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Political philosophy Essay

* Widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism * Was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers * His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. * Considered one of the first of the British empiricists. he is equally important to social contract theory. * Published the “Two treatises of Government” in 1689 Two treatises of Government * Two Treatises is divided into the First Treatise and the Second Treatise.

* The First Treatise is focused on the refutation of Sir Robert Filmer, in particular his Patriarcha, which argued that civil society was founded on a divinely sanctioned patriarchalism. Locke proceeds through Filmer’s arguments, contesting his proofs from Scripture and ridiculing them as senseless, until concluding that no government can be justified by an appeal to the divine right of kings. * The Second Treatise outlines a theory of civil society.

John Locke begins by describing the state of nature, a picture much more stable than Thomas Hobbes’ state of “war of every man against every man,” and argues that all men are created equal in the state of nature by God. From this, he goes on to explain the hypothetical rise of property and civilization, in the process explaining that the only legitimate governments are those that have the consent of the people. Therefore, any government that rules without the consent of the people can, in theory, be overthrown. Second Treatise of Civil Government.

The Second Treatise of Government places sovereignty into the hands of the people. 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 the people’s benefit and can be replaced or overthrown if it ceases to function toward that primary end. I. Nature of the Human Being 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”. John Locke’s philosophy of empiricism also saw human nature as a tabula rasa. In this view, the mind is at birth a “blank slate” without rules, so data are added, and rules for processing them are formed solely by our sensory experiences. II. The State of Nature Locke defines the state of nature thus:

“To properly understand political power and trace its origins, we must consider the state that all people are in naturally. That is a state of perfect freedom of acting and disposing of their own possessions and persons as they think fit within the bounds of the law of nature. People in this state do not have to ask permission to act or depend on the will of others to arrange matters on their behalf. The natural state is also one of equality in which all power and jurisdiction is reciprocal and no one has more than another.

It is evident that all human beings – as creatures belonging to the same species and rank and born indiscriminately with all the same natural advantages and faculties – are equal amongst themselves. They have no relationship of subordination or subjection unless God (the lord and master of them all) had clearly set one person above another and conferred on him an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty. ” For Locke, in the state of nature all men are free “to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature.

” (2nd Tr. , §4). “The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it”, and that law is Reason. Locke believes that reason teaches that “no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, and or property”; and that transgressions of this may be punished. This view of the state of nature is partly deduced from Christian belief (unlike Hobbes, whose philosophy is not dependent upon any prior theology).

III. The Social Contract John Locke’s conception of the social contract differed from Hobbes’ in several fundamental ways, retaining only the central notion that persons in a state of nature would willingly come together to form a state. Locke believed that individuals in a state of nature would be bound morally, by The Law of Nature, not to harm each other in their lives or possession, but without government to defend them against those seeking to injure or enslave them, people would have no security in their rights and would live in fear. Locke argued that individuals would agree to form a state that would provide a “neutral judge”, acting to protect the lives, liberty, and property of those who lived within it.

While Hobbes argued for near-absolute authority, Locke argued for inviolate freedom under law in his Second Treatise of Government. Locke argued that government’s legitimacy comes from the citizens’ delegation to the government of their right of self-defense (of “self-preservation”). The government thus acts as an impartial, objective agent of that self-defense, rather than each man acting as his own judge, jury, and executioner—the condition in the state of nature. In this view, government derives its “just powers from the consent [i.e, delegation] of the governed,”.

IV. Government as Fiduciary Trust “Trust” in the Lockean sense is the embodiment and projection of popular sovereignty. It symbolises the political power and legitimacy that a government which is trusted by the people possesses. A government without trust is akin to a knight without his armour, powerless and redundant. In view of this, it is no wonder that trust is so important to Locke’s construction, because its power can spell the difference between freedom and enslavement.

Trust determines whether or not men are willing to substitute society for the natural state. It delineates the boundaries and affects the effectiveness of a government. Most importantly, trust is the measure by which men judge whether a government deserves to remain in existence. V. The Right to resist In political philosophy, the right of revolution (or right of rebellion) is the right or duty, variously stated throughout history, of the people of a nation to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests.

The concept of the right of revolution was also taken up by John Locke in Two Treatises of Government as part of his social contract theory. Locke declared that under natural law, all people have the right to life, liberty, and estate; under the social contract, the people could instigate a revolution against the government when it acted against the interests of citizens, to replace the government with one that served the interests of citizens. In some cases, Locke deemed revolution an obligation. The right of revolution thus essentially acted as a safeguard against tyranny.


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