Locke 2 Treatise 01/28/2014
Locke’s Cognitional Theory
He was the first of the British “empiricists”
“all knowledge comes from the senses”
makes argument the mind is a blank slate, “tabula rosa” the mind contributes nothing. Nothing is therefore
uses the metaphor of the mind as “wax” the sensible world as a “stamp” leaving its impressions
he thinks the mind can discover natural laws
A rejection of Hobbes? Or is Locke a “closet Hobbesian?”
Locke’s principal assumption throughout the “Second Treatise” is the esame as Hobbes
People are by nature free, equal, and rational
The question Locke then asks: How would such people behave?
Hobbes concludes freedom and equality are the causes of the problem and so it must be pronounced by
reason which is the servant of fear
In response to hobbes Locke argues to be ruled by an arbitrary, absolute power is worse than living in a
state of nate
Be in the hands of one man who has arbitrary power of 100,000 men is worse than the arbitrary power of
Hobbesian state is predicated on fear and awe which is no source of legitimacy
Compares it to a robber coming into the house and bullying you out of deed to house. Can’t just take you
goods like pirate or robber.
Agrees state of nature is so unbearable you need some sort of government. Believes in a Leviathan but
needs to keep him in checks
Leave a state of fear but enter into worse state of fear because now against leader and in fear of his power.
Locke on “The State of Nature”
Locke seems to flatly disagree with Hobbes that the state of nature= a state of war
“perfect freedom within bounds of natre or depending on will of any other man offers a sanguine picture contrary to Hobbes
in 21 he offers a less sanguine picture wherein the state of nature has quickly become a state of war, far
more consistent with Hobbes view
Later he reiterates the less than sanguine picture calling it unbearable and source of our need for a
commonwealth to protect ”life, liberty, and property”
Agree with Hobbes something needs to be done about the state of nature but state of nature is better than
an all powerful Leviathan. You can have society without government. Doesn’t promote anarchy because
isn’t proposing destroy society.
The law of Nature
Teches us what the function of gov tries to do. Teaches mankind to consult it )reason can grasp this” no one
ought to harm one another in hid Life, Health, Liberty and Possessions. unless to do justice on an offender
take away, or impair the life liberty or what tends to the preservation of life liberty health or Goods of
For law, all positive law ought to conform to this prohibition against taking life, liberty and property or else it
is tyrannical and you have a right to rebel against it.
We must have respect for the rule of law. In fact without the rule of law – if governments don’t appeal to this
principle you are left only with an “appeal to heaven.”
The Problem of Property
Why Locke include property in aim of gov?
In 39 and 51 says same things. Gives indication of what property is and why it wont be a problem. In 50 its
Four key points to Locke’s view of Property:
God created the world for everyone to use in common.
Labor affords the right to property taken from the common as long as there is “enough and as good left in
common for others”
Assume you wouldn’t acquire property you have no use for.
There is no reason for anyone to take so much as to infringe on the claim of others.
But al this changes with the introduction of money/currency, which because it doesn’t spoil, allows people to
build up wealth and horde
A Marxist Objection
Although Marx does not explicitly allude to Locke, his intellectual progeny have
The argument is that Locke contradicts himself although he endorses the development of a monetary
economy that will inevitable create an inequality of property woth a few people possessing all the land and
capital and most others laboring for substence
In essence, for the government to protect the people’s property (as Locke describes it) is to effectively will a
world of “haves and have nots” Locke’s first reply might be that his conception of property doesn’t just mean material possessions but
ownership of one’s self. Therefore in defending the property rights of the rich, Locke also protects the liberty
of the poor bc no one can use you as property
Second reply, it actually empowers the poor. Would they rather be slaves? They have an ownership right to
Locke’s Response to the Prisoners Dilemma
Why consent to “give up this empire” and “put on the bonds” of civil society?
Like Hobbes, Locke acknowledges the state of nature will become unbearable “full of fears and continual
Doesn’t have to use gov can be some kind of judge or third party.
Most people are “not strict observers of equity of justice”
The problem of course, is that neither are rulers! They are people too.
We covenant for each other to form a commonwealth for the mutual preservation of our life, liberty and
From Sttae of Nature to Civil Society
The formation of our commonwealth is a two step process
First we have unanimous consent that we must leave the state of nature by organizing into a society. “there
only is political society when every one of the members hath quitted his natural powers.”
Second: want to form some type of government rooted in “Majority rule”
Objection 1: the person who says “I didn’t sign on for this. I didn’t sign any contract”
Locke then offers distinction between express consent or tacit consent. Basically not be unwilling.
Objection 2: But what rights does “majority rule?” what about tyranny of the majority?”
Civil Disobedience : ”The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think
For Locke, a