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Lecture 22

POL200Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 22: Absolute Monarchy, Tyrant, Body Politic

Political Science
Course Code
Janice Stein

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POL200Y1 - Lecture 22 Notes
Ch.6: Public and Private, State and Family
While the Classical philosophers argued that early education was the most important stage of
one’s life (Plato saying that polity itself develops it, Aristotle saying that families are the origin of
politics), Locke argues for the education during the age of majority since such education refines
one’s ability to reason and act
Such abilities entailed are implied to be simplicity and adaptability
Locke wants to create distinct public and private spheres (political and family life, respectively)
The private sphere, through parental interaction, raises the children to develop their ability to
The public sphere is an eternal testing ground for these children
Locke’s philosophy is reasonable because it can make one feel content with the compromises
between the public and private spheres he proposes
These compromises are not necessarily so, but rather freedom’s logical necessities
Children act as living antitheses to liberal governments
Question: What do children do amongst the life of adults?
To Locke, family life was not a natural occurrence but a convention of consent
He reorganized the family to invalidate the analogy of a master-slave relationship; father holds
power and authority above the others
Locke realizes that this matter is a question of equality
Therefore, to attack political inequalities, the family has to be reorganized so that children
are empowered
Note that in Locke’s ideals for family, states do not have a direct role in a child’s upbringing;
however, it is acknowledged that a state’s laws, communities and ethos will influence youth
Liberalism never encompasses the prospect of a child dedicated to right-bearing adults
Locke thus changes the status of family relationships
It should be noted that political and parental authority are different entities, separate from each
Parental authority (family) is temporal and limits itself to specific goals such as the nurturing of
Political authority is everlasting and addresses broad goals that concern more than single clans
The political is for legislation and property protection
Family is constituted in a relationship of an agreement between a man, a woman and their
When husbands and wives agree to marriage, it must not be arranged otherwise consent is
absent and the act is therefore illegitimate
Therefore, marriage is a sort of compact
However, Locke says that the power of husband and wife should be equal
Note that the prospect of equal status for women attack’s Christendom’s traditional virtues
The conjugal relationship between husband and wife for procreation and mutual support is
independent of political authority
State thus rarely intervenes; if it does, it’ll only be done out of necessity
It is crucial that unlimited authority has no moral justification
Things that are not necessary for a society’s ends (beyond polity) do not deserve authority
Authority over children is to be shared equally between parents
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Locke proposes that the natural obligations children have to their parents should be abolished
Grown children (I.e those who survive to live in age of majority) have no need to obey parental
Children younger than age of majority should not be subject to the law
While children can harbour honour and respect for their parents, that should not mean that
grown children should continue their unconditional obedience to them
The only authority parents have over their kin manifests only for binding duties
Families thus exist to maintain a liberal state; they are a schoolhouse for rationally acquisitive
Family bonds are replaced by civil law
These laws allow all family members to reach genuine choices about their family
Religion should be replaced by rationality and legality
Locke reinterprets the Bible so that instead of arriving at a patriarchal conclusion, it arrives at a
egalitarian one
When children reaches majority age, that person becomes equal within society, as civil laws
(theoretically) treat everyone as separate entities, regardless of respective history
To this end, regarding freedom and human equality, Locke is a progressive
However, his sharp distinction between public and private spheres remains moot
Locke is essentially promoting not only the freedoms we enjoy but also a sense of toleration (if
not acceptance)
Yet, such freedoms, when abused, undoubtedly lead to issues such as social isolation,
family discord, etc.
Ch.7: Political/Civil Society
Political society exists when people resign their natural power from the state of nature to a
common body to settle their disputes
This body has its own legislature, executive and judiciary
Everyone is in this society, one way or another
If these branches do not exist, people will remain in their state of nature
Civil institutions are envisioned as umpires
If an absolute monarch is not subject to a judiciary, then that monarch will remain in a state of
nature because there is no judge to adjudicate disputes between a leader and his subjects
Unless the tyrant is enlightened, no sane person would leave the state of nature
However, it is likely that this enlightened tyrant will have a successor who proves no better
than a state of nature
The adage “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” applies
Ch.8:Origins of Political Society
There is a two-step process Locke uses to produce his conclusion; these steps are objections
First, the citing of historical examples to refute
Second, the realization of consent’s shortcomings
All citizens agree to consent under one body politic
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