November 30, 2014
Christianity and Cultures
Plato’s Crito VS. John Locke
Although John Locke and Socrates existed over a thousand years apart in time, they had very similar views on how societies are formed, societies duties to its’ people, and the role which religion should play in society. The key difference in their views are shown in the duty one owes to society. In this essay I will take you through the perspectives of both philosophers so we can understand how after so many years the development of societies and logic behind them is still very similar. Locke believes that we are all born in an original state of nature, and therefore each individual is has natural rights. This natural state is, “A state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit.” 1 Although this state does not have an established authority, there is a law and that law is, the law of nature. Locke believed that God gave the world to man as common therefore, we are all equal and we are given what we need. Locke believed that we own what is the fruit of our work by our own hands, just so long as we do not take more than we need. “Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property.” But it is when someone takes more than his own share, which takes away from another that the world is out of balance. This results in a fear which is, that only the strongest and most powerful will survive, and therefore the weaker are at a disadvantage. So, while people enjoy the idea of perfect freedom, the threat of invasion is so high in a natural state that people begin to enter into “social contracts”. “Social contracts” are how Locke felt governments within a society are formed. What these “social contracts” consist of is the people offer some of their “natural rights”, in exchange for protection and self -preservation. This is why Locke felt that the state can, and may only exist by the consent of the people. Governments are instituted with the delegation to avoid a state of war and with a purpose to save the people from the inconveniences of nature. Locke also felt individuals utilized the government only when it suited their needs for a profit or of self-love. The result of this was that, since it is the people who give their consent to the government, the government may be overthrown if they feel the government is not acting on the best interest of the people. Locke believed the duties we have in a society are to preserve our neighbor’s rights, so long as it they do not interfere with the preservation of our own rights. It is a little different than how we hear in The Bible, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.2 Where Locke suggests, loving our neighbor, but only after taking care of your own needs first. In A Lettering Concerning Toleration, Locke discusses that governments should not force people to come to the “true religion”. Locke describes how neither, Jesus, or the teachings found in the New Testament ever indicate using force in pursuance of bringing people to salvation. In, A Letter Concerning Toleration, Lockes gives three key reasons why governments should not use force to convert their citizens into religion these are: 1. You cannot deprive someone of the right over their soul when God does not give you the authority to do so. 2. While coercion can change someone’s actions it cannot change their beliefs 3. Even if coercion persuades someone to change that does not ensure their salvation. Locke wrote this because at that time many people were subjected to violent tactics and punishments when they were resistant to converting to the religion of the state. Another person who was resistant to the religion of the state was Socrates, who was condemned to death by the state for not acknowledging the Gods, which the state...
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