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Environmental Ethics

Volume 1, Issue 3, Fall 1979

Kathleen M. Squadrito
Pages 255-262

Locke’s View of Dominion

In this paper l examine the extent to which Locke’s reIigious and poIiticaI ideoIogy might be considered to exempIify values which have Ied to environmentaI deterioration. In the Two Treatises of Governlnent, Locke appears to hold a view of dominion which compromises humanitarian principles for economic gain. He often asserts that man has a right to accumulate property and to use land and animals for comfort and convenience. This right issues from God’s decree that men subdue the Earth and have dominion over every living thing. Although abuse of the environment appears to be justified in Locke’s political works, I argue that there are many passages in this work that cast doubt on such an interpretation. Further , the view of dominion adopted in Locke's educational work is one of responsible stewardship. On the whole, his view stresses man’s duties and obligation towards all creation.

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