Locke, Hobbes, Mill, Thoreau

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John Locke

John Locke explains the state of nature as a state of equality in which no one has power over another, and all are free to do as they please. He notes, however, that this liberty does not equal license to abuse others, and that natural law exists even in the state of nature. Each individual in the state of nature has the power to execute natural laws, which are universal.

I believe that Locke is correct in his analysis of the state of nature however; Locke‘s theory includes many assumptions. First is the assumption of a system of morality, the natural law derives from a theory of justice, a set of rights. No one would have any "rights" at all in the absence of a moral code applicable to human actions, nor would there be any standard of "just" punishment. Locke frequently uses the term "rights" and appeals to conscience and "calm reason", all of which reflect his assumptions about justice and morality.

For individual property to exist, there must be a means for individuals to appropriate the things around them. Locke starts out with the idea of the property of person; each person owns his or her own body, and all the labor that they perform with the body. When an individual adds their own labor, their own property, to a foreign object or good, that object becomes their own because they have added their labor. This appropriation of goods does not demand the consent of humankind in general, each person has license to appropriate things in this way by individual initiative.

Locke then places a bound on this type of acquisition, a person may only acquire as many things in this way as he or she can reasonably use to their advantage. One can only take so much as one can use. Lock applies these rules to land: a person in a state of nature can claim land by adding labor to it, building house on it or farming on it, but only so much as that person can reasonably use without waste. Locke then defines labor as the determining factor of value, the tool...
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