Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Second Treatise of Government (Chapter 1-5, 7) by John Locke

(Chapter 1-5, 7)
By John Locke

Locke believes that in a natural state, humans live in peace together, and only have the right to harm others in self-defense, or in exacting punishment against someone that attacks them. The aim of punishment should not be revenge, but just an effort to ensure greater peace or security in the future. The state of war only occurs when one person declares a plan to attack or kill another, and in this case the person declaring war can be destroyed by others, because he’s not living in a natural state. Locke believes that no one can give up the right to their own life willingly, so people can’t willingly put themselves in a state of slavery. He argues that property can exist in a state of nature, and personal property is defined as a combination of a person’s labor with what already exists in the wild. He agrees that humans should create a civil government in order to protect themselves and their property, and they should give over their individual rights to make judgments and give out punishments. He argues against an absolute monarchy, because in this case, people are giving over the right to their own life to the sovereign who is above the law. Instead, he believes everyone should be equal under the laws of the society.

Chapter 1
First off, it’s impossible for anyone to claim that they have inherited the right to rule that God gave to Adam, because no one can trace the decendents of Adam to the present day. Political power is defined as the right to make laws with the penalty of death, and all less penalties to preserve property. It also includes using the force of the community to keep the community safe from foreign attack. Political power is only for the public good.

Chapter 2 – Of the State of Nature
In nature, men are able to do anything they want within the law of nature, without getting permission from any other man. All men are born equal. In the state of nature, a man doesn’t have the liberty to destroy himself. Every man can punish someone else who attacks them or does them wrong, but only to the degree necessary to ensure future peace. However, since it’s difficult for men to judge in their own cases, civil government can be helpful. Men remain in the state of nature until they choose to become part of a political society.

Chapter 3 – Of the State of War
When a man declares that he wants to kill someone else, then he is in a state of war with that person. The person against whom war has been declared now has a right to destroy the man who declared war against him. A man that declares war is no longer under natural law or the law of reason, and is more like a wolf or lion that can be killed. Therefore, anyone that tries to get absolute power over others puts himself in a state of war against tehm. Men living together according to reason without a common superior on Earth with the authority to judge between them, is in the state of nature. The state of nature is peace, good will, and mutual assistance and preservation. Force or declared plan to use force upon someone else, when there is no common superior on Earth is the state of war. The state of war is the state of violence and mutual destruction.

Chapter 4- Of Slavery
Man is naturally meant to have liberty and be free from any superior power on Earth. A person must be free from absolute, arbitrary power, because by submitting to this authority, he would be forfeiting the power of his own life, with is irrational and against natural law. Slavery can exist if someone has forfeited his life (by attacking someone, for example) and the person with the right to kill the attacker chooses to keep them as a slave instead. If the slave believes that being a slave is worse than death, then he can take his own life. There is no other natural state of slavery.

Chapter 5 – Of Property
God gave the Earth to everyone to use in common. However, this doesn’t mean that no one can use anything naturally produced by the Earth, since people must get food and shelter from the Earth. It also isn’t practical for a person to ask permission of all others on Earth each time he wishes to use something. Property is naturally defined when a person’s labor is combined with what is naturally provided. If a person uses their own effort to collect fruit, the addition of their collection labor makes the fruit rightly belong to that person. If a person plants crops, their labor on that land means the product of the crops belong to them. Under this system, there is enough land for all people to have enough to sustain themselves, because the amount of land each person rightly gets has a natural limit. A person has a right to the amount that they can use. If a person collects apples and either eats them or trades them for another item, such as nuts, this is the correct use of the item. If a person collects apples but allows some of them go unused and become rotten, then this is an unjust use of property, and it is as if he stole these apples from others, by removing them from nature but not using them. Moreover, it would be useless to collect more than you could use, because your efforts of collecting or growing wouldn’t help you at all. A person living in the wilderness very far from other humans wouldn’t want to collect more food than he could eat before it goes rotten, because the extra work doesn’t bring any benefit. The invention of currency has interfered with this system, because it allows men to store an item that never expires, making the amount of property that he can use endless.

Chapter 7 – Of Political or Civil Society
Like Aristotle, Locke argues that the first society was between man and wife, then between parents and children, and in time included master and servant. In the state of nature, every person has the right to preserve his property, including his life, liberty, and estate, and to punish the breaches of others. If a society is created, it’s necessary for the community to have the right to punish the offenses against those in the society. Therefore, every person has to give up the right to make judgments and punish offenses on their own, and allow the community to have that right. A monarchy is inconsistent with civil society, since every person would have to give up the right to their own life to one person above everyone else, with an absolute power over everyone. Instead, the people should have the power in government and everyone should be equal with respect to the laws of society.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What happened? You got tired on the 7th chapter?
Do you have any insights about the further chapters?
I would love to read it.