Document Type

Article

Publication Date

July 2012

Journal or Book Title

SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900

Volume

52

Issue

3

Abstract

While John Locke and Alexander Pope are often treated as political opposites, this essay contends that Locke's Two Treatises shares important conceptual ground with Pope's Essay on Man. Both writers give consenting individuals agency and the social contract transformative power, even as both also insist that the created world offers clues about how God wants societies to work. I propose that these unexpected similarities confirm recent work in ecocriticism and the history of science that suggests that eighteenth-century nature could have moral or political content. Indeed, the similarities raise far-reaching questions about the contours of the consent-giving subject in the period's contractarian thought.

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