March 17, 2014
John Locke - “The Second Treatise”
I. The Second Treatise is a response to:
a. Exclusion Crisis (1678-81)
b. Sir Robert Filmer
II. Locke’s STATE OF NATURE (Ch. 2, 3, 9)*
III. Property (Ch. 5)*
IV. Political Society (Ch. 8, 9) and its beginnings and end
V. The Legislative power and its limit (Ch. 11)
VI. Of prerogative and revolution (Ch. 14, 18, 19)…Abook for anarchists?
Part I: Background and Motivations
• Written around the time of Leviathan (~1679)/Civil war
• King Charles reigned
o He wasAnglican, but had a Catholic wife
o There was general fear of Catholics at the time
o Charles did not have kids, and so Catholic brother James would be next in
line to the throne, which led to parliament passing the “Exclusion Bill,” an
effort to keep James, and any of his heirs, out of power
• Political landscape:
o Comprised of the Whigs (pandered to working class, merchants) and
Tories (favored the monarch, pandered to the King)
• Charles dies in 1685, James ends up taking over (the Exclusion Bill did not pass)
o He abdicates the throne, leading to the reign of William and Mary
• After 1689, the King is to never hold absolute power over his land. Locke, whom
held a position of political advisory to a Whig, and his party are winners of this
• The First Treatise:
o An answer to Robert Filmer, a defender of absolute monarchism (see ch.
1&6). The following are beliefs of Filmer that Locke think are rubbish:
i. Filmer believed political power=paternal power; should be
absolute, unquestioned, and eternal
ii. We are not born equal
sti. The authority of the kings on Earth is derived fromAdam (Eden)
• His 1 Treatise argued that the power of the Sovereign cannot be absolute; it’s
completely illegitimate…. Why?
i. Paternal power is not absolute (according to the Bible) because the
mother has an equal amount of authority (possibly an endorsement
of William and Mary sharing power?)
ii. Paternal power ought to be seen as temporary (until 21, when we
are then equal with our fathers and can fully reason with them). To
be equal does not mean to avoid duties.Also, we’ll always have a reason to be respectful to our parents, even if it were just because
of the possibility of acquiring their inheritance.
iii. Concern for money/property makes us good, deferential beings.
Part II: State of Nature
• Like Hobbes, he’ll back up his government by explaining the state of nature (state
of human beings without a government).
• How would men be without institutions? (p. 8)
i. Men are perfectly free, perfectly liberal. To order our actions,
dispose of our possessions.
ii. State of perfect equality; nobody has more power than anyone else
iii. It is not a state of license. There’s a law of nature that governs it,
which obliges everyone. “Unless it be to do justice to an offender”
we do not have a right to everyone (as Hobbes says we do) (p. 9)
• Two Obligations in the State of Nature:
i. To preserve our own lives (can’t commit suicide)
ii. To pres