Locke One Of The Single Term Paper

Length: 19 pages Sources: 12 Subject: Government Type: Term Paper Paper: #43486576 Related Topics: Colonialism, Louis Xiv, Constitutional, Nation Building
Excerpt from Term Paper :

This body then has the right and duty, especially if elected to represent to build the laws and enforce the judgment of those laws, as a reflection of the will of the consensus. Locke, having developed a keen sense of a rather radical sense of the rights of the individual and the responsibility of the civil government began his work with the development of what it is that constructs the "natural rights" of man. Locke, therefore begins his Second Treatise on the natural rights of man, as he puts it to illuminate the understanding of the right to rule.

Natural Rights Theory

Locke demonstrates in the beginning of his Second Treatise the idea that the government created by the people can only be so if the people accept that certain rights of nature are true to all men. The development of these rights is not necessary as they are natural rights and therefore born to man. The acknowledgement of these rights and the "right" interpretation and relinquishment of them is on the other hand essential to the development of society and individual. The state of nature, being such that violence would likely ensue if the individual rights of the people were not collected and subverted in some case gives reason for the development of state. First and foremost Locke stressed that equality is the first basic right of the individual man.

To understand political power aright, and derive it from its original, we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man. A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the Lord and Master of them all should by any manifest declaration of his will set one above another, and confer on him by an evident and clear appointment an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.5.

It has been said before that Locke's ideas of the state of nature and the natural rights theories are less than original and he in fact makes the use of others words and thoughts to appropriately express this foundational aspect of his argument for the social contract, rather than as further needed proof of natural rights or even equality, which in and of itself was not a new concept just one that challenged the status quo.

The concept of natural equality, being the basis for the development of the natural rights theory must be illuminated on before the explanation of other natural rights takes place.

As Locke explains at greater length, by natural equality he cannot be supposed to understand all sorts of equality: age or virtue may give men a just precedency: excellency of parts and merit may place others above the common level: birth may subject some, and alliance or benefits others, to pay an observance to those to whom nature, gratitude, or other respects may have made it due. (II 54)These various human inequalities may imply inequalities of one sort or another in relations among persons, but thesor authority of any other man" (II 54).Natural equality and natural liberty are almost identical. Human beings are naturally equal in their original freedom; their natural freedom implies their original equality.



God is in fact the "owner" of man and therefore man is beholden to him for his rights and moral obligation. Second the individual is beholden to himself, in a natural state as the self is the primary being in need of sustainability and survival. The individual in a natural state therefore has the right to develop property and a means of survival. Therefore the individual does not have the right to take his or her own life or the life of another, and yet this singular restriction of rights does not seem to be enough for men in society.

If one takes survival as the end, then we may ask what are the means necessary to that end. On Locke's account, these turn out to be life, liberty, health and property. Since the end is set by God, on Locke's view we have a right to the means to that end. So we have rights to life, liberty, health and property. These are natural rights, that is they are rights that we have in a state of nature before the introduction of civil government, and all people have these rights equally.

Locke stresses that equality also give ever man the right to punish another for trespass against him.

For the law of nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world, be in vain if there were nobody that, in the state of nature, had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain offenders. And if any one in the state of nature may punish another for any evil he has done, every one may do so. For in that state of perfect equality, where naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another, what any may do in prosecution of that law, every one must needs have a right to do."

Locke's natural rights theory also gives human the right to rule over animals and physical property, as a means to develop survival through industry as well as to apply his laws over aliens to his land.

In a state of nature the right over aliens would include the right to enforce the natural law and in a state of civil government all the laws associated with the government, though some have argued against this as a right as the line of reasoning from one right to another does not follow for some. As Simmons puts it the reality of the situation is that the laws of man are often far more particular than the laws of God or nature and man therefore has little right to engage in enforcement of laws such as traffic and/or decency laws against aliens.

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: 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..."

These ideals can then be clearly thought of as the "natural rights" the right to life, health, liberty and possessions, with a strong emphasis on industry as the only viable and sustainable purpose in a life set out to survive.

But besides their souls, which are immortal, men have also their temporal lives here upon earth; the state whereof being frail and fleeting, and the duration uncertain, they have need of several outward conveniences to the support thereof, which are to be procured or preserved by pains and industry. For those things that are necessary to the comfortable support of our lives are not the spontaneous products of nature, nor do offer themselves fit and prepared for our use."

Finally one must make clear that Locke does not mean to give the impression that the state of nature is a thing to be desired or a place to hearken back to as a golden age,. His intention is to support the idea that individual men, in equality all seeking to possess and protect what they deem as theirs will be unlikely to be able to contain violence against one another and therefore will need to eventually establish a legitimate civil government to arbitrate for him. His natural law theory is therefore the development of an older concept that supports the idea of social contract, or government by consent.

One of the most interesting aspects of Locke's theories on natural rights is the development of the idea of slavery as a completely unnatural act, unless the individual is an unjust aggressor in war, in which case he has transgressed to such a degree that his innocent enemy has the right to control him.

This freedom from absolute arbitrary power is so necessary to, and closely joined with, a man's preservation, that he cannot part with it but by what forfeits his preservation and life together. For a man not having the power of his own life cannot by compact,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Arneil, Barbara. John Locke and America: The Defence of English Colonialism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Brown, Gillian. The Consent of the Governed: The Lockean Legacy in Early American Culture. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press. 2001.

Dunn, John. The Political Thought of John Locke: An Historical Account of the Argument of the 'Two Treatises of Government' London: Cambridge

Univ. Press, 2006.

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