Diderot and Reputation

Group 6 — Rameau’s Nephew

“It’s about getting some sort of credit – it has no intrinsic worth; its value comes instead from what people say. They say A good reputation is worth its weight in gold. And yet the person with a good reputation is never the one with the gold, and I have noticed that these days the person with the gold is never without a reputation” (Diderot 33).

This passage pits a good reputation against the attainment of wealth.  HIM argues that a person’s reputation is determined entirely by the public.  There is a good reputation in the sense that you are truly a good person, and there is a “good” reputation in the sense that society holds you in high esteem—but, this “good” reputation is two sided.  While society may respect them for what they have accomplished or done, they are, as HIM determines, “never without a reputation,” meaning, they are not necessarily society’s most honorable citizens.  This is a contention that HIM uses to his advantage:  “And that’s my aim when I boost my credit by resorting to what you call devious tricks and nasty little ruses. I give my lesson, and I give it well – that’s the general rule. I make it look as if I’ve got more lessons to give than there are hours in the day, and that’s the peculiarity” (Diderot 33).  Reputation can be seen as a cause and wealth an effect, because if you have a “good” reputation then more people will want to hire you, thus increasing your wealth.

Rameau’s argument is culminated in HIM’s assertion that, “Rameau has to be who he is: a happy thief in the company of wealthy thieves, and not someone who trumpets his virtue or who is actually virtuous, chewing his crust of bread on his own or with other beggars” (Diderot 40).  HIM doesn’t want to adopt admirable characteristics because he sees it to be too much pointless effort, and is therefore willing to forego a good (character) reputation for a good (successful) reputation.

Because Rameau’s Nephew is essentially just a collection of challenging opinions, this morally challenging stance on reputation befits it perfectly as it supports the abandonment of integrity for money, and what kind of world would that foster?

John Locke ….Revolution or Remodeling


Kimberly Leffler

Group 3

At first, one may be confused to read Section 159 of John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government because it is somewhat contradictory to the rest of the paper. The purpose of the paper as a whole was to criticize monarchial government and suggest a completely new form of government to take its place. In section 159 John Locke suggests a “moderated monarchy.” The monarchy would be limited in terms of political power though, which actually is a reasonable spring board to start from when considering the time period.

Locke recognizes that the government requires limitations. The Prerogative is the name of the chapter containing this section and it perfectly encompasses this idea. The monarch would obviously have the executive power and ability to change laws with the changing society. This fits in with the prerogative because though the monarch would have executive power, the government would also maintain checks and balances to check this power. A system of checks and balances maintains the government concern for the common welfare of all citizens. Though the executive branch would have a great deal of power, it is checked by another branch of government according to Locke, the legislative branch of government.

Although Locke claims to be very anti monarch, he is not. He is simply anti the current form of monarchy at that time. Locke’s ideas were truly visionary considering nothing had been in place under these terms before. Locke pioneered the pathway, which led to the US government as it stands today. Some of the core ideas Locke presented remain core ideas in the United States government. Although Locke’s ideas were innovative, they were nothing shy of a moderated monarchy. Locke’s idea of government was not actually a new form of government, simply a moderated one, proved in his section 159.

Conflicting Ideologies Concerning the Right for Organized Rebellion

Hobbes and Locke’s conflicting ideologies largely center around the concept of what gives a government its authority. Hobbes believed that human beings were “organisms in motion” who need a governmental authority construct to prevent them from solely living for selfish means. The selfish nature of human beings is visible in the actions of the dictatorship in Syria in the years prior to the entire Syrian conflict. In addition, it is also visible currently in the actions of certain individuals who are setting themselves on fire for political gains. These actions are selfishly fueled and demonstrate Hobbes’ idea that human beings need a governmental authority to keep their selfish natures in check. On the other hand, Locke believes in human agency that is “lent” to governments to protect the inherent rights of its people. This concept can be seen throughout the Syrian conflict. People are uprising in the first place because they feel that their inherent rights are being violated. Locke stated that if a government were violating the rights of its people, then the people had the right to change or overthrow it. Therefore, Locke’s assertions justify the Syrian conflict as a whole.


John Locke and Justice

Group 6

In looking at how Locke’s Treatise is still in circulation today, an article was found about the Ferguson case. About the issue in discussion, Michael Brown was a black teen that was shot dead by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Racial protests and injustice screams were heard around the states. The author of this article, Ta-Nehisi Coates, brings up a quote from Locke’s Treatise to help prove his point about how Wilson got off on a lesser punishment than an ordinary citizen would have received. The part quoted was in Chapter XVI, Section 176:

The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders. What is my remedy against a robber, that so broke into my house?”

In this context, the Ferguson’s trial outcome violated Locke’s way of thinking. Locke says that the title of the offender should make no difference, yet Coates is arguing that in this case it did. There is an absence of justice that is occurring in Ferguson. Coates agrees with Locke, and says that the government needs to put as much pressure on the law enforces as they do the law followers.

Locke also states in his Treatise that if  justice is denied, appeals should be made. His feelings that no one should be exempt from the law and that people need to be brought to justice so that everyone else can feel protected of their lives and property apply to this situation. If everyone was to go free like Wilson, it would be a disgrace to the government that Locke was trying to establish.

John Locke: Strife between Property and Currency

Humn 221-09 group 4 (Plus Aliza)

Passage 37 of John Lockes Second Treatise of Civil Government talks about the use of currency allowing man to hold more property than he needs, so long as he sells perishable goods in exchange for money, something nonperishable. This notion seems to directly contradict some of the statements previously expounded by Locke.

Previously in paragraph 32 Locke had stated, that so long as enough land was left for someone else to use then man could enclose their own parcel of land. However if every man takes more than his fair share, more than he could possibly use, there is not enough left over for every man to have a piece. Locke was writing this closely around the discovery of America, clearly thinking that there could never be a shortage of land. In this year of 2015 though everything is claimed or owned. So here Lockes ideas come into conflict, because businesses and corporations hold more property than any one entity should ever have and therefore make others unable to hold on to land. Yet they trade the goods they create from these natural resources for money therefore not wasting any decaying material.

Earlier in the same chapter he explained that men should not take more than is needed by their person alone because “Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy”. Companies that own more land and goods than they could possibly use, destroy other businesses and livelihoods, not to mention most of the natural resources they’re abusing. This is because over cultivating of land, and simply trying to reach some natural resources destroys the land around it, or potentially harms our atmosphere and/or water sources. Large companies such as Walt-Mart also negatively affect others, especially in small communities, it can shut down local businesses. Essentially this “destroys” their business, and in effect their livelihoods.

One could also propose that this is why we have intellectual property now. Since we’ve practically ran out of land to simply “claim”, we can now claim the right to certain ideas. Especially with new technologies and the internet, there are constantly new programs, theories, inventions and so on being created. But this also raises an issue because anyone can claim ideas, and get a copyright or trademark for it. A lot of technological advances are based off of preexisting technology and therefore someone is unable to create something unique without offering to pay whoever owns the copyright, or they might not even be able to create it at all. Thus again leading to the issue of someone owning to much of something so that it infringes upon others wellbeing, and creativity in this instance.

It seems strange to me that John Locke so often advocates for the good of the commonwealth, but does not see a problem with gross economic inequality. In my opinion the two should go hand in hand, otherwise the argument for the good of all becomes muddled. To be fair though, Locke couldn’t have had any idea how society would change and grow over the centuries, which makes you wonder what he would say if he saw things now.

John Locke and Moderate Monarchies

Group 3

John Locke goes into great detail to explain the flaws and short comings of a monarchy as a form of government. Then later in chapter 14 while discussing the new roles and limitations the government should bare, Locke uses the term moderate monarchy claiming it is a well framed form of government (Section 159). With this statement, Locke enters a new idea of political views. The word moderate comes with illusion of limitations, which Locke uses when describing this new Moderate Monarchy. Limitations on laws and power helped him create the ideals that have helped shape many different governments even centuries later.

Locke shows great examples of foresight when explaining his moderate monarchy. Stating that laws should be transformable for the common good. With this Locke believes a certain amount of power should be given to the monarch to change laws that may be passed, or reinterpret them if beneficial to society. This is what Locke would call Prerogative; the power to acting according to discretion while dealing with laws for the overall common good. This would be exclusive to the most powerful forms of government.

Locke also talks about the power of checks and balances with law and then introduces an executive branch and a legislative branch. Locke claims that the executive branch should have the most power but also be checked heavily. This example of government would support a more moderate monarchy than an anti monarchy that Locke originally supported. Furthermore, this example of branches and checks and balances is familiar to our form of government today. It has always been said that John Locke was a strong influence in government, but is this suggesting that most governments tried to move away from a monarchy and ended up at a moderate monarchy? Are most governments today still Locke’s moderate monarchy just operating under a different name?

John Locke’s Ideas on Natural Law Between Societies

In class, our group was asked to pick out a passage from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government that brought questions to us and then to take a deeper look at the passage to try and answer our questions. Our group chose passage 145 from chapter 12. This passage stumped us because Locke expresses that individual societies have laws that stops at the boarders of that society, and laws from one society to another are left to natural law. Before doing research our first thoughts were that this could not be exactly true, because in today’s society there are international relations that regulate our international laws. We live in a world where nations are interdependent on each other for things such as trade, and alliances that are formed between nations. Natural law seemed to be only regulated at an individual level and we did not see how it could be the main source of international relations. Once we took a deeper look we realized even in today’s world natural law really is what we have to depend on between societies. There have been great attempts to make laws such as the United Nations but not all nations belong to the UN.  However, at a global scale we do not have a legislative branch to make laws, or an executive branch to enforce the laws. Nations break commitments to each other regularly and there is really no justice system that can do anything about this between nations. Therefore, natural law really is what we have to depend on between societies. In today’s society there are many cases in which natural laws do not stop individuals of crime. For example, in recent years there has been a lot of interest on the drug trafficking industry. Between nations drugs are being transported in numerous amounts, and although border controls are trying to prevent it as much as possible, it is not putting a complete stop to it. This brings to question, what exactly is being done at an international level, and at a society level. Drug trafficking is just a single small example of what is happening without control. This leads to the larger question of how can the world work together on an international level to have more regulations and actually follow through on these.


Opening Open Humanities

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