John Locke


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John Locke

  1. 1. Group 3 Written Report John Locke Two Treaties of Government INTRODUCTION A. HISTORICAL CONTEXT Before discussing events that occurred in Locke‟s lifetime we should consider how his political times were prefigured by the Peace of Augburg in 1555. An awareness of the peace will illustrate its significant role in the creation of the Treaty of Westphalia which largely reshaped politics during Locke‟s lifetime. With a background in the Peace of Augburg and Treaty of Westphalia we can more comprehensively understand some of the political tumult in England during Locke‟s life, and why he develop his theory the way he does. The Peace of Augburg was drafted and signed in 1555 by the Holy Roman Emperor and Political groups in the Germanic states. The agreement allowed Germanic princes to freely choose either Lutheranism or Catholicism as state religions and legally prohibited their subjects from practicing divergent religions. The agreement ended the “forcible conversions” that Lutherans and Catholics were using to try and return Europe to a mono religious culture. This peace was tenuous and boiled for decades, and it ultimately erupted into the Thirty Years War. This conflict took place in Northern France and the Parsons Germanic states, and was waged between the major religious groups in Europe. It was concluded by the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia. The battle of Vienna occurred in the middle of the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. Wherein John Locke was at his prime. The Ottoman ruled mostly on the Southeastern part of Europe. They dominated the areas since 1299. Nations such as that of Egypt,Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Turkey, were all part of the Ottoman Empire by 1683. The Ottomans were determined to conquer Europe. On the 6th of August 1682, the Ottomans declared war on Vienna. Yet it was only after several months before they began their invasion. It was only on the 14th of July, 1683 where the war between The Ottoman and Vienna really began. Early in his medical studies, Locke met Lord Ashley, who was to become Earl of Shaftsbury. The two grew close and Shaftsbury eventually convinced Locke to move to London and become his personal
  2. 2. physician. Locke assisted in his business and political matters, and after Shaftsbury was made chancellor, Locke became his secretary of presentations. Shaftsbury's influence on Locke's professional career and his political thoughts cannot be understated. As one of the founders of the Whig party, which pushed for constitutional monarchism and stood in opposition to the dominant Tories, Shaftsbury imparted an outlook on rule and government that never left Locke. As England fell under a cloud of possible revolution, Locke became a target of the government. While historical research has pointed to his lack of involvement in the incident, Locke was forced to leave in England in 1683 due to a failed assassination attempt of King Charles II and his brother, or what later came to known as the Rye House Plot. His arrival back in his homeland had come in the aftermath of the dramatic departure of King James II, who'd fled the country, allowing the Whigs to rise to power. Later called the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the event forever changed English government, moving the balance of power from the throne to Parliament. It also set Locke up to be a hero to many in his native country. A hero to the Whig party, Locke remained connected to governmental affairs in his advanced years. He helped steer the resurrection of the Board of Trade, which oversaw England's new territories in North America. Locke served as one of the body's key members. B. JOHN LOCKE‟S PERSONAL BACKGROUND I. Birth and Death: John Locke, born on August 29, 1632, in Wrington, Somerset, England, went to Westminster School and then Christ Church, University of Oxford. At Oxford he studied medicine, which would play a central role in his life. He became a highly influential philosopher, writing about such topics as political philosophy, epistemology, and education. Locke's writings helped found modern Western philosophy. Philosopher, Influential philosopher and physician, whose writings had a significant impact Western philosophy, John Locke was born August 29, 1632, in Wrington, a village in the English county of Somerset. His father was a country lawyer and military man who had served as a captain during the English civil war. Both his parents were Puritans and as such, Locke was raised that way. Because of his father's connections and allegiance to the English government, Locke received an outstanding education. Long afflicted with delicate health, Locke passed away on October 28, 1704 in Essex, where he'd resided over the last decade of his life.Years after his death we are still gauging his impact on Western thought. His theories concerning the separation of Church and State, religious freedom, and liberty, not only
  3. 3. influenced European thinkers such as the French Enlightenment writer, Voltaire, but shaped the thinking of America's founders, from Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Jefferson. II. Locke’s mentors Boyle, Newton and Discartes: John Wilkins had left Oxford with the Restoration of Charles II. The new leader of the Oxford scientific group was Robert Boyle. He was also Locke's scientific mentor. Boyle (with the help of his astonishing assistant Robert Hooke) built an air pump which led to the formulation of Boyle's law and devised a barometer as a weather indicator. Boyle was most influential as a theorist. He was a mechanical philosopher who treated the world as reducible to matter in motion. Locke read Boyle before he read Descartes. When he did read Descartes, he saw the great French philosopher as providing a viable alternative to the sterile Aristotelianism he had been taught at Oxford. But his involvement with the Oxford scientists gave him a perspective which made him critical of the rationalist elements in Descartes' philosophy. Locke knew all of these men and their work. Locke, Boyle and Newton were all founding members of the English Royal Society. It is from Boyle that Locke learned about atomism (or the corpuscular hypothesis) and it is from Boyle's book The Origin of Forms and Qualities that Locke took the language of primary and secondary qualities. Sydenham was one of the most famous English physicians of the 17th century and Locke did medical research with him. Locke read Newton's Principia Mathematica Philsophiae Naturalis in exile in Holland, and consulted Huyygens as to the soundness of its mathematics. Locke and Newton became friends after Locke's return from Holland in 1688. Locke's own active invovlement with the scientific movement was largely through his informal studies of medecine. Dr. David Thomas was his friend and collaborator. Locke and Thomashad a labratory in Oxford which was very likely, in effect, a pharmacy. In 1666 Locke had a fateful meeting with Lord Ashley as a result of his friendship with Thomas. Ashley, one of the richest men in England, came to Oxford. He proposed to drink some medicinal waters there. He had asked Dr. Thomas to provide them. Thomas had to be out of town and asked Locke to see that the water was delivered. As a result Locke met Ashley and they liked one another. In the following year Ashley asked Locke to move to Exeter House in London to become his personal physician. This was to start a whole new and astonishing chapter in Locke's life.
  4. 4. III. Locke’s writings: A Letter Concerning Toleration originally published in 1689. Its initial publication was in Latin, though it was immediately translated into other languages. Locke's work appeared amidst a fear that Catholicism might be taking over England, and responds to the problem of religion and government by proposing religious toleration as the answer. This "letter" is addressed to an anonymous "Honored Sir": this was actually Locke's close friend Philipp van Limborch, who published it without Locke's knowledge Two Treatises of Government The First Treatise attacks patriarchalism in the form of sentence- by-sentence refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, while the Second Treatise outlines Locke's ideas for a more civilized society based on natural rights and contract theory. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding concerns the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. He describes the mind at birth as a blank slate (tabula rasa, although he did not use those actual words) filled later throughexperience. The essay was one of the principal sources of empiricism in modern philosophy, and influenced many enlightenment philosophers, such as David Hume and George Berkeley. Some Thoughts Concerning Education is a 1693 treatise on the education of gentlemen written by the English philosopher John Locke. For over a century, it was the most important philosophical work on education in England. It was translated into almost all of the major written European languages during the eighteenth century, and nearly every European writer on education after Locke, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, acknowledged its influence. MAJOR THEMES A. THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED: The Second Treatise of Government places sovereignty into the hands of the people. Locke‟s fundamental argument is that people are equal and invested with natural rights in a state of nature in which they live free from outside rule. In the state of nature, natural law governs behavior, and each person has license to execute that law against someone who wrongs them by infringing on their rights. People take what they need on Earth, but hoard just enough to cover their needs. Eventually, people begin to trade their excess good with each other, until they develop a common
  5. 5. currency for barter, or money. Money eliminates limits on the amount of property they can obtain (unlike food, money does not spoil), and they begin to gather estates around themselves and their families. People then exchange some of their natural rights to enter into society with other people, and be protected by common laws and a common executive power to enforce the laws. People need executive power to protect their property and defend their liberty. The civil state is beholden to the people, and has a power over the people only in so far as it exists to protect and preserve their welfare. Locke describes a state with a separate judicial, legislative and executive branch – the legislative branch being the most important of the three, since it determines the laws that govern civil society. People have the right to dissolve their government, if that government ceases to work solely in their best interest. The government has no sovereignty of its own – it exists to serve the people. To sum up, Locke‟s model consists of a civil state, built upon the natural rights common to a people who need and welcome an executive power to protect their property and liberties; the government exists for people‟s benefit and can be replaced or overthrown it ceases to function toward that primary end. B. THE PROTECTION OF THE PROPERTY Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labour. In Chapter V of his Second Treatise, Locke argues that the individual ownership of goods and property is justified by the labour exerted to produce those goods or utilise property to produce goods beneficial to human society. Locke stated his belief, in his Second Treatise, that nature on its own provides little of value to society; he provides the implication that the labour expended in the creation of goods gives them their value. This is used as supporting evidence for the interpretation of Locke's labour theory of property as a labour theory of value, in his implication that goods produced by nature are of little value, unless combined with labour in their production and that labour is what gives goods their value. Locke believed that ownership of property is created by the application of labour. In addition, he believed property precedes government and government cannot "dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily." Karl Marx later critiqued Locke's theory of property in his own social theory. Labour creates property, but it also does contain limits to its accumulation: man‟s capacity to produce and man‟s capacity to consume. According to Locke, unused property is waste and an offence against nature. However, with the introduction of “durable” goods, men could exchange their excessive
  6. 6. perishable goods for goods that would last longer and thus not offend the natural law. The introduction of money marks the culmination of this process. Money makes possible the unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage. He also includes gold or silver as money because they may be “hoarded up without injury to anyone, since they do not spoil or decay in the hands of the possessor. The introduction of money eliminates the limits of accumulation. Locke stresses that inequality has come about by tacit agreement on the use of money, not by the social contract establishing civil society or the law of land regulating property. Locke is aware of a problem posed by unlimited accumulation but does not consider it his task. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth and does not say which principles that government should apply to solve this problem. However, not all elements of his thought form a consistent whole. For example, labour theory of value of the Two Treatises of Government stands side by side with the demand-and-supply theory developed in a letter he wrote titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. Moreover, Locke anchors property in labour but in the end upholds the unlimited accumulation of wealth. C. ON ABSOLUTE MONARCHIES For Locke, absolute monarchy can never be a valid system of government because it violates his principles of a social contract. People join together under a commonwealth out of the state of nature primarily to ensure equal protection for all. The problem with the state of nature for Locke is that there is no guarantee of equal protection for property or other goods, but a contractarian society ensures that all people will have equal access to principles of law and be equally protected. However, when an absolute monarchy is in place, then people do not have an equal share either in the way their government is run or in justice. All power flows to the monarchy instead of from the people, and the needs and desires of the monarchy trump the desires of the people over which the monarchy rules. The illegitimacy of an absolute monarchy is a crucial point in Locke's larger political philosophy. For Locke, it is of the utmost importance that people have a voice within their government. This idea flows at least partially from his conception of the state of nature. Locke believes that life in the state of nature is basically good and completely free, and that the incentive people have for joining into a social contract is that there are inconvenience within the state of nature. These include issues of property protection, punishment for those who violate social norms,
  7. 7. and ways of enforcing agreements. In this conception of the natural human condition, it is unnecessary for people to be completely dominated in order to ensure that they can live together peacefully. People will not agree to give up the absolute freedom they have in the state of nature if they do not believe that they will obtain some benefit for doing so. In a Lockean government, the compensation that people receive for giving up absolute freedom is that their rights will be protected and that they will have a role in determining who will govern over them and how. The absolute monarchy is in complete opposition to this idea, and the existence of an absolute monarchy, or even the risk that one could come into existence, would eliminate any incentive people would have to join together in a social contract. D. STATE OF NATURE Locke‟s account of political society is based on a hypothetical consideration of the human condition before the beginning of communal life. In this “state of nature,” humans are entirely free. But this freedom is not a state of complete. From what I understand, the state of nature is a state of anarchy, of no order. What John Locke believed about the state of nature was that men would act in a positive way, they can reach order without being absolutely controlled by one person. For Locke, the state of nature is where humans exist without an established government or social contract. People act according to "laws of nature" which include moral equality and natural freedom (their natural rights). Society can exist in the sense that people can work together to protect themselves and each other from those who do not obey the laws of nature, but Locke believes people would eventually enter into a social contract and form a government to better protect their rights and promote a more organized society. The state of nature is basically a thought experiment, rather than an actual period in history he is specifically referring to. Although he does mention the native tribes of North America as possibly resembling what he imagines the state of nature to be. Thomas Hobbes first coined the term "state of nature", by which he meant the environment where everyone acted on their desires without any legal or moral restraint. This would obviously lead to chaos as everybody would be stealing, pillaging and killing to satisfy their wants. Locke's vision was slightly different in that he advocated belief in a "Law of Nature", which provided natural moral principles that people were naturally inclined towards. These stemmed from his belief in God and His creation of Man and all things on Earth. The basic laws are as follows: 1. Man is God's property, therefore one has the right to
  8. 8. defend oneself from harm; 2. Therefore one also has the duty to protect others from harm; 3. Therefore one is also obligated to punish those who cause harm. From these, Locke derived property rights where if you have added your labour to improve a piece of land (which originally has no owner), you can claim ownership over it. In a state of nature where there is no rule of law, these rights are not defendable. So Locke proposed a removal from the state of nature in the form of a representative democracy that would be charged with defending these rights. E. EQUALITY Locke stresses that inequality has come about by tacit agreement on the use of money, not by the social contract establishing civil society or the law of land regulating property. Locke is aware of a problem posed by unlimited accumulation but does not consider it his task. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth and does not say which principles that government should apply to solve this problem . F. THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT AND LIMITATIONS ON POWER Locke proposed a radical conception of political philosophy deduced from the principle of self- ownership and the corollary right to own property, which in turn is based on his famous claim that a man earns ownership over a resource when he mixes his labour with it. Government, he argued, should be limited to securing the life and property of its citizens, and is only necessary because in an ideal, anarchic state of nature, various problems arise that would make life more insecure than under the protection of a minimal state. Locke is also renown for his writings on toleration in which he espoused the right to freedom of conscience and religion (except when religion was deemed intolerant!), and for his cogent criticism of hereditary monarchy and patriarchalism. After his death, his mature political philosophy leant support to the British Whig party and its principles, to the Age of Enlightenment, and to the development of the separation of the State and Church in the American Constitution as well as to the rise of human rights theories in the Twentieth Century. However, a closer study of any philosopher reveals aspects and depths that introductory caricatures (including this one) cannot portray, and while such articles seemingly present a completed sketch of all that can ever be known of a great thinker, it must always be remembered that a great thinker is rarely captured in a few pages or paragraphs by a lesser one, or one that approaches him with particular philosophical interest or bias: the reader, once contented with the glosses provided here, should always return to and scrutinise Locke in the original – just as an
  9. 9. academic exposition of Beethoven‟s Eroica symphony will always be a sallow reflection of the actual music. This article summarises the general drift of Locke‟s political thinking, leaving the other IEP article on Locke to examine his general philosophy and his theory of knowledge. The article touches on his biography as it relates to the development of his political thought, and it also provides an analysis of some of the issues that his philosophy raises – especially with regards to the Two Treatises of Government. Locke is rightly famous for his Treatises, yet during his life he repudiated his authorship, although he subtly recommended them as essential reading in letters and thoughts on reading for gentlemen. The Treatises swiftly became a classic in political philosophy, and its popularity has remained undiminished since his time: the „John Locke academic industry‟ is vibrant and broad with an academic journal (John Locke Studies) and books regularly coming out dealing with his philosophy. There is a scholarly debate on when the Two Treatises were written. They were first published in 1698, but when they were penned is of critical importance; originally the Two Treatises were deemed an apology – a defence – for the Glorious Revolution, but Peter Laslett claims its origins back to 1679, while Richard Ashcroft disagrees and places it in 1680-82, allowing Locke to make amendments to the manuscript to give the impression it acts as an apology for rather than a prescription of revolt; for readers interested in knowing more, I refer them to Laslett‟s 1988 Cambridge Edition of the Two Treatises.In opening the Two Treatises, diligence and perseverance pay off for the reader – and on a pedagogical note, I would recommend (following Laslett) beginning with the Second before the First Treatise. The reader ought to work through each chapter carefully, noting the main point or points in each section to follow Locke‟s relatively convoluted sentences in pursuit of the main clause like Sherlock Holmes on a case, and revising what notes have been reaped before pressing on. Locke‟s system is brilliant, and so we must read him, for hidden in the well-crafted arguments, we also find gems of thoughts and insights.
  10. 10. LOCKE’S SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY Locke's political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterised by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. This is apparent with the introduction of currency. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions". Most scholars trace the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," in the American Declaration of Independence, to Locke's theory of rights, though other origins have been suggested. Like Hobbes, Locke assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society. However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day. Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. In some versions of social contract theory, there are no rights in the state of nature, only freedoms, and it is the contract that creates rights and obligations. In other versions the opposite occurs: the contract imposes restrictions upon individuals that curtail their natural rights. Locke‟s definition of political power has an immediate moral dimension. It is a “right” of making laws and enforcing them for “the public good.” Power for Locke never simply means “capacity” but always “morally sanctioned capacity.” Morality pervades the whole arrangement of society, and it is this fact, tautologically, that makes society legitimate.