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Political philosophy Essay

John Locke was a British Philosopher born in 1632. His death was in 1704. He was a very important political figure. Modern government can be credited to his philosophy. Locke believes that religion is s key part in explaining man’s nature and driving force in life. Locke believes that we are all born a ‘blank slate’ or tabula rasa. That everyone is born equal no matter what class or religion. He thought that everyone is born pure, and without knowledge or pre-disposition to life. Locke theorized that everyone learns from their life’s experience. That it is circumstance that creates who an individual is.

According to Locke’s Christian theology, we are all God’s creation. We all have duties to God that include the duty to preserve ourselves and to act with reason. Because we are ultimately God’s property we have limits placed on our bodies. It is not within our power to enslave others or ourselves. We also do not have the right to destroy God’s property by killing others or ourselves. We possess a moralized freedom to follow our rational will. Due to the fact that we all have these limitations, duties and freedoms we are all fundamentally equal. This is the State of Nature.

Locke envisions the establishment of civil society as a product of progress from the State of nature. For Locke, the State of nature is not a state of war. According to Locke, war is force without right. We can live without a state and not be at war; and within a state and be at war. Instead, the State of nature is a moral community based on equality, constituted by natural law. Locke saw the State of Nature as a place where people’s rights were not always protected especially in the case of property. Property leads to increased conflicts over ownership.

Locke did not agree with the process of inheritance. He believed that everyone had the right to own their own land. Remember in this time inheritance was passed on to the eldest male, all other children would receive nothing. Locke strived to be a major property owner and therefore had his own bias. Locke felt that people’s property and well-being must be protected. Locke’s theory about who has the right to govern is based on promoting the best interests of the people. A government was needed to protect the three inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property.

This became the basis of the American constitution. There becomes the need for civil society to create an impartial judge to bring transgressors of the laws of nature to justice as well as settle property disputes. The government should be working “to no other end, but the peace, safety, and public good of the people” (Ch9). He battles with himself and comes to the conclusion that while we need a government because not every man can be judge and prosecutor, we do not need to be told what to do all the time. He strongly believes that we have personal rights and obligations that we will live by.

Unlike Hobbes, who does not think man acts independent from desires, Locke presupposes a God-given rational capacity to separate us from them. He thinks we can stand back and reason about what we ought to do and deliberate in favour of our long-term interests. He believes people can apprehend a greater good and make it our conception of happiness instead of Hobbes’ willingness to believe we are ruled mainly by our passions for immediate fulfillment. The same passions that incline us to war can incline us to peace. The capacity to reason allows us to see benefits of a commonwealth such as peace and common defence.

The essence of state is to protect you. Locke’s idea of the rule of the majority’s common will. In Locke’s civil society the majority’s wishes must govern. He feels that by entering civil society you submit yourself to the majority. The government must be an accountable to the people since they create it. The community is always the supreme power. People entrust their right of self-preservation and executive right of law of nature to the state. They consent to the creation of a political community and then to be bound by its decisions. However, there are limits to what can be consented to.

Instead of fear, the bond that binds Lockean society is trust. The laws are designed for good of the people. The Legislative can’t hand off powers to anyone not entrusted with them by society. In Locke’s civil society the leader is bound by law just as the people are. Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right; when one does not act in interests of the people (ch18-19). In Locke’s society, if the state is acting against the common interest of the people (against their trust), the people have the right to revolt and take it back if enough of them are dissatisfied.

Locke did not condone oppression or tyranny, but Hobbes accepted them if they resulted in the guarding of people’s lives. Locke does not favour absolute monarchy. He rejects Filmer’s Adamite theory that monarchs rule by divine right. Locke distinguishes between paternal and political authority. For him a person’s obedience to their parents is not the same as consenting to political governance. In order for government to be legitimate for Locke subjects must demonstrate their consent tacitly by following the rules out of agreement with them, not Hobbesian-like fear of paternal discipline.

John Locke lived in the Age of Reason, also known as the Age of Enlightenment. This was a time when reason was being more commonly used to establish a system of ethics, government, and logic. It allows for people to obtain objective truths about the universe instead of allowing a monarch to make those truths for you. Locke, like others in the Age of Enlightenment led the world into progressive logic and reason. They argued against things like tyranny, superstition, some traditions, and irrationality. This movement was very important in creating the footholds for the French American Revolutions.

During the Age of Enlightenment intellectuals were demanding less interference from state. As a result monarchs pushed back and cemented absolutism. Philosophers such as John Locke advocated limitation of state power. Locke also lived during the Great Plague of London in 1665. Over 68 500 people died. This influenced the turmoil of times and need for reformation of society. In Locke’s life he would have had many European influences. This was a time when the French society was seen as high class. Everyone was trying to be French. They were mimicking the style, music, dress, and speech.

Locke would have had influences from many French artists, composers, and philosophers. In the Age of Enlightenment many mathematical advances were made. The solar system was truly discovered and mapped during this time. This allowed proof that reason and logic were of better use then irrational thoughts. Monarchs globally were troubled and tried to hold power the best they could. This is was also the time of high baroque and neo-classical art and music. They were trying to bring back classical ideas and art but with something new and fresh to add to the world.

Baroque is a style of art, architecture and music that is known as free-form neo-classical. It was bringing back the classical age but with modern ideas, math, and flare. During this period a new instrument, the French Horn was invented for this style of music. Through Baroque Locke would have been influenced by French and other European ideals and cultures. One important composer during Locke’s lifetime would have been Henry Purcell. He was a Baroque English composer (1659-1695). Purcell was known to use French and Italian stylistic elements in his musical compositions.

He composed both vocal and instrumental pieces. He composed major pieced for coronations of kings and works for theatre. Being from England but using Italian and French styles in his music made influence from other nations easier. People could hear the “sounds” of other countries from a local composer. The French influence was great and was easy to recognize as that was the trend of the time. A person needed to be French to be in fashion, to be in fashion has been and will always be very important to society. Purcell brought a part of fashion and trend to everyone that could hear his work.

He made upper class feel more upper class because they could afford to listen to his music in theatres and important gatherings. Purcell supported the monarchy of the time and wrote songs for royalty and nobility at their request. He demonstrated the thought of the time by writing music according to the event. Another composer in Locke’s lifetime was Jean-Baptiste Lully. He was known for his Orchestral, Ballet, Opera, Choral musical compositions. He was born in Italy but died a very wealthy Frenchman. His operas are recognized as his most noted musical works.

He was a patron and friend to Luis XIV. Because of his royal connections and favour he was obviously in favour of the monarch of the time. With help from Luis he founded the National French Opera. He proves that with talent comes favour, wealth, and power. He had talent and fell into a situation which gave him connections into nobility and royalty. From there all he had to do was use his charm and natural talent to work his way up. This was very uncommon of the time but he proved that he could. Lully’s work reflected the natural progression of the time.

He created pieces that he thought the people would enjoy. He amused people and told stories with his music. His music is regal and strong reflecting the influence of the monarch as a patron and friend. A very famous artist emerged during this time. His name was Velazquez, Diego (Rodriguez de Silva). This was another artist that won the hearts of the monarch. His early works were generally religious or genre scenes. After he travelled to Madrid he was appointed as an official of the court giving him access to the royal art collections. He was then able to be influenced by other artist’s work.

He could then take influence from other countries and learned many styles. Within his position as court official he painted many painting of the royal family. By doing such he stayed in favour of the royal court. He also had the honour of painting the Pope of the time. His work reflected his new found importance and standing in society. He was completely under the spell of his new position. He also reflected his strong religious ties and beliefs through his paintings. To demonstrate his views on power we can refer to his painting Las Meninas (The Maids of Honour, 1656).

It is very clear from this painting to see who is in favour. He uses a “dwarf” to emphasize the beauty of the eldest daughter of the queen. Most of the attention and detail are upon the reflection of the ruling couple emphasizing their power and control. “Las Meninas” by Diego Velazquez, 1656–57, Oil on canvas, 318 x 276 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid Born in 1609 and passing in 1669 Rembrandt (Harmenszoon) van Rijn was also an artist during the lifetime of John Locke. He was famous for his subtle hints of emotion in the painting of humans.

He was constantly practicing by painting self-portraits and constantly improving on the emotions a human face can have. Like the time his work and interests were constantly changing and developing. He developed his own distinct style but was always improving on it with every new style he could develop or learn. He was an innovator of his time and fit well into the Age of Enlightenment. He painted classic paintings along with controversial portraits claiming him fame in history. Later in his life when he was no longer fashionable he had a chance to create many of his masterpieces.

His work was more concerned with human character and nature rather than the outward appearance and reputation. He was known for painting the old and poor which was very controversial of the time. One could say they he, along with the Age of Enlightenment became enlightened himself. When famous artists were given wealth and friendship of the court they conformed to the beliefs and ideals the court held. They became comfortable rarely breaking free. While their work does tell of the time line they do not depict how life was outside of the court.

Other artists, maybe not so wealthy such as Rembrandt had more freedom over their work. They could paint who and what they wanted creating controversy. They educated people and showed life from their perspective. They allowed for a different side of life; a life outside of being a courtier. A late self portrait by Rembrandt, from a period when he had lost most of his fortune. This painting currently hangs in Kenwood House, London. Reference List “Diego Velazquez” Answers. com. 17 October 2006 URL= < http://www. answers. com/topic/diego-rodriguez-de-silva-y-velazquez> “Henry Purcell” Wikipedia.

17 October 2006 URL= http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Henry_Purcell “Jean-Baptiste Lully” Answers. com. 17 October 2006 URL= Lloyd, Sharon A. , “Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2002 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed. ), URL = . Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government, ed. C. B. Macpherson (Hackett, 1980). “Rembrandt” Answers. com. 17 October 2006 URL= < http://www. answers. com/topic/rembrandt> Uzgalis, William, “John Locke”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed. ), URL = .


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