John Locke Essays

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    Locke was most well-known for his views on citizen’s rights and a limited government. Locke believed that all people had what he called “natural rights.” To Locke, natural rights would include a person’s life, liberty, and property not to be harmed. This ideology was the shaping of the English Whig tradition. The English Whig tradition was based on two forms of republicanism, known as classical republicanism and liberal republicanism.

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    His explanation of individuals’ rights as being more important than the government inspired the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For example, Locke argued that life, liberty and property were natural rights, and the Declaration of Independence directly incorporates this concept in its statement that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Americans today owe thanks to Locke for these freedoms, which are now protected by our Constitution. Moreover, the new republics of France and America adopted the idea of human equality, government by consent of the governed, the right of citizens to resist tyranny, and the importance of separation of powers. Specifically, in America, the structure of the government bares a lot of symmetry to his writings on checks and balances, including multiple branches of government.

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    Locke’s ideas from the Two Treatises of Government and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, were based upon the natural rights where power comes from the people. Both of his pieces contributed to revolutions, most importantly the American Revolution as power from monarchies was removed and democracies were created. Allowed for limited government power and all obligations were to the citizens. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding basis was on how the knowledge existence of God, certain moral truths, and laws of logic or mathematics pertained to the natural rights of

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    Locke then went on to argue that as rational beings, reason being another innate condition of human nature, we are entitled to preserve and protect these unalienable rights through the use of reason by establishing a government. (pg 9) This government would ensure that one’s freedom could not impinge upon that of another’s. By using reason to secures freedoms, Locke is essentially saying look inward to yourself, using your own reason as a citizen to give the authority to the government, seen in “Men being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.” This gave a new power to the freedom individual, stressing not only that we are free to

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    John Locke, an English philosopher and physician respected as one of the most powerful of Enlightenment thinkers. Locke’s writing influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, but most importantly American revolutionaries. (www.historytoday.com) He rejected absolutism, Advocated for natural rights, believed humans were reasonable and moral. Thomas Hobbe, born in Westport, England, was known for his views on how humans could succeed in harmony while dodging the threats and worries of social conflict. Thomas’s involvement during a time of turmoil in England changed his thoughts, which he portrayed in The Elements of Law in 1640, and his most famous work, Leviathan in 1651.

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    His views were most fully developed in the famous Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government; his views were so radical that he only expressed authorship in his will. He expressed the view that government is morally obliged to serve people, namely by protecting their natural rights of

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    John Locke was an English Philosopher whose belief on government and the people challenged the long-established ways of thinking about society and government, but influenced the founding fathers especially Thomas Jefferson who to put Locke’s ideas into his own document about the foundation of the United States. The Glorious Revolution in England during the late 1600s that John Locke witnessed, compelled him to write the Two Treatise of Government, integrating his beliefs that “the state of nature has the law of nature to govern it … all men are equal” in his work of political philosophy (Locke 1). Locke suggests that humans are not inferior to each other even though Absolutism was the traditional way of ruling. He believed that the human government should not be based off of divine right, but should be based off of human nature.

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    Human Rights Philosophy

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    According to this, we all possess equally fundamental and objectively verifiable natural rights that guarantee our enjoyment of some fundamentally identifiable basic goods. The Natural law was claimed to be above the actual social and political systems and the natural rights were presented as rights that the individuals possessed regardless of society or political systems and as ultimately valid irrespective of whether they were recognized by an institution or authority or not. The well-known 17th Century philosopher John Locke was the quintessential proponent of this idea. He wrote the Two Treatises of Government (1688) in which he argued that the individuals possess natural rights, independently of the political recognition given to them by the state or authority. According to Locke, these natural rights exist even before the formation of any political community and were based on the natural law that originated from God.

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    Born in the age of Enlightenment, when the ideas of thoughtful individuals encouraged individuals to revise and to perform without supervision of authorities; Locke was acclaimed for his contribution on the foundation of several democratic societies, supporting freedom of conscience and criticizing hereditary monarchy and patriarchalism (Moseley, John Locke: Political Philosophy). Locke’s main ideas were mainly associated with limiting the power of the government and promoting the rights of individuals. Like Locke himself stated: “That being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for … being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another 's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.” (John Locke, 1689) Locke firmly believed government only exists to promote well-being of the society and the society has an obligation to replace a government which does not satisfy their needs. Thus, John Locke’s philosophy of limited government directly or indirectly urged individuals to fight against the oppression to protect their own basic

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    “There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property”. – Blackstone “Property is the root of all evil: and at the same time, property is that toward all the activity of modern world is directed, and that which directs the activity of the world”. – Tolstoy “That government can scarcely be deemed to be free where the rights of property are left solely dependent upon the will of a legislative body without any restraint”. -Joseph Story 1.1.

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    Locke’s idea proposed the natural rights, which are life, liberty, and property. He stated this for people to set up civil government to protect their natural rights. Similar to what Locke proposed, the declaration used a comparable statement when it said, “The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression.” Another Enlightenment thinker is Voltaire.

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    As we know Hobbes agreed totally in absolute monarchy. He even said that the purpose of the government was to impose the law and order to prevent the state of war. Also, he believed that a government headed by a king was the best form that a society could take. That if we placed all power in the hands of the king would mean more resolute and consistent exercise of political authority, he said. In the other hand Locke said that the purpose of a government should be to secure natural rights, namely man property and liberty.

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    The Declaration of Independence symbolized his ideas of “life, liberty, property.” Voltaire wanted to be free from expression, religion, and separation of church and state. He also believed the universe was a clock and the clock maker was God. Montesquieu defined three types of government, republican, dictator, and monarchy. He also contributed in the separation of powers which was multiple branches and check and balances which each branch has certain rights.

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    Natural law consist of an ethical aspect, which are the moral principles only known to God as well as a legal component which is the expression of these moral principles within the human legal system . According to Aristotle these moral principles, which exist on the eternal level of law, are the basis of the laws that are created on the human level. In the adoption case Justice Dornor asked whether a person enjoys the fruit of a forbidden act in order to illustrate the moral principles underlying our laws . Thus according to Aquinas “you will not stand on the blood of your neighbor”

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    Both King Louis XIV’s Versailles and John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government are imbued with ideas that are substantiated by divine providence in one form or another. In Versailles, this idea is that of the King’s divine reign which validates Louis XIV’s kingship. Locke, on the other hand, suggests all men are born inherently equal into God’s state of nature and have a right to liberty. While both Locke and Louis XIV substantiate their arguments through divine authority, their claims as to what God ordains is markedly different; Locke is claiming that all people must adhere to the law of nature but can chose to consent to government—thus discrediting the divine right of kings which is exactly what Louis XIV tries to convince his subjects of

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    Of those main authors, the one with the most influence is Thomas Jefferson. In Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence by Garry Wills, many of the scholars behind The Declaration are discussed, Jefferson is targeted more specifically. He is most widely known for his famous quote known as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (US 1776). Along with the colonists, Jefferson believed that it is the government’s responsibility to protect the natural rights of the people, including the duty of protecting the people themselves. He even claims that "rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.

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    He believed that people were born with three natural rights; life, liberty, and property; He favored the idea of self government and criticized absolute monarchy; He is credited for being the foundation of modern democracy. John Locke is important because he influenced the idea of natural rights. According to Locke, all people are born free and equal. Locke said that the purpose of government is to protect these rights. His writings inspired much of the American Revolution.

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    Jean-Jacque Rousseau - Comparisons with the above two philosophers and opinions on the State and Law. Jean Jacques Rousseau is the third philosopher I wish to discuss. He was a French-Geneva philosopher who is widely believed to have influenced the enlightenment in France and Europe. During the French revolution Rousseau was one of the most respected and popular political theorists. Rousseau believed that men in the state of nature were the most natural and free they could be before they were corrupted by the unnatural grips of civilization.

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    Locke states that there are three types of power (paternal, familial, and political) and expresses his fear of the types getting confused. Political, which is the right to make laws or protection and regulation of property, is the most important to Locke as it directly concerns the good of the public. In his process of defining political power, Locke refers to the state of nature (natural instincts of people) as a state of equality in which no person has more power than another. He notes, however, that there is a natural level of universal law that exists in this nature and that people do not have license to abuse others. Locke proposes that natural law only calls for the punishment to fit the crime.

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    His laws of Nature put an emphasis on the legislative and executive branches of the government. Locke himself was an Englishmen and devoted Christian. People think his ideas of the laws of Nature came from his interest in Biblical Theory and scripture. Locke makes stirring arguments about consent for government, that the government should protect

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