Lecture 19: Locke, Second Treatise, Ch. I-VII
Outline of the Lecture
1. Biography and History of Second Treatise
2. What is the problem to which the Second Treatise is the solution?
3. Chapter 1: Locke against Filmer; Locke’s foundational (moral and political)
4. Chapters 2 and 3: Locke’s image of the state of nature: how different from
Hobbes? Is the state of nature a state of peace and good will? Or is it a war of all
5. Chapter 5: Locke’s theory of property
a) The natural right to private property
b) Limits to appropriation
c) The introduction of money
d) The two-stage theory of the state of nature
History and Biography
• Locke is trying to provide a theoretical justification for a resistance to the crown
within the context of a mixed constitution
• Amixed constitution —the crown has a share/part of legislative power
• The parliament as oppose to the crown cannot exercise full sovereignty
• Locke wrote the second treatise to justify the resistance of the crown.
• Filmer was an absolutist who had personal connection to Charles the 2 and the
• Locke had thought that Filmer was becoming too influential to be left
• Locke’s philosophical aim in the first treatise is to attack and rebut Filmer.
Filmer’s argument was that the king has absolute power, which comes from god
• There is no such thing as absolute authority. The result is that legitimate
government can only arise from the persons consent subject to it.
• All persons are by nature free and equal according to Locke.
• By virtue of our freedom we cannot agree to any set of political arrangements
unless it improves our arrangements.
• Political power is revocable. We can take away the authority of the sovereign if
they fail to impost the common good. • Freedom and equality are his key messages—human beings are born free
• Absolute government can never be legitimate. We can never alienate our right to
be free.Absolutism runs fundamentally counter to the basic natural fact that all
human beings are born free
Locke’s fundamental assumptions: Moral and Political
All human beings are born free
All governments only exist by the consent of the governed
• Since we are free—our consent to coversion is required
• We are all always free to revoke our consent to all those arrangements that
• In the Second Treatise, Locke begins with the state of nature unlock Hobbes
• Locke wants to shows us that the state of nature is “ a state of perfect freedom,”
that, in the state of nature, all personas are free, equally free to “order their
actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit.” It is not
necessary that they ask the permission of anyone else, nor are they dependent on
another’s will. We all are “equal kings,” as Locke says in 123.
• Hobbes want to show us how miserable human life would be with the absence of
civil order. Hobbes uses the state of nature to shows us the necessity of political
authority. Freedom isn’t something of importance for Hobbes.
• In Locke however, he’s not interested in our behavior or our motivation, but to
shows us the fact of human freedom. We have a natural right to order, our affairs
and actions as we see fit.
• The state of nature is a state of equal freedom.
• Filmer says we are born into a claim of natural subjection, natural subordination.
Subordination to god and his man on earth, the king.
• As Locke says at 4, we are “creatures of the same species and rank,
promiscuously born to all the same advantage of nature, and the use of the same
faculties, subordination or subjection.”
• But of course Locke adds, we are free to order our actions but only within the
bounds of the laws of nature. We are born into a state of complete freedom and
the only constrain on our actions is the laws of nature, not the sovereign.
• The laws of nature are the law of god known to us by our natural reason. We have
access to it by virtue that we are natural creatures.
• Locke thinks that god has supreme legislative authority over all human kind. God
is the sovereign of the world with supreme authority over all his creatures
• Natural law is universal—noble by us all. It associates us into a kind of
community with a law to govern in and restrain our actions towards one another.
• Natural law isn’t literal like civil law—its not written down in a constitution. But
since its law, it must be made known to us in some sense. It has to be made public and known to all those to whom it applies—otherwise its not law. We know them
• The laws of nature are made known to us through the exercise of our reason.
Locke on the Laws of Nature (12)
The laws of nature are “as intelligible and plain to a rational creature, as a studies of that
law, as the positive law of the commonwealth, nay possibly plainer; as much as reason is
easier to be understood that, than the […] intricate contrivance of men.”
Think of the difference between natural law and divine law…
• Beyond the power of natural reason – requires the transcendent of reasons,
• We have to go beyond reason which requires prophecy
• Natural law is fundamentally different and known by all of us.
“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason,
which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and
independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for
men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the
servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business;
they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one
another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community
of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize
us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks
of creatures are for our's. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit
his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in
competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not,
unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the
preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another”
• The fundamental law of nature is that man is to be preserved as much as possible
What do Locke’s Law of Nature Counsel?
The most basic law of nature – or, what Locke, calls “the fundamental law of nature” – is
that “man is to be preserves, as much as possible” (16); or, as Locke’s puts it in 134, it is
“the preservation of society, and of every person in it.” Much the same is repeated at
135,159, and 183. The first clause of the fundamental law of nature (from 6 quoted
above) is this: “Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life,
health, liberty or possessions.” The second clause is this: “Every one, as he is bound to
preserve himself, and not to quit his station willfully, so by the like reason, when his own
preservation come not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of
mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the
life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of
• I am bound to preserve myself because I am gods property
• Those who do not believe in god cannot be trusted and are more likely to take
advantage of shifting circumstances. • The right to self-preservation and the right others have to it due to god creating us
• The state of nature is a state of liberty but not license. We are bound by reason,
but the state of nature does have a law to govern it. That law creates a community.
The law of nature would be generally observed in the state of nature.
• The law of nature protects us from the violence of others.
• Self preservation and living with others are compatible
• Locke accepts the existence of degenerate people who fail to abide by the laws of
nature—there will be transgressions. In the state of nature however there is no
• Every person individual has as much power necessary to repair and constrain
these people. We all have these rights.
• Since the state of nature, is a state of equality, all people possess this right equally.
We all the right to seek reparations for past harm.
• Locke assumes that there are few offenders. He speaks of the state of nature as a
state of peace, goodwill, mutual assist