John Locke and the atheists: sociability in the natural history of peoples

  • Saulo Henrique Souza Silva Federal University of Sergipe
Keywords: Locke, atheists, natural history of humanity, travel literature, diversity of peoples, toleration


Locke’s social philosophy is developed considering reports that make up the knowledge about distant peoples. Throughout the work An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke brings several mentions of the travel reports to different lands of the terrestrial globe, Brazil, Siam, China, Africa, Middle East, peoples of the north. This strategy of the Essay has the function of basing a diversified picture of the beliefs and customs of peoples throughout the globe. About the moral framework of peoples, we question the following, does Locke’s philosophy allow us to sustain that morality and sociability depend of knowledge of God? Within these discussions, the problem of the existence of the atheists and atheist societies was present both in travel reports and in the works of English philosopher himself. This fact denotes, we think, that Locke understood that the atheist is effectively a natural condition of humanity. Therefore, how could these ideas be reconciled with the exclusion of the atheists in A Letter Concerning Toleration, is it possible to sustain or not the intolerance of the atheists? This paper aims to develop the thesis according to which beliefs in deities can be developed, including the idea of God. However, this does not necessarily correspond to a civilizational advance, nor does it have a universal consensus, it may just be a moral rule better suited to a particular social life.