Susanne Sreedhar
Boston University
Julie Walsh
Wellesley College
When Locke mentions polygamy in his writings, he does not condemn the practice and, even seems to endorse it under certain conditions. This attitude is out of step with many of his contemporaries. Identifying the philosophical reasons that lead Locke to have this attitude about polygamy motivates our project. Because Locke never wrote a treatise on ethics, we look to number of different texts, but focus on An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Essays on the Law of Nature, in order to outline his basic ethical theory. We argue that this theory, the elements of which include moral mixed modes, the law of nature, and the comparison of these modes with this law, is broad enough to accommodate practices like polygamy. Our interpretation shows that Locke’s line of thought on marriage is strikingly flexible for the 17th century, and even compared to some contemporary public debates on marriage.
Keywords Locke  Law of nature  Polygamy
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Reprint years 2016
DOI 10.1017/apa.2016.3
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References found in this work BETA

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.John Locke - 1979 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 169 (2):221-222.
Locke on the Law of Nature.John W. Yolton - 1958 - Philosophical Review 67 (4):477-498.
John Locke's Moral Philosophy.Annette C. Baier - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (4):615-618.
Moral Notions.Anne Lloyd Thomas - 1968 - Philosophical Quarterly 18 (73):375-376.
Why Locke Rejected an Ethics of Virtue and Turned to an Ethics of Utility.John P. Hittinger - 1990 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 64:267.

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