Unto Thy Children's Children: Lockean Freedom and the Hebraic Horizons of Society and Self
Author(s)Silver, Jonathan L.
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The signature forms of modern constitutional politics include such features as egalitarianism and equality before the law; the separation of constitutionally limited powers; the ability for each citizen, regardless of social standing, to appeal to impartial arbiters who will judge each case on the basis of publicly known and clearly documented laws; a diffusion of power amongst multiple aggregated nodes of power within the greater community, each tasked with some degree of local government while maintaining final allegiance to the state, or federalism; and all this sanctioned as legitimate on the basis of an open and public statement of the basic laws to which each individual must freely consent. The fact that each of these features is systematically developed in the ancient Israelite regime of the Hebrew Bible, and the fact that early modern constitutional thinkers frequently quoted the Hebrew Bible in their political writing, has led a burgeoning subfield in the history of political thought to conclude that the Hebrew Bible has served an underappreciated causal role in the intellectual development of modern constitutionalism.
This dissertation endorses the integration of the Hebrew Bible into the canonical study of the history of political thought. But by analyzing the deeper foundations of Lockean and Hebraic thought, this dissertation concludes that, whatever their institutional similarities, the Lockean doctrine opposes the Hebraic worldview on matters such as human nature and human excellence, freedom and tradition, reason and memory, and consent and inheritance. Locke's normative political vision is designed for individuals who bear no inherent obligations to the past, have little responsibility for the future, and relate to society only so long as it serves their interest. Locke's political doctrine is brought into comparison with the Hebraic anthropology of heart and soul, and a Hebraic social teaching whose fundamental axes, husband/wife and parent/child, acknowledge the inescapably social character of creation, celebrate the cultivation of national memory from generation to generation, and propose the presence of an intergenerational morality in which the deeds of the parents redound unto their children's children.
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