'A Matter of Dangerous Consequence’: Molyneux and Locke on TolandIan Leask, Ian Leask
Online Lecture: ‘A Matter of Dangerous Consequence’: Molyneux and Locke on Toland
William Molyneux’s attitude towards John Locke, as demonstrated by their correspondence, might appear to be that of a fawning acolyte. However, closer analysis of the Locke-Molyneux correspondence regarding the very particular case of John Toland, and the events and misadventures that characterized Toland’s sojourn in Dublin in 1697, reveal a different aspect to Molyneux. As I want to show here, it seems that Molyneux refuses to accept the ‘abandonment’ of Toland that Locke more or less commands; moreover, he seeks to defend Toland, in part, upon the basis of Locke’s own philosophical-political principles – thereby showing himself to be (on this occasion, at least) more Lockean than Locke himself.
To make this case, I shall outline the general background regarding the relationship between Locke and Toland; I then offer a narrative account of the relevant sections of the Molyneux-Locke correspondence; and I conclude with closer focus on the construction of a particular letter that ‘closes’ the exchange between them regarding Toland. I also suggest that, beyond the particularities of the debate, the entire episode helps to demonstrate the ‘birth pangs’ of modernity – specifically, the struggle to develop independent, secular, politics.
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December 15, 2020, 6:45pm CET
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