. ±·. Blackburn™s response to McDowell concedes
the possibility of shapelessness, but denies the imputation that it undermines non-cognitivism:
ibid., pp. ±“. See also Blackburn, Ruling Passions, pp. “·.
Species and the Shape of Equality

All men are equal. There is no basis for any natural subordination among
humans. All persons are to be treated with equal concern and respect.
These are familiar egalitarian propositions. To whom do they apply?
Which particular beings, entities, creatures, animals, get the bene¬t of this
equality? And why? What is the basis of equality? What is it that makes
someone a bene¬ciary of this fundamental egalitarianism? I shall devote
the rest of this chapter to an exploration of some of the extraordinary
dif¬culties that John Locke gets into as he tries to answer these questions,
dif¬culties that I think threaten the viability of his whole position in the
Two Treatises.
The main dif¬culty is this. In his political works, John Locke asserts as
a matter of principle the fundamental equality of all members of the human
species.± Members of this species have a special status, or occupy a special
moral position quite unlike that of any other animal. And in this position
they are supposed to be one another™s equals, in a way that also does not
have any parallel for the co-members of any other species. This special
status or position of the human species, Locke argues, has enormous con-
sequences for how we think about authority, politics, and morality. But
in his philosophy of science and language, in particular in Book III of the
Essay Concerning Human Understanding (published, if not actually written, in
the same year as the Two Treatises), Locke comes very close to saying that
there are no such things as species. He says that species-classi¬cation is just a
matter of words and that distinctions between species are at best just
human conventions (and at worst matters of superstition, confusion, and
contestation). Worse still, time and again in that discussion Locke offers
up the alleged species-distinction between man and the other animals as
“Exhibit A” for the purposes of this skepticism.
The danger that this poses to the moral and political argument is
enormous. Species-distinctions, Locke says in the Essay, are just human
conventions. But the special status of humanity and the equality of all
members of the human species is asserted in the Two Treatises as a mat-
ter of natural law. It is fundamental to the whole basis on which Locke
proposes to examine and evaluate human conventions. Locke is not a
pragmatist, like (say) Richard Rorty, proposing to keep a whole moral sys-
tem a¬‚oat by using some conventional commitments to evaluate others.±
± As John Dunn puts it, Locke™s premise is “the normative creaturely equality of all members of
the human species” (Dunn, Political Thought of John Locke, p. ).
± Cf. Rorty, “Solidarity or Objectivity.”
µ° God, Locke, and Equality
His approach in the Two Treatises and in his other political writings is ex-
plicitly foundationalist, and the trouble with the argument about species
in the Essay is that it appears to knock away the foundation on which
Locke purports to be building.

The discussion about species and species-terms in the Essay is not just
a matter of a few throwaway lines. It is a sustained discussion that goes
on for about thirty pages.± Philosophers and epistemologists know this
discussion very well; the individuation of species remains an important
problem in biology and in the philosophy of biology, just as the general
issue of natural kinds is a problem for metaphysics, philosophical logic,
and the philosophy of science.±µ Students of Locke™s political theory, on
the other hand, have mostly ignored this discussion of species, as far as
I can tell.± They have certainly said precious little about its implications
for his theory of equality.
Why have they ignored it? My hunch is that they have failed to notice
the dif¬culty it poses for the application of the equality principle because
they have been taught by historians of the Cambridge school “ in partic-
ular Peter Laslett and his followers “ to assume that Locke™s politics can
and should be studied in more or less complete isolation from the rest
of his philosophy. Two or three generations of students have been intro-
duced to the relation between the Two Treatises and the Essay Concerning
Human Understanding by Laslett™s claim that “Locke is, perhaps, the least
consistent of all the great philosophers, and pointing out the contradic-
tions either within any of his works or between them is no dif¬cult task.”±·
The two books were published around the same time, but, in Laslett™s
view, “the literary continuity between them was about as slight as it could
possibly be under such circumstances.”± Certainly there is no way, he
said, that the Treatises can be regarded as “an extension into the political
¬eld of the general philosophy of the Essay . . . The political argument is
not presented as a part of a general philosophy, and does not seem to be
intended to be read as such.”± In this respect Locke™s corpus is said to

± See Locke, Essay, Bk. III, Ch. .
±µ See, for example, Wilkerson, “Species, Essences and the Names of Natural Kinds”; Wilkerson,
Natural Kinds; and Kitcher, “Species.” See also the essays in Wilson (ed.), Species: New Interdisciplinary
Essays. (I am grateful to Philip Kitcher for a helpful discussion of this literature.)
± The exception is Ruth Grant in John Locke™s Liberalism, pp. ±·“± and “±.
±· ± Ibid., p. . ± Ibid., pp.  and µ.
Laslett, “Introduction,” p. .
Species and the Shape of Equality
be quite different in form and tenor from the great philosophical systems
of Hobbes, Leibniz, and Spinoza.
I think it is fair to say that this view is no longer as widely accepted
among historians of ideas as it used to be. The actual evidence cited
for Locke™s having contradicted himself was always quite slight “ an
apparent inconsistency between the Essay™s rejection of innate practical
principles and a throwaway line about murder in the Second Treatise ° “ a
line which indicates at worst that Locke is just like most other people in
dropping his intellectual standards when it comes to supporting capital
punishment.± So that inconsistency may be super¬cial and purely verbal.
However, the tension that I have mentioned “ I am not yet saying that
it™s a contradiction “ between Locke™s reliance on the idea of species in
the Treatises and his skepticism about the idea of species in the Essay “ is
really quite deep and quite disturbing.
Locke himself does not give us much hope that the two positions on
species can be reconciled. Indeed, he shows little awareness in either work
that they need to be reconciled. (I will mention one exceptional passage
in the Essay, a little later in this chapter.) Moreover, the problem we
face is not merely that Locke talks uncritically about species in the Two
Treatises of Government in a way that the Essay appears to undercut; Locke
also concedes things in the Two Treatises which, when aligned with the
nominalist critique of species in the Essay, place very severe limits on
what he can possibly sustain in the way of a working premise about
human equality for the purposes of political theory. We must remember
that Locke in his politics was having to argue against the position “
which was an active position in his day, even if it is not in ours “ that
there are different kinds of human being, and they occupy different
positions in a hierarchy of authority. Now, if he concedes (as he does)
that different humans have different abilities and characteristics “ some

° “And Cain was so fully convinced, that every one had a right to destroy such a criminal, that
after the murder of his brother, he cries out, Every one that ¬ndeth me, shall slay me; so plain
was it writ in the hearts of all mankind” (nd T: ±±).
± If Ian Harris is right (Harris, Mind of John Locke, p. ±) the Second Treatise passage may not be
inconsistent with Locke™s anti-innatism at all. It depends how we understand “writ in the hearts.”
Can our reason or our understanding write things in our hearts as the upshot or conclusion of
our reasoning?
 The exceptional passage is the following: “Nor let any one object, that the names of substances
are often to be made use of in morality . . . from which will arise obscurity. For, as to substances,
when concerned in moral discourses, their divers natures are not so much inquired into as
supposed: e.g. when we say that man is subject to law, we mean nothing by man but a corporeal
rational creature: what the real essence or other qualities of that creature are in this case is no
way considered” (E: .±±.±).
µ God, Locke, and Equality
with “Excellency” and some with de¬ciencies “of Parts or Merit” (nd T: µ) “
then it looks as though he™s going to need some very strong notion that all
these different types of human nevertheless belong ultimately to the same special species,
in order to avoid embracing the inference to a natural human hierarchy.
And that™s just what the argument about species and species-terms in the
Essay appears to deny him.
So I guess it is understandable that readers who come up against this
dif¬culty are tempted to take advantage of the myth of a disjunction
between Locke the philosopher and Locke the political pamphleteer,
and to try and immunize the premises of the political account against
the contagion of Locke™s philosophical skepticism about species. But I
wish it weren™t done so impulsively, so unthinkingly. When I mention the
dif¬culty I have outlined to historians of ideas of the Cambridge school,
they tend to say quickly that of course they are not surprised (though they
never noticed the dif¬culty themselves, for it requires reading more than
the ¬rst few chapters of the Essay Concerning Human Understanding). And
now, having had it drawn to their attention, they say they just know in
advance that it™s an irresolvable contradiction; they say there™s no point
considering how the dif¬culty might be overcome (and it might be a sin
against historical propriety to even try to overcome it).
Well, I believe they are wrong on both counts. The dif¬culty ought to
have been noticed earlier, and the only reason it wasn™t was the domi-
nance of the view that the detailed arguments of the Essay are irrelevant
to Locke™s political theory. I shall try to show that it is worth spending
time exploring how to overcome it. I must warn the reader, though, that
the exploration is quite complicated; it is not just a matter of noticing the
dif¬culty and then winching down God to resolve it. But, for all its dif¬-
culty, the endeavor is worthwhile as an act of faith in the unity of Locke™s
thought. It is also worthwhile as a matter of moral necessity for us. For
even if it were true (which it is not) that Locke kept his politics insulated
from his philosophy, we are not committed in our politics to any such
wall of separation. We want to know what impact a change in our current
thinking about species would have on our moral and political thinking
about humanity and equality. The dif¬culty about species that Locke
faces up to is a prototype of a dif¬culty that might face us. How would
we sustain (how should we explicate) our egalitarianism without sup-
port from any clear conception of species-differences? I think these are
real questions for anyone who thinks about equality, whether they would
rather keep their philosophy of biology and their political theory in dif-
ferent compartments or not.
Species and the Shape of Equality

The theme of a division of the animal world into species and ranks of
species is developed in detail in paragraph µ of the First Treatise. There
Locke sets out the ranking of species that he says can be found in chapter ±
of Genesis. “[I]n the Creation of the brute Inhabitants of the Earth,
[God] ¬rst speaks of them all under one General Name, of Living Creatures,
and then afterwards divides them into three ranks,” namely cattle (or do-
mesticable animals), wild beasts, and reptiles (±st T: µ). Locke also notes
a second, slightly different division. He says God divided “the Irrational
Animals of the World . . . into three kinds, from the places of their Habita-
tion, viz. Fishes of the Sea, Fowls of the Air, and Living Creatures of the Earth, and
these again into Cattle, Wild Beasts, and Reptils” (±st T: ). His immediate
aim in these passages is to establish that neither by God™s grant of domin-
ion to Adam and Eve, nor by God™s grant of dominion and use to Noah
and his sons, is there anything about the subordination of some human
beings to other human beings. Everything there is about subordination
concerns the relation of men in general to members of the other animal
species. The discussion culminates in the great passage I mentioned in
Chapter  (page µ), where Locke talks about God™s decision to “make a
Species of Creatures, that should have Dominion over the other Species
of this Terrestrial Globe” (±st T: °). In Chapter  we read this as an insis-
tence by Locke that the donation was to Eve as much as to Adam. In the
present chapter, however, we are considering the importance that Locke
attaches to the dividing line between human and non-human species:
since we humans all belong to “the same species and rank . . . there can-
not be supposed any such Subordination among us . . . as if we were made
for one anothers uses, as the inferior ranks of Creatures are for ours.”
This conception of a ranking of species is usually interpreted in a way
that makes it consonant with the standard theological reading of Locke™s
politics which John Dunn pioneered in the late ±°s. Commentators
assume that Locke, as a child of his times, must have believed in some-
thing like Lovejoy™s “Great Chain of Being.” Dunn begins his chapter
 Notice, by the way, that it is not the fact that we are God™s workmanship which matters here;
the lower animals are His workmanship too. Some of the creatures that God has created may
legitimately be dominated and exploited by others of his creatures; that™s ¬ne. The crucial thing
is that such domination and exploitation may not legitimately take place as between members
of the human species. The members of that species in particular are singled out because they, in
contrast to the members of the other species, are created not just by, but in the image of, God.
 In fact, Lovejoy himself made this mistake in The Great Chain of Being, pp. “. For a critique
see Uzgalis, “The Anti-Essential Locke.”
µ God, Locke, and Equality
“The Premises of the Argument” with a paraphrase of Locke: “The en-
tire cosmos is the work of God. He created every part of it . . . with a
de¬ned relationship to the purpose of the whole. It is an ordered hier-
archy, a ˜great chain of being™, in which every species has its station, its
rank.”µ It is partly on account of this aspect of Locke™s thought that John
Dunn continues to wonder whether the Lockean theory of rights is of
anything other than antiquarian interest to us today who accept no such
cosmic hierarchy, no such divine-settled architecture or order. If there
is anything modern in Locke™s account, it is only “ as Kirsty McClure
has pointed out “ Locke™s insistence that cosmic hierarchy is interrupted
at the boundaries of the human species, and ¬‚attened out within those
boundaries.· But for that very reason, she insists that Locke™s human
egalitarianism depends crucially on the clarity and intelligibility of the
species-boundaries. And that “ she assumes “ is what Locke™s creationism
and his adherence to the “great chain of being” idea supply. Moreover,
if I may be a little mischievous for a moment, there™s a sense in which
the historians need there to be something like the great chain of being
as an unfamiliar axiom of Locke™s politics, in order to underwrite the
strangeness and thus the philosophical opacity of Locke™s work, so far as
modern readers are concerned. So long as Locke is interpreted as rest-
ing his system on scripturally designated ranks of species in some eternal
hierarchy, the historians will never be out of a job. But what I want to
explore is the possibility that this antique cosmological apparatus is in
fact quite shaky within the context of Locke™s own thinking, and shaky
in a way that is not at all strange or unfamiliar to us in our post-modern
hesitations and uncertainties.

For Locke™s uncertainty, we turn to the Essay Concerning Human Under-
standing. What Locke says there about species is almost entirely at odds
with the conception of species-hierarchy that the great chain of being is
traditionally thought to involve. It is true that, in the Essay, Locke envis-
ages a series of created beings, ascending from the lowest entity to the
highest, and maybe “far more Species of Creatures above us, than there
µ Dunn, Political Thought of John Locke, p. ·; see also Parry, John Locke, pp. °“±. See also McClure,
Judging Rights, pp.  and · for the idea of a theologically based “architecture of order” in Locke™s
 For Dunn™s views on what is dead in Locke™s political theory, see Dunn, “What is Living and
What is Dead,” esp. pp. ±“±µ.
· McClure, Judging Rights, pp.  ff.
Species and the Shape of Equality
are beneath” (E: ..±). So the slope is certainly there. But it ascends up
from us “by gentle degrees” (E: ..±), not with any sharp punctuation.
Indeed, in the same passage Locke insists several times that this chain of
being forms a continuous series of entities, rather than a clearly divided
series of species:
[I]n all the visible corporeal World, we see no Chasms, or gaps. All . . . down
from us, the descent is by easy steps, and a continued series of Things, that in
each remove, differ very little one from the other. There are Fishes that have
Wings, and are not Strangers to the airy Region: and there are some Birds, that
are Inhabitants of the Water; whose Blood is cold as Fishes, and their Flesh so like
in taste, that the scrupulous are allow™d them on Fish-days. There are Animals
so near of kin both to Birds and Beasts, that they are in the middle between
both: Amphibious Animals link the Terrestrial and Aquatique together; Seals
live at Land and at Sea, and Porpoises have the warm Blood and Entrails of a
Hog; not to mention what is con¬dently reported of Mermaids, or Sea-men.
There are some brutes, that seem to have as much Knowledge and Reason,
as some that are called Men: and the Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms, are so
nearly join™d, that if you will take the lowest of one, and the highest of the other,
there will scarce be perceived any great difference between them; and so on, till
we come to the lowest and the most inorganical parts of Matter, we shall ¬nd
every-where that the several Species are linked together, and differ but in almost
insensible degrees. (E: ..±)
That™s the ontological background according to the Essay: different be-
ings, higher and lower beings, but “no Chasms, or gaps” between beings
of various kinds.
We classify them of course. We language-users have no choice but to
confront this continuum with words. And since “we have need of general
Words” all we can do is, to collect such a number of simple ideas “as
by Examination, we ¬nd to be united together in Things existing, and
thereof to make one complex Idea” (E: ..±), and associate them with
a sound or sign. “[T ]he Species of Things to us are nothing but the ranking them
under distinct Names, according to the complex Ideas in us” (E: ..). And Locke
does not deny that there are real resemblances: “Nature makes many
particular Things, which do agree one with another, in many sensible
Qualities, and probably too, in their internal frame and Constitution”
(E: ..). But so far reality is established only at the level of resemblances
 “[ I ]t is beyond the Power of humane Capacity to frame and retain distinct Ideas of all the
particular Things we meet with: every Bird, and Beast Men saw; every Tree, and Plant, that
affected the Senses, could not ¬nd a place in the most capacious Understanding . . . Secondly, If it
were possible, it would be useless; because . . . men would in vain heap up Names of particular
Things, that would not serve them to communicate their Thoughts” (E: ..“).
µ God, Locke, and Equality
and differences between particular entities “ a resemblance between this
particular cat and that particular cat, and a difference between this
particular cat and that particular dog. Nothing in nature shows that
these resemblances and differences categorize themselves into essences
of species. In other words, Locke says that when we move beyond the
identi¬cation of resemblances among particulars, there is no reason to
think that our tendency to organize resemblances into clusters under
the auspices of general species-terms re¬‚ects anything other than our
propensity as language-users to make use of general words. In relation
to the use of such general words for kinds or species, we can talk if we
like about nominal essences. But that™s all they are; as the term “nominal
essences” suggests, they are nothing but projections onto nature of our
own linguistic habits.
Is the position saved by what Locke says in the Essay about “real”
essences (as opposed to nominal essences)? What Locke says is this:
It is true, I have often mentioned a real Essence, distinct in Substances from those
abstract Ideas of them, which I call their nominal Essence. By this real Essence,
I mean, that real constitution of any Thing, which is the foundation of all those
Properties, that are combined in, and are constantly found to co-exist with the
nominal Essence. (E: ..)

I think this offers little in the way of assistance for our use of the con-
cept species in moral and political theory. We shall see in a moment that
Locke™s account of real essences is far from straightforward. To the extent
that any consistent position emerges in the Essay, I believe it is basically
a pragmatic one: there can be improvements in our taxonomy “ our
classi¬cations become less confusing, more useful, or whatever “ and the
term “real essence” may connote a regulatory ideal, the idea of a sort
of limit-case, so far as such improvements are concerned. Now, so long
as the basic orientation of such improvement is pragmatic rather than
objective, the associated idea of real essence is of no use for politics or
morality. The natural law foundations of the political theory are supposed
to provide a basis for judging and evaluating the various projects and pur-
poses that people might embark on so far as the classi¬cation of human
beings is concerned. The opening paragraphs of the Second Treatise seem
to indicate that the real essence of man or humanity provides a basis
for reproaching certain otherwise plausible theories of natural hierar-
chy. But if the concept real essence is expressive of nothing more than the
pragmatic idea of an improvement in our nominal classi¬cations, then
it cannot do this work. The pragmatic idea of an improvement in our
Species and the Shape of Equality
nominal classi¬cations is entirely relative to our purposes in making such
classi¬cations; it cannot be used as a basis for judging those purposes.
With this in mind, let™s consider what the Essay Concerning Human
Understanding actually says about real essences. It™s a long and compli-
cated discussion, and the gist of Locke™s position has to be gathered
from a number of scattered passages. It is certainly true that he envis-
ages the possibility of better or worse classi¬cations, more or less skillful
observations, and more or less sophisticated correlations between com-
plexes of ideas and an ordered terminology. The usefulness of a given
set of nominal essences, he says, “depends upon the Various Care, Industry, or
Fancy of him that makes it” (E: ..). We can change and improve our
classi¬cation of resemblances. We are not just saddled with the prod-
ucts of linguistic history or linguistic stipulation.° For example, Locke
suggests that resemblances of internal structure are likely to prove scien-
ti¬cally more fertile than the outward resemblances that initially strike
us as interesting, because in almost all cases the former “ “that Consti-
tution of the parts of Matter, on which these qualities and their union
depend” (E: ..) “ seems to explain the latter, rather than the other
way round. But because “Languages, in all Countries, have been estab-
lished long before Sciences” (E: ..µ), our nominal associations are
invariably between words and external similarities “ “obvious appearances,”
as Locke puts it “ rather than anything science could reveal about the
internal constitution of things. So there is de¬nitely room for improve-
ment, and it is worth examining more closely the things we have ranked
together under various nominal species-terms. Such examination may
well reveal that “many of the Individuals that are ranked into one Sort,
called by one common Name, and so received as being of one Species,
have yet Qualities, depending on their real Constitutions, as far differ-
ent one from another as from others from which they are accounted to
differ speci¬cally” (E: ..).± This may lead us to subdivide the class,

 As Michael Ayers points out, Locke seems to “recognize both that there is always something
arbitrary about the choice of the nominal essence and that it can be done well or badly” (Ayers,
Locke, p. ·µ).
° Thus Boyd in “Homeostasis, Species, and Higher Taxa,” p. ±·, may be wrong to attribute to
Locke the view “that kinds are established by a sort of unicameral linguistic legislation” “ people
just choosing to impose terms on the world “ as opposed to “bicameral legislation, in which the
(causal structure of the) world plays a heavy legislative role.”
± Locke talks, for example, of the “sad Experience” of chemists, vainly searching for qualities in
one parcel of a substance which they have found in others of the same name: “For, though they
are Bodies of the same Species, having the same nominal Essence, under the same Name, yet do
they often, upon severe ways of examination, betray Qualities so different one from another, as
to frustrate the Expectation and Labour of very wary Chymists” (E: ..).
µ God, Locke, and Equality
with a new set of nominal essences, or perhaps even to reorganize our
taxonomy on a completely different basis.
It is pretty clear, though, from the language Locke uses, that this
process is oriented entirely to pragmatic amelioration of our ability to
correlate and explain phenomena. And, as I said, “real essence” serves in
his discussion as little more than the limit-idea of such amelioration. For
any given set of nominal essences, we are to act on the supposition that it
might be improved, and to that extent the set of nominal essences is (so
to speak) haunted by the idea of a set of real essences, an idea expressive
of our refusal to rest content with the taxonomy we happen to have at
any given time. There is, accordingly, no question of our saying, “At last,
we have hold of the real essence of sulphur or the real essence of man;
now we can act on the basis of that, rather than on the basis of some
(nominal) approximation to the real essence.” Real essence doesn™t work
like that in Locke.
Sometimes Locke presents the unavailability to us of objective real
essences as a re¬‚ection of the limitations on our knowledge. He says
“I would fain know why a shock and a hound are not as distinct species
as a spaniel and an elephant” and “so it must remain till somebody can
show us” a difference of kind as between the two differences (E: ..).
He suggests that the reason we are unable to rank, sort, and denominate
things “by their real Essences [is] because we know them not” (E: ..).

The Workmanship of the All-wise, and Powerful God, in the great Fabrick of the
Universe, and every part thereof . . . exceeds the Capacity and Comprehension
of the most inquisitive and intelligent Man . . . Therefore we in vain pretend to
range Things into sorts, and dispose them into certain Classes, under Names, by
their real Essences, that are so far from our discovery or comprehension. A blind
Man may as soon sort Things by Their Colours . . . (E: ..)

That™s what he says some of the time. But most of the time what he says
indicates that we should not characterize our ignorance in this regard
as though there were real species, only ones to which we do not have
epistemic access. He says that “the supposition of Essences, that cannot be
known; and the making of them nevertheless to be that, which distin-
guishes the Species of Things, is so wholly useless, and unserviceable to
any part of our Knowledge, that that alone were suf¬cient to make us
lay it by” (E: ..±·). In fact, our talk of real essences is not backed up by
any independent assurance “that Nature, in the production of Things,
 Bear in mind that Locke wrote about the dif¬culty of species-distinctions more than seventy
years before Carl Linnaeus published his most famous work, Philosophia Botanica, in ±·µ±.
 A shock is a dog with ¬‚oppy hair, like a spaniel.
Species and the Shape of Equality
always designs them to partake of certain regulated established essences”
(E: ..±.) And without such an assurance, it is simply a distraction. Even
if we were to succeed in examining the inner workings of things scien-
ti¬cally, there™s no particular reason to think that we will ¬nd different
kinds of inner workings “ with clear boundaries, “gaps, and Chasms” “
at that level either. We may ¬nd resemblances, but, as Michael Ayers
emphasizes several times in his excellent account of Locke on species,
“[r]esemblances do not draw lines.”
And there are also logical dif¬culties in the quest for real essences.
Given the importance of nominal essences to language-users like us,
it is not clear what arriving at real essences would amount to. The
very inquiry is necessarily bound up with the characteristics of our own
ideas and associations: “what difference in the real internal Constitution
makes a speci¬ck difference, it is in vain to enquire; whilst our measures
of Species be, as they are, only our abstract Ideas” (E: ..). Even on the
most optimistic assumptions, what we use the term “real essence” to
refer to is still going to be an arbitrary matter of which resemblances “
but now which internal resemblances “ strike us as worth marking with
words.µ Locke seems to suggest that the idea of real essence is tied to
the idea of nominal essence as the idea of cause is tied to the idea of
effect: he says the real essence is “the foundation of all those Proper-
ties, that are combined in, and are constantly found to co-exist with the
nominal Essence” (E: ..). This seems to hold the real essence hostage
to the arbitrariness of the nominal essence (as though the real essence
of man might have to include the internal cause of his being without

In general, we seem to have here a pretty thorough-going anti-realism,
so far as species are concerned. It is evident, says Locke, “that Men make
sorts of Things. For it being different Essences alone, that make different
Species, ™tis plain that they who make those abstract Ideas which are the
nominal Essences do thereby make the Species, or sort” (E: ..µ). There
are, as I reported, genuine resemblances, on Locke™s account. But they
do not cluster naturally into anything equivalent to our differentiations
of natural kinds. “[T ]he boundaries of the Species . . . are made by Men; since
the Essences of the Species, distinguished by different Names, are . . . of
Man™s making” (E: ..·). And Locke does not ¬‚inch from applying this
 µ
Ayers, Locke, p. . See also Grant, John Locke™s Liberalism, p. ±·. See ibid., pp. “µ.
° God, Locke, and Equality
skepticism about species to the species-word to which he attaches such
importance in the Two Treatises of Government “ “that which of all others we
are the most intimately acquainted with” (E: ..), the species-word
“man” or “human.” The discussion of “man” is pervasive in the Essay™s
chapter on species-terms, and each of the moves that I have outlined in
the previous section is applied cheerfully to that term in particular.
Let™s begin with the point that the putative boundaries between hu-
mans and other animals are blurred in a number of ways. Fetuses are
sometimes oddly shaped, familiarly shaped humans often vary enor-
mously in their rational abilities, some allegedly non-human animals
have been rumored to have the power of speech, humans have been
known to interbreed with apes (Locke alleges), and so on:
There are Creatures in the World, that have shapes like ours, but are hairy, and
want Language, and Reason. There are Naturals amongst us, that have per-
fectly our shape, but want Reason, and some of them Language too. There are
Creatures, as ™tis said, (sit ¬des penes authorem, but there appears no contradiction
that there should be such), that, with Language and Reason and a shape in
other Things agreeing with ours, have hairy Tails; others where the Males have
no Beards, and others where the Females have. (E: ..)
What are we to make of this array? The fact is, says Locke, that you are
likely to get disagreement among people as to how to draw the boundaries
of the species: “[I]f several Men were to be asked, concerning some odly
shaped Foetus, as soon as born, whether it were a Man, or no, ™tis past
doubt, one should meet with different Answers” (E: ..·). This could
not happen, he says, if our species-conceptions “were exactly copied
from precise Boundaries Set by Nature” (E: ..·).
For most of us, he says, “the Idea in our Minds, of which the Sound
Man in our Mouths is the Sign, is nothing else but of an Animal of such a
certain Form” (E: .·.), based on the external shape, size, appearance,
and mobility of the human frame.
I think I may be con¬dent, that, whoever should see a Creature of his own
Shape . . . though it had no more reason all its Life, than a Cat or a Parrot, would
call him still a Man; or whoever should hear a Cat or a Parrot discourse, reason,
and philosophize, would call or think it nothing but a Cat or a Parrot; and say,
the one was a dull irrational Man, and the other a very intelligent rational Parrot.
(E: .·.).

 Elsewhere, however, Locke says that mere static bodily form simply cannot be the sole basis of
our concept man: “That the body is the grosse structure of a man which may be seen and handled
I think will not be questioned. But these solid sensible parts thus put together are noe more a
man than Polinchinelle is a man. Sense and motion are as necessary to the being of a man as
bulke and shape” (P&N: ii.··).
Species and the Shape of Equality
Some people, he concedes, may add a criterion of rationality: they un-
derstand by “man” not just a featherless biped, but a rational animal. But
then what we have are two rival classi¬cations “ so that, as Locke says
in the Essay, the same individual will be a true man to the one classi¬er
which is not so to the other (E: ..)· “ and nothing by which the
rivalry can be judged. Maybe an account of the insides of the beings in
question would make us judge differently: “No body will doubt, that the
Wheels, or Springs (if I may so say) within, are different in a rational
Man, and a changeling” (E:..). We can certainly imagine that more
detailed inquiry would enhance our knowledge and we can postulate for
ourselves the limit-idea of such knowledge:

[H]ad we such a Knowledge of That Constitution of Man, from which his
Faculties of Moving, Sensation, and Reasoning, and other Powers ¬‚ow; and on
which his so regular shape depends, as ™tis possible Angels have, and ™tis certain
his Maker has, we should have a quite other Idea of his Essence, than what now is
contained in our De¬nition of that Species, be it what it will: and our Idea of any
individual Man would be as far different from what it is now, as is his, who knows
all the Springs and Wheels and other contrivances within, of the famous Clock
at Strasburg, from that which a gazing Country-man has of it, who barely sees
the motion of the Hand, and hears the Clock strike, and observes only some of
the outward appearances. (E: ..)

But again, which internal features caught our attention would be a mat-
ter of which were inherently interesting to us, or else which external
appearances we wanted to understand the causality of. Either way, it
is our interests that would dictate what revisions we made in (what we
called) the essence of man. Our views about real essences would not
be the source of our interests, nor would they be capable of regulating
As he considers the implications of this skepticism in the Essay, Locke
does not present them as con¬ned to the arena of philosophical spec-
ulation or biological taxonomy. “Who would undertake to resolve,” he
asks, “what Species that Monster was of, which is mentioned by Licetus
· “It could not possibly be that the abstract Idea, to which the name Man is given, should be different
in several Men, if it were of Nature™s making; and that to one it should be Animal rationale, and
to another, Animal implume bipes latis unguibus. He that annexes the name Man, to a complex Idea,
made up of Sense and spontaneous Motion, join™d to a Body of such a shape, has thereby one
Essence of the Species Man: And he that, upon further examination, adds rationality, has another
Essence of the Species he calls Man” (E: ..).
 “But whether one or both these differences be essential or speci¬cal, is only to be known to us
by their agreement, or disagreement with the complex Idea that the name Man stands for: For
by that alone can it be determined whether one, or both, or neither of those be a Man, or no”
(E: ..).
 God, Locke, and Equality
(lib. i. c. ), with a Man™s Head and Hog™s Body? . . . Had the upper
part, to the middle, been of humane shape, and all below Swine; Had
it been Murther to destroy it?” (E: ..·). Similarly, when he talks
about fetal monstrosities, Locke says that there is a question about
whether the entity is entitled to baptism “ that is, to the spiritual status
of humanity.
[N]one of the De¬nitions of the word Man, which we yet have . . . are so perfect
and exact as to satisfy a considerate inquisitive Person; much less to obtain a
general Consent, and to be that which men would every where stick by, in the
Decision of Cases, and determining of Life and Death, Baptism or No Baptism,
in Productions that might happen. (E: ..·)
And of course spiritual status is exactly what™s at stake in the opening
paragraphs of the Second Treatise. Once again, I think this shows the
absurdity of the Laslett suggestion that we have, on the one hand, Locke
the philosopher (uninterested in normative implications) and, on the
other hand, Locke the political theorist (uninterested in philosophy).
The Essay shows us someone exercised by this dif¬culty about species
wearing both his hats.
Let us turn, then, to the implications for the moral and political phi-
losophy. On the face of it, the implications of Locke™s skepticism about
species are pretty serious. If the boundaries of species are made by men
and not given by our Creator in the nature of things, and if the human
conventions that establish those boundaries are contestable and con-
tested, then, as Locke says, “the same individual will be a true Man to
the one [party], which is not so to the other” (E: ..). On the one hand,
we have a moral theory premised on claims such as this “ “there [is] noth-
ing more evident, than that Creatures of the same species . . . should also
be equal one amongst another without Subordination or Subjection”
(nd T: ) “ and this “ “there cannot be supposed any such Subordination
among us, that may Authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were
made for one anothers uses, as the inferior ranks of Creatures are for
ours” (nd T: ). On the other hand, we have a contestable de¬nition
of which creatures get the bene¬t of this status and which don™t. And
Locke™s comment in Book IV of the Essay, on how an English child
might “prove” that a negro is not a man, is really quite disconcerting in

 See also Grant, John Locke™s Liberalism, p. : “Locke shows both the dif¬culty of de¬ning species


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