John locke

Topics: Political philosophy, John Locke, Social contract Pages: 10 (2114 words) Published: March 2, 2015
Noted by Franklin (1978, pp9), since the start of English civil war, the attempts to combine king’s authority and the right of resistance had come into question. During this one of most transformative period in English history, Locke offers his opinion and provides an adequate solution to sovereignty resistance for all citizens (Franklin, ibid, pp10). This essay will introduce Locke’s definition of the state of nature and the law of nature, and describe how it would influence the creation of a social contract. Following this I will discuss Locke’s arguments of government power and responsibility, power separation and endowed human right of rebelling, in order to validify human’s natural rights and social contract legitimate the resistance of political power.

Before the establishment of government, people lived under a circumstance called the state of nature. The term ‘state of nature’ and ‘law of nature’ are referred to by Locke in his Second Treatise of Government (Locke, 2014, Chap2). In this state, human beings enjoyed freedom, and created equally by god. (Locke, 2014, Chap2, Sec4) Hence, for Locke, men are believed to be free, equal and independent. Locke’s argument follows religious fundamentals to argue for equality: god created human, endowed humans rights to live. Resulting from that, they are duty-bound to protect their own life and freedom. Pointed out by Locke, besides life and freedom, the right to property is also gifted by god in The Second Treaty (ibid, Ch5). Although God has given the world to men, humans privately have potential to own their own property and land (such as farms from which they obtain the fruits from nature). Therefore, life, liberty and property are the three most significant rights for each human being, given by god and these rights are inalienable to each of them.

Whereas, the state of nature is described as a state of war and conflict by Hobbes (1996, pp86). Suffered from human beings’ endless power chasing interference, self-preservation is primarily concerned by men (Hobbes, ibid, pp86). Hobbes (1996, pp91-93) demonstrates the fundamentals for the law of nature - that people voluntarily seek peace by signing a certain contract under the fear of death to hand over all their rights to an absolute ruler. The commonwealth, or sovereignty, claimed by Hobbes (ibid, pp117-121), is the best and the only alternative for humans in front of state of nature, for the civil government to preserve people from the threat of war and conflict.

On the other side, as it was argued by Locke (ibid, Ch2, Sec 6), that in the state of nature, law of nature existing as a boundary for human behaviour. State of nature is pre-political, but it does not equate to it being pre-moral. According to Locke (ibid, Ch2, Sec6), since that human are created equally and all the natural rights are given by god, people are obligated to, and intend to protect their own rights and respect others rights, which is the law of nature. Whenever a person hurt another’s natural rights, he or she is antagonistic to god, which is intolerable. Therefore, it is not solely to preserve others, but also essential to preserve the law of nature. In this circumstance, men are live with tolerance and life is relatively harmonious. Additionally, Locke (ibid, Ch2, Sec6) insist that people will and should punish whom they regarded as offender to law of nature due to their morality. Under the control of law of nature, the social life and development of civilization becomes feasible in the state of nature.

However, within this is a paradox: people are equal with each other, once someone needs to be punished, there is no one holds the sovereign power to choose the executor and define content of punishment in the state of nature (Locke, ibid, Sec6-9). In other words, the state of nature does not lead to a natural coherent executive, legislature and judiciary. Locke (ibid, Ch3, Sec13-19 and Ch5, Sec 45-49) note that population increases...
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