LOCKE AND THE BLACKAMOOR

One often repeated charge is that Locke, like other Europeans of this era, adopted what we might call an Aristotelian strategy in respect to black Africans. This strategy is to treat them as less than human. Since they are less than human, any argument that they have natural rights to life, liberty, health and property can be dismissed -- for they are not people. One passage in Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding which is often invoked to show that Locke has the kind of view is section 16 of the Chapter on Maxims in Book IV of the Essay.

I want you to read the portion of that Chapter (the sections from 15 to 20 carefully, to see if you think that a close reading of the text substantiates that charge or refutes it.

Write a synopsis or careful summary of the argument which Locke is presenting in this section of the Chapter. To help you do this, I suggest answering the following questions: 1. What is Locke telling us about maxims, i.e. what is the conclusion he is trying to establish? 2. What role does the claim that black skin color shows that a black is not a man play in this argument?

Finally, answer the question: Does this passage support the claim that Locke views black Africans as less than human?