Le radici cristiane dell’ Europa

Chi si oppone al riconoscimento delle radici cristiane dell’Europa lo fa in nome dell’illuminismo: la modernità ha realizzato una cesura netta con i secoli bui che l’hanno preceduta.

Jeremy Waldron, nel suo “God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations in Locke’s Political Thought” fornisce una testimonianza in senso contrario.

D’altronde, chi porre a rappresentante della modernità se non John Locke, il filosofo a cui dobbiamo concetti come quello di “tolleranza” e “uguaglianza”? Ebbene, pochi filosofi sono impregnati quanto lui di “teologia cristiana”. Waldron, ribaltando una tradizione consolidata, sostiene che si tratta di una influenza sostanziale, tale da non poter in alcun modo essere messa tra parentesi. Insomma, Locke non è traducibile in una lingua laica perché è essenzialmente un autore religioso. 

Su cosa ci si concentra?:

My topic is equality: the proposition that humans are all one another’s equals created equal, perhaps, or (whether created or not) just equal, in some fundamental and compelling sense.I propose to explore in the company ofthe seventeenth-century English political philosopher John Locke…. I believe that Locke’s mature … is as well-worked-out a theory of basic equality as we have in the canon of political philosophy….

Nonostante le apparenze l’oggetto del libro è alquanto originale:

… Philosophers ask whether we should be aiming for equality ofwealth, equality ofincome, equality of happiness, or equality of opportunity… Much less has been devoted to the more abstract philosophical question: “What is the character of our deeper commitment to treating all human beings as equals…

Un esempio tra i tanti:

Ronald Dworkin’s work on equality provides a fine illustration. Dworkin has done a tremendous amount to explore and articulate the nature of our commitment to equality in the social and economic realm….He provides a useful account of the relation between equality and market mechanisms, in terms of a distinction between “choice-sensitive” and “luck-sensitive” aspects of social and economic distribution… So the distinction between basic equality and equality as an aim is fundamental to Dworkin’s work. Yet Dworkin has said next to nothing about the nature and grounding of the principle of equal respect. ‘° He has devoted very little energy to the task of considering what that principle amounts to in itself, what (if anything) evokes it in the nature of the beings it proposes to treat as equals… This is not peculiar to Dworkin. He maintains that it is an obvious and generally accepted truth that governments must treat their citizens as equals…

Bè, ma questa è una grave lacuna, inutile girarci attorno:

If he is right and I think he is then there is a failure of argument on a very broad front indeed.

Ma orse c’è una spiegazione legata la “politally correct”:


No doubt part of the reason for reticence here has to do with the unpleasantness or offensiveness of the views – sexist and racist views, for example that one would have to pretend to take seriously if one wanted to conduct a serious examination of these matters.



Quando mscriveva Locke il contesto era ben diverso:

By contrast John Locke and his…were confronted with such denials, and with real political systems built upon them…. Sir Robert Filmer, the great proponent of patriarchalism and the divine right of kings, wrote, in the 1650s, “that there cannot be any Multitude of Men whatsoever, eithergreat or small, . . . but that in the same Multitude … there is one Man amongst them, that in Nature hath a Right to be king of all the rest,”… It was the contrary position the principle of equality that seemed radical… It was rather like communism in America in the 195os. There was no denying that people held this position; but those who held it were widely regarded as unsound and dangerous… Locke, beyond doubt, was one of these equality-radicals. Political correctness argued the other way, and Locke knew perfectly well that neither the premise basic equality nor the enterprise of figuring out its ramifications was a passport to political or philosophical respectability…

La tesi del libro:

Locke accorded basic equality the strongest grounding that a principle could have: it was an axiom of theology, understood as perhaps the most important truth about God’s way with the world in regard to the social and political implications of His creation of the human person.’… In what follows we will see Locke attempting to think through the consequences of this radicalism. And we will watch him respond to the charge of radical unsoundness, sometimes holding fast to what he knew was a counter-intuitive positionHis writings have nothing to say about affirmative action or universal health insurance or minority culture rights. If we imagine John Locke plonked down among us to talk about equality…


Un pregio del libro è di uniformare piani della discussione eludendo con maestria le trappole dell’anacronismo:

We are not accustomed to debate public controversies about equality using Old Testament sources… So, someone may ask, with all this potential for anachronism and misunderstanding, what could possibly be the point of lining up John Locke alongside an array of twentieth- and twenty-first-century thinkers- say, Bernard Williams, John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and Amartya Sen as a leading theorist of equality… Our thinking about equality is undeniably entangled with the issues of the day, and large parts of it or, at the very least, large parts of the way we present it are more or less inseparable from contexts, understandings, and political stakes that would not survive transposition to another time and place…

Oggi molti filosofi, abbiamo visto Dowrkin, trascurano l’essenziale, cosicché un richiamo all’ordine è quanto mai prezioso:

But we are also conscious that part of our discussion addresses something enduring: it addresses the possibility that equality may be grounded on something rather general in human nature and something…

Si tira in ballo anche la natura umana:

And many of us believe that this business of respecting one another as equals might have to be referred, in turn, to the idea of something important in or about human nature… John Locke and his contemporaries were conscious of much the same duality – the duality between surface issues of equal treatment in politics and economy and a deeper idea of respecting people as equals… Locke was exploring the possibility that humans were by nature worthy of respect as one another’s equals, not just one another’s equals in the politics…





C’è qualcosa d’imbarazzante nel libro di Waldron:

The the sub-title of this book refer to the Christian foundations of Locke’s political thought. I am conscious that there is something vaguely embarrassing, even badform, in this characterization. Why “Christian”? Why not just “Religious Foundations of Equality”? Or why not just “Locke’s Theory of Equality…

Ma è Locke ad essere un filosofo imbarazzante per molti illuministi:

… Locke was intensely interested in Christian doctrine, and in the Reasonableness he insisted that most men could not hope to understand the detailed requirements of the law of nature without the assistance of the teachings and example of Jesus… John Dunn has argued that the whole frame of discussion in the Two Treatises of Government is “saturated with Christian assumptionsHe wrote in his famous study of Locke: Jesus Christ (and Saint Paul) may not appear in person in the text of the Two Treatises but their presence can hardly be…

In questo libro ci si chiede se Locke puo’ essere recuperato alla laicità, ovvero se anche un ateo puo’ comprendere fini in fondo  i suoi due trattati. La risposta finale sarà “no”, senza la base religiosa il messaggio di Locke perde di peso.

I want to ask, not only whether we can discern the influence of Christian teaching in Locke’s normative doctrine of the “equality of all men in virtue of their shared species-membership,” but also whether one can even make sense of a position like Locke’s… apart from the specifically biblical and Christian teaching that he associated with it…

Non che l’imbarazzo presso gli studiosi non si fosse già manifestato con tentativi piuttosto goffi di liquidarlo:

For Dunn, I suspect, the theological and specifically biblical and Christian aspects ofLockean equality are features of Locke’s theory that make it largely irrelevant to our concerns. Teasing out and putting on display the indispensability to Locke’s political theory of its theological foundations is a way of confining Locke to the seventeenth century. To paraphrase Dunn’s famous title, they are part of “what is dead”…

I concetti che certi autori vorrebbero legare a quelolo di uguaglianza sono ben altri rispetto a quelli religiosi:

… the deep philosophical commitments of a modern theory would likely be oriented to secular values such as autonomy or dignity or human flourishing, values that are thought to command our respect quite independently of any conception of the sacred or of our relation to God…

Purtroppo, con Locke, l’operazione è alquanto difficile, il fondamento religioso è imprescindibile:

I actually don’t think it is clear that we now can shape and defend an adequate conception of basic human equality apart from some religious foundation


Difendere l’uguaglianza tra gli uomini facendo leva sull’utilitarismo è servito a poco:


Isaiah Berlin, for example, imagines that there might be a utilitarian defense of basic equality… But that is hopelessly confused…. Every man to count for one, nobody for more than one” is partly constitutive of utilitarianism, and so cannot be defended on utilitarian grounds except in a question-begging way….



Che in Locke la religione sia centrale uno lo vede a colpo d’occhi, negarlo espone ad anacronismi lampanti:

To treat Locke’s argument as though it were a secular argument, and thus on a par with our patterns of secular argumentation, is one sort of anachronism… One has only to read the first of Locke’s Two Treatises to become aware that we are in a quite different intellectual world… views the methods and substance of the First Treatise as strange and disconcerting

Ci sono vari motivi per cui la teologia è al centro di tutto:


Of course, part of John Locke’s interest in the specifically biblical part of his argument is connected with the determination, driving his work in the Two Treatises, to refute the specific claims of Sir Robert Filmer, whose Patriarcha and other works were republished in the 167os to provide powerful scriptural support for a thesis of basic inequality…


  I laici pensano di ridurre l’argomento teologico per l’eguaglianza ad un rozzo comando divino ma con questa caricatura s’ingannano:

Secular theorists often assume that they know what a religious argument is like: they present it as a crude prescription from God… they contrast it with the elegant complexity of a philosophical argument by Rawls (say) or Dworkin… I suspect that it might be as caricatural of religious argumentation in Locke’s day as it is of religious argumentation in our own… Religious arguments are more challenging than most, and for many people they are as foreign when they occur in contemporary political theory as they are when they are found in a seventeenth-century tract. One virtue, then, of devoting all this time and all this space to an analysis and elaboration of Locke’s religious case for equality is that it promises not only to deepen our understanding of equality, but also to enrich our sense of what it is like to make a religious argument in politics…. awkwardness at the prospect at having to make explicit whatever religious or spiritual assumptions lie behind our conviction that humans are special and that some of the more obvious differences between them are irrelevant to the fundamentals of moral concern and respect…



Il laico è disturbato dal fatto di dover prendere sul serio sessismo e razzismo, cosicché evita una confutazione entrando nel merito.

discomfited at the prospect of having to take seriously, even if only for the sake of clarity and refutation, racist and sexist positions that seem to deny this equality… premises on which racist and sexist doctrines are based.

La distinzione tra i sessi, invece, offre un’esempio paradigmatico di come Locke introduca il concetto di eguaglianza:

…here, however, I would like to introduce the substance of my discussion of Locke’s egalitarianism by focusing on what many regard as the most striking difference within the human species the difference between men and women…. The biblical subordination of Eve to Adam can be seen as a privileging of Adam in particular and his particular (male) heirs, or it can be seen as a privileging of men generally…

Due concetti diventano cruciali: l’essere creati entrambi ad immagine di Dio e l’essere entrambi dotati di ragione:

come to terms with the fact that women as much as men are created in the image of God and endowed with the modicum of reason that is, for Locke, the criterion of human equality…

Ma non possiamo fermarci qui. Cosa intendiamo quando diciamo “a immagine di Dio”? E di quale “ragione” parliamo?

E’ per rispondere a queste domande che la teologia diventa centrale nel discorso del “modernista” Locke. Al punto che molti hanno esclamato “troppa religione!”:

Macintyre’s observation that, as he read the Two Treatises of Government, the arguments of John Locke concerning basic equality and individual rights were so imbued with religious content that they were not fit, constitutionally, to be taught in the public schools of the United States of America…


In passato non era possibile mettere tra parentesi di Dio, pensiamo solo a come si giungeva alla condanna dell’omicidio:

The commandment to Noah prohibiting murder cites as a reason the fact that potential victims of murder are made in the image of the person (God) who has issued the commandment… There the religious aspect seems to have an internal relation to the commandment…


Non poter uccidere le creature fatte ad immagine di Dio richiedeva che la teologia fosse sempre presente.

Quando proibiamo l’uccisione dell’uomo dobbiamo intenderci cosa intendere per “umano”. Quando diciamo che “gli uomini sono creati uguali” dobbiamo intenderci cosa intendere per “umano”:

in Locke’s account, the shape of human, the way in which the extension of the predicate “human” is determined, is not in the end separable from the religious reasons that Locke cites in support of basic equality. If someone arrives at what purports to be a principle of human equality on other grounds (e.g., non-religious grounds), there is little reason to believe that that principle will have the same shape or texture as the Lockean principle…

Ecco allora far capolino la religione, e con un ruolo sostanziale:

Locke’s religious premises help to make sense of or give shape to a certain cluster of human characteristics

Per Locke l’uomo è speciale ma dobbiamo capire di cosa parliamo quando parliamo di uomo:

John Locke asserts as a matter of principle the fundamental equality of all members of the human species.’2 Members of this species have a special status, or occupy a special moral position quite unlike that of any other animal…in a way that also does not have any parallel for the co-members of any other species.


Potremmo affidarci alla scienza ma…:

… But in his philosophy of science… Locke comes very close to saying that there are no such things as species. species are at best just human conventions

La scienza da questo punto di vista usa solo convenzioni ma questo ha conseguenze pesanti sul piano morale:


The danger that this poses to the moral and political argument is enormous.

Locke non puo’ cedere su questo punto, non è un pragmatista:

Locke is not a pragmatist, like (say) Richard Rorty, proposing to keep a whole moral system afloat by using some conventional commitments to evaluate others.13 His approach in the Two Treatises and in his other political writings is explicitly foundationalist…

Si è cacciato in un tale ginepraio che molti suoi studiosi (scuola di Cambridge) consigliano di leggere i libri di morale e quelli di scienza separatamente:

Locke’s politics can and should be studied in more or less complete isolation from the rest of his philosophy… “Locke is, perhaps, the least consistent scholar…

Nasce così il mito della disgiunzione:

So I guess it is understandable that readers who come up against this difficulty are tempted to take advantage of the myth of a disjunction between Locke the philosopher and Locke the political pamphleteer, and to try and immunize the premises of the political account against the contagion of Locke’s philosophical skepticism about species…

Tuttavia, il problema resta insoluto:

Locke’s human egalitarianism depends crucially on the clarity and intelligibility of the species-boundarieswe turn to the Essay Concerning Human Understanding. What Locke says there about species is almost entirely at odds with the conception of species-hierarchy

Quanto al concetto di razionalità le cose non cambiano di molto:

Some people, he concedes, may add a criterion of rationality: they understand by “man” not just a featherless biped, but a rational animal. .. But again, which internal features caught our attention would be a matter of which were inherently interesting to us, or else which external appearances we wanted to understand the causality of. Either way, it is our interests that would dictate what revisions we made in (what we called) the essence of man…


… the implications of Locke’s skepticism about species are pretty serious. If the boundaries of species are made by men and not given by our Creator…

Che il problema fosse serio lo testimoniano alcuni passaggi per noi indigeribili:

Locke’s comment in Book IV of the Essay, on how an English child might “prove” that a negro is not a man, is really quite disconcerting in this regard…

Eppure, nel rifiutare l’essenzialismo Locke pone anche le basi dell’anti-razzismo:

by rejecting essentialism, Locke is undercutting those theories of human inequality that depend on “essentializing” superficial characteristics like skin color or sex organs. Kathy Squadrito says, for example, that Locke’s rejection of external form as real essence means that he doesn’t really think there is an important difference between men and women… the point about Locke’s anti-essentialism is that it leaves the field wide open for anyone to draw the boundaries It leaves him with no naturalistic basis whatsoever for distinguishing those creatures one is allowed to hunt, exploit, enslave… 

I punti d’appoggio restati a Locke per capire chi è “uomo” sono pochi:

It is important to see that, at the stage of the argument we have reached, neither God nor scripture can supply the deficiency of science… The species-difficulty arises because even if God has announced that all humans are created equal and commanded us to treat them as such, we still face the problem of defining the class…

Inoltre, Locke pretende su questo punto la massima chiarezza:

Locke says in his political philosophy that any basis for inequality must be evident, clear, and mmnifest

Non essendoci a disposizione un essenza dobbiamo affidarci alle somiglianze:

Our heuristic now is emphaticallywe have to start from the idea of a similarity among faculties that would be robust enough to sustain

Il criterio della razionalità sembra il più promettente ma non risolve certo tutti i problemi. Siamo in tanti ad avere una mente:

Unfortunately, however, imago del does not solve the following problem. On the one hand, non-human animals have minds, at least to the extent of having and acting on ideas and combinations of ideas (E: 2.11.5-7). Since they are “not bare Machins (as some would have them), we cannot deny them to have some Reason”…

Anche la ragione procede per gradi:

There are degrees of rationality, both among those we are pre-theoretically inclined to call humans and in a broader class of animals… On this gradual scale, who gets the benefit of equality?… There is, for example, the human fetus, which, Locke says, “dfers not much from the State of a Vegetable… lunacy, idiocyInfants are a slightly different case… Locke’s argument is that they are to be treated as beings destined for equality, though not our equals at present… And finally there are the familiar distinctions between the wise and the silly… there is a greater distance between some Men and others in this respect than between some Men and some Beasts” (E: 4.20.5), then how can we work with or justify any notion of basic equality?

La chiave di volta sono le “idee astratte”. L’uomo è colui che sa concepire idee astratte.

… In Book II of the Essay, he argued that what distinguishes humans from other animals is not their capacity to reason per se – for brute animals have some sort of reason – but rather the “power of Abstracting,” the capacity to reason on the basis of general ideas… So, maybe this is Locke’s equality-threshold… But he quickly indicates that many who bear the nominal essence of man lack the ability to abstract. Many of those we call idiots… Locke is not offering this capacity to abstract as the real essence of the species human. He is offering it as an interesting resemblance among all the beings

Noi possediamo questa capacità in vari gradi, per essere uomini ci basta rientrare nello spettro:

…for Locke the real resemblance on which basic equality rests the ability to form and work with abstract ideas must work rather like what modern political philosophers call a range property… A range property may be understood in terms of a region on a scale… we may use the binary property of being within the range… Relative to the interest driving the specification of the range property, the precise location of an entity on the scale is uninteresting. That it is Within the range is all we need to know…

In altre parole, è uomo solo chi è in grado di riconoscere i suoi doveri morali e l’esistenza di un Creatore:

No matter how inadequate the average human intellect is for a “universal, or perfect Comprehension,” it yet secures their great Concernments, that they have Light enough to lead them to the Knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own Duties…

La teologia razionale di Locke non puo’ essere elusa in alcun modo per chi vuole proclamare il principio di eguaglianza:

The existence of God, Locke believes, is something that can be established by the unaided human intellect, whatever that intellect’s other limitations…

Proclamare l’esistenza di Dio è garanzia di una presenza ragionevole, Dio infatti non puo’ essere semplicemente intuito:

Some argue, says Locke, that it is “suitable to the goodness of God” (E: 1.4.12) to imprint an idea of His being directly on our minds. But God has used a different strategy. He has conferred on those whom He intends to serve Him the rational power that is required for easy recognition of His existence… Anyone with the capacity for abstraction can reason to the existence of God… he has the minimal capacity to think of himself as a person… The fact that a being can get this far, intellectually, by whatever route, shows that he is a creature with a special moral relation to God.

Chi riconosce l’esistenza di Dio ha una dignità tale che ci obbliga a trattarlo come un pari:

… if I catch a human in full possession of his faculties, I know I should be careful how I deal with him. Because creatures capable of abstraction can be conceived as “all the servants of one Sovereign Master…

E’ chiaro che l’ateo non è in grado di afferrare questa base per l’eguaglianza tra gli uomini:

Someone in denial of or indifferent to the existence of God is not going to be able to come up with anything like the sort of basis for equality that Locke came up with… There is no reason for an atheist to recognize such a threshold, and there is no reason to believe that he could defend it if he did. The atheist has no basis in his philosophy for thinking that beings endowed with the capacity that Locke emphasizes are for that reason to be treated as special and sacred in the way Locke thought…

Ma Locke non è un autore qualsiasi, Locke è l’illuminismo e la modernità.

Così come non è possibile separare la teologia di Locke dal pensiero politico, non è nemmeno possibile separare la religione dal mondo moderno. La modernità ha una solida base cristiana e questo dovrebbe mettere in guardia chi propone per l’Europa radici diverse da quelle cristiane:

Locke’s equality claims are not separable from the theological content that shapes and organizes them. The theological content cannot simply be bracketed off as a curiosity… Lockean equality is not fit to be taught as a secular doctrine; it is a conception of equality that makes no sense except in the light of a particular account of the relation between man and God…


Un libro di spessore, forse anche troppo accademico per un lettore ordinario come me. Comunque un buon modo per dubitare di chi chiude ogni confronto storico pronunciando la parola magica “illuminismo” alla stregua di una palingenesi. Ci sono almeno due illuminismi: quello anglosassone (che non ha tagliato teste e a cui dobbiamo la rivoluzione industriale che ha arricchito l’intero pianeta) e quello francese che tra alcune cose buone ci ha lasciato in eredità Terrore, guerre napoleoniche, mito rivoluzionario ma soprattutto le “idee assassine” (per dirla con Robert Conquest) che hanno insanguinato il XX secolo.


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