John Locke's Theory Of Punishment

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In Book Two of Two Treatises on Government, John Locke endeavors to offer a theory of punishment to inform governmental practice, by launching an investigation of the various beliefs that inform our social structure, based on the idea of a social contract. As part of this, Locke presents ideas surrounding the ‘state of nature’ to create an account of his social contract theory. Through this process, Locke outlines a scheme for justifying and endorsing punishment as a method of protecting individual freedom and equality. It becomes important to study and understand Locke’s theory of punishment as it informed legislature and continues to inform socio-political norms as well as the animus in the United States (Suess, 368). For the purpose of this paper, I will begin by reconstructing Locke’s theory of punishment though an account of his social contract theory.…show more content…
Locke advocates for the use of reason to determine what punishment is necessary to successfully reprimand the criminal and to discourage future crimes. However, a stronger approach is taken when the crime is murder. A person who commits murder no longer is viewed as a person, but rather as a beast that cannot be governed by law or reason. By committing murder, the guilty person is declaring war on all of mankind, and no longer is required to be treated as a person (Locke, 274). When a person enters into this ‘state of war’, others have the natural right to destroy them on the grounds that their life was threatened. Similarly, to steal another’s property is also viewed by Locke as a declaration of war. This is because for someone to be willing to steal from another, they are forgoing reason and as a result are unaccountable to any law and their actions are unpredictable. Here Locke’s model of punishment works to “protect the most basic human rights: the rights to life, health, liberty, and property” (Seuss,
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