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  • Posts: 20
  • Joined: Aug 12, 2019

I had some trouble with the John Locke passage. I think I just wasn't able to properly understand the content. I did a quick summary beside the passage to help me out, but upon reading the summary on p. 175, I realized how much I didn't pick up on. I know that the key to comparative passages is keeping track of similarities and differences, even subtle ones. While I understood passage A, I didn't really understand passage B. I didn't pick up on the author of passage B cautioning against any interpretation that does not take into account the historical context of the treatise. I know that he was cautioning against possible interpretations mentioned in lines 34-38, but where does he caution us that an interpretation that doesn't take into account its historical context is potentially dangerous?

My interpretation of the passage caused me to answer q1 wrong :(

I'm sorry if it's a stupid question :oops:
Any tips for this type of political/historical passage?

Thanks again!
 Jeremy Press
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 1000
  • Joined: Jun 12, 2017
Hi Legalistic,

It's a very good question you're asking, and it's where a couple extra tips might help you out a bit.

First, keep an eye out for any "responses" you can notice in Passage B to strong positions taken by Passage A. Passage A takes a rather strong position on Locke's treatise, by calling it a "timeless classic" that is not "historically or geographically bound." As soon as I read that, I notice it's a strong thing to say and I wonder whether Passage B will agree with it, seek to tone it down, or fairly strongly disagree with it (as Passage B eventually does!).

Second, don't expect that the two authors will use the same vocabulary to describe a central issue like this. I'd love for Passage B to come out explicitly and say, "Locke's work is NOT a timeless classic," but that's just not how these passages (or writings in general) tend to go.

Think about the real issue from a substantive standpoint between the two authors: can I take this Second Treatise and apply it to things it wasn't really "about" or not (in other words, do I have to keep interpretation of this book within its sphere of history or can I use it for something it wasn't intended for)?

Finally, the text of Passage B does provide us some clues that you have to take the work and interpret it in its own historical context. The author focuses on the Second Treatise being written "at a time" of particular oppression in Europe having to do with the seizing of private property (the author indicating sensitivity to the historical context of the treatise). The author goes on to write about Locke's specific "intention" (within this context) to redefine private property. Finally, we can tell the author wants to keep our interpretation of the Second Treatise rooted to this particular historical context and problem when the author says, "To extrapolate a broader social implication" (or to take the treatise beyond these concerns) would be dangerous. So while the text of Passage B doesn't specifically use the terminology of "historical context," we can tell from how the author wants to keep the interpretation of the Treatise rooted to Locke's time and concerns, the author wouldn't approve of Passage A's broader uses of the text.

I hope this helps!


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