John Locke: A British Philosopher

Topics: John Locke, Political philosophy, Age of Enlightenment Pages: 7 (2301 words) Published: October 22, 2008
John Locke was a British Philosopher born in 1632. His death was in 1704. He was a very important political figure. Modern government can be credited to his philosophy. Locke believes that religion is s key part in explaining man’s nature and driving force in life. Locke believes that we are all born a ‘blank slate’ or tabula rasa. That everyone is born equal no matter what class or religion. He thought that everyone is born pure, and without knowledge or pre-disposition to life. Locke theorized that everyone learns from their life’s experience. That it is circumstance that creates who an individual is. According to Locke’s Christian theology, we are all God’s creation. We all have duties to God that include the duty to preserve ourselves and to act with reason. Because we are ultimately God’s property we have limits placed on our bodies. It is not within our power to enslave others or ourselves. We also do not have the right to destroy God’s property by killing others or ourselves. We possess a moralized freedom to follow our rational will. Due to the fact that we all have these limitations, duties and freedoms we are all fundamentally equal. This is the State of Nature.

Locke envisions the establishment of civil society as a product of progress from the State of nature. For Locke, the State of nature is not a state of war. According to Locke, war is force without right. We can live without a state and not be at war; and within a state and be at war. Instead, the State of nature is a moral community based on equality, constituted by natural law. Locke saw the State of Nature as a place where people’s rights were not always protected especially in the case of property. Property leads to increased conflicts over ownership. Locke did not agree with the process of inheritance. He believed that everyone had the right to own their own land. Remember in this time inheritance was passed on to the eldest male, all other children would receive nothing. Locke strived to be a major property owner and therefore had his own bias.

Locke felt that people’s property and well-being must be protected. Locke’s theory about who has the right to govern is based on promoting the best interests of the people. A government was needed to protect the three inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property. This became the basis of the American constitution. There becomes the need for civil society to create an impartial judge to bring transgressors of the laws of nature to justice as well as settle property disputes. The government should be working "to no other end, but the peace, safety, and public good of the people" (Ch9). He battles with himself and comes to the conclusion that while we need a government because not every man can be judge and prosecutor, we do not need to be told what to do all the time. He strongly believes that we have personal rights and obligations that we will live by.

Unlike Hobbes, who does not think man acts independent from desires, Locke presupposes a God-given rational capacity to separate us from them. He thinks we can stand back and reason about what we ought to do and deliberate in favour of our long-term interests. He believes people can apprehend a greater good and make it our conception of happiness instead of Hobbes’ willingness to believe we are ruled mainly by our passions for immediate fulfillment. The same passions that incline us to war can incline us to peace. The capacity to reason allows us to see benefits of a commonwealth such as peace and common defence. The essence of state is to protect you.

Locke’s idea of the rule of the majority’s common will. In Locke’s civil society the majority’s wishes must govern. He feels that by entering civil society you submit yourself to the majority. The government must be an accountable to the people since they create it. The community is always the supreme power. People entrust their right of self-preservation and executive right...
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