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The Human Conceptualization of the State Essay

John Locke, in the Second Treatise of Civil Government, envisions a social contract in which individuals are naturally in a state of perfect freedom, in which they utilize objects as well as themselves as they desire; which is within the law of nature wherein all mankind was created, by God, equally. Therefore, all humans should be equal amongst fellow beings of the same species and rank without subordination or subjugation. However, Locke specifies that the exception is only when God designates one individual over another, giving that person undeniable right to be of the ruling “class”.

This means that only persons, designated by God to be superior, are the sole individuals rightfully chosen to rule other beings of the same species. (Locke, Ch. II Sec. 4). In addition to this, he states that all people must treat others, of the same species and rank, with the same courtesies they would expect or desire for themselves (Locke, Ch. II Sec. 5). However, individuals are subject to uncontrollable liberty to make use of themselves as well as their possessions; in contrast, they are not at liberty to destroy themselves or a creature which they possess (Locke, Ch. II Sec. 6).

Based on his ideal of the law of nature, all of mankind being equal, one is not at liberty to destroy another’s property, or cause damage to another’s health, liberty, or life. This is due to God’s ordinance over all human beings, in which they belong to him; as well as the fact that God is the only entity which can, or should, dictate the duration of one’s life (Locke, Ch. II Sec. 6). As a result, persons who violate the law of nature are subject to the punishment of that individual who was wronged; extending this not solely to punishment, but also reparation, in which the wrong doer must repay the plaintiff in some manner.

In addition, being that when one person is wronged all of humanity is objectified; as a result, any persons whom wish to join the plaintiff’s punishment of the transgressor may do so. However, those persons may not join in the plaintiff’s reparation, as the plaintiff must be the only one to benefit (Locke, Ch. II Sec. 6, 7, & 8). An established state, as Locke has put it, should not have the right to punish an individual who is alien to that nation state. However, mankind as a whole can and must punish those who violate the law of nature (Locke, Ch. II Sec.9).

These punishments, in Locke’s opinion, should be death [including smaller infractions], due to the fact that any transgression against one man to another is not solely a violation of that singular person’s rights, but a violation of all of mankind’s rights. The goal of punishment being that it prevents others from committing similar crimes (Locke, Ch. II Sec. 11 &12). Also, Locke feels that laws which are not based in the law of nature, but rather in self-interest and corruption, are common within the established countries’ governments (Locke, Ch.II Sec. 12).

In the establishment of the state, Locke conveys the fact that [based on the law of nature] the rulers of said nations are not superior to the subjects which they rule over. A state is produced as a result of multiple men coming together in a desire to protect their property from the uncertain and cruel state of nature. This preservation results in a commonwealth wherein all of the individuals agree to make compromises to protect life, liberty, and property, resulting in the creation of a system of government and agreed upon laws.

However, if a magistrate were to go beyond their duties given to them by the people, at which time they infringe upon others’ rights, they are committing tyranny; in response, the people must pursue anarchy to produce a ruler whom the populous benefits from (Lock, Ch. II Sec. 14; Ch. IV; Ch. VIII; Ch. IX & Ch. XVIII). Thomas Hobbes, in the Leviathan, utilizes the metaphor of the state being an artificial human, and to fully understand all of mankind, we must only study one man [rather than all of humanity], which will bring the individual’s introspection to the clear origins of our thoughts, desires, and reasons (Hobbes, Intro.).

Hobbes believed that what separated us, humans, from animals was our ability for thought, and through this process humans are able to look inward and discover the reasons behind the laws which humanity has set forth to govern ourselves (Hobbes, Ch. IV). Hobbes believed that the causation for the development of the state was that of fear, which saved human life, by allowing our species to thrive in a commonwealth which benefits all whom take part in it (Hobbes, Ch.XIII).

The Law of Nature, which must be discovered through reason, describes a situation which can be paralleled to the “survival of the fittest” scenario. This is due to its condemnation of destruction of human life, but self-preservation as the ultimate law which governs all of humanity’s actions; though the faculty which Hobbes utilizes, aforementioned fear, can only be solaced through a pursuit of peace, both internally as well as externally (Hobbes, Ch. XIV).

This pursuit led humans to seek out an establishment which could ease their fears, which ensued with the eventual conceptualization of the state. On the other hand, Hobbes discusses that though human beings must pursue peace, as required by the laws of nature, our species is also victim to the natural hunger for power, which endeavors to destroy the foundations of a cohesive, effective state (Hobbes, Ch.XVII).

Works Cited Hobbes, Thomas. “1660 The Leviathan. ” Oregon State University. N. p. , n. d. Web. 22 Jan 2013. <http://oregonstate. edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes/leviathan-contents. html>. Locke, John. “1690 The Second Treatise of Civil Government. ” Oregon State University. N. p. , n. d. Web. 22 Jan 2013. < http://oregonstate. edu/instruct/phl302/texts/locke/locke2/2nd-contents. html>.


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