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John Locke


John Locke Second Treatise on Government Locke s Second Treatise I. Liberalism II. Social Contract Theory III. Biographical/Historical Background II. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: John Locke

John Locke
  • Second Treatise on Government

Lockes Second Treatise
  • I. Liberalism
  • II. Social Contract Theory
  • III. Biographical/Historical Background

II. Liberalism
  • Ascendance of liberalism around the world today
  • Much of the remaining reading in the course
    centers around this idea

II. Liberalism
  • Definition
  • In United States, liberalism means
  • Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Ted Kennedy

II. Liberalism
  • Historically, liberalism is built on 2 key ideas
  • Limited Government
  • It was the political solution to the struggle for
    religious toleration
  • An Attempt to keep politics out of religion. The
    state should not worry about the state of mens
  • Why is this a good idea?

II. Liberalism
  • A key component of limited government is
  • Rights
  • Theoretical underpinning to the notion of
    religious toleration is that individuals have
    rights against the state
  • We each have a right not to be interfered with by
    the government or by other people
  • These rights are natural they accrue to us
    simply by the fact that we are human beings
  • A prisoner example

Suppose you are a District Attorney in a
community that is composed of easily recognizable
majority/minority communities. A member of the
majority community has been killed and witnesses
have reliably identified a member of the minority
community as the perpetrator, but the police have
been unable to find the exact person The
majority community is screaming for vengeance and
on the verge of rioting. We know that in the
course of the riot, at least 10 people from the
minority population will be killed in mob
violence. As the DA you suggest the following
course of action to the mayor
  • In order to avert the riot and save lives, you
    take a member of the minority community at
    random, accuse that person of the crime, and
    stage a very public arrest/execution
  • As the mayor, what do you do?

II. Liberalism
  • Rights mean that no matter how good the
    consequences of a particular action may be, these
    consequences cannot override individual rights
  • Why rights?
  • Each individual possesses dignity
  • Each of us is priceless
  • Roots are in the rise of Christianity
  • Secularized form in lieu of soul premise
    treat people as ends, not as means to an end
  • Every human being has infinite weight, so cant
    use any calculation to justify hurting some for
    the greater good

II. Liberalism
  • Side bar
  • Suppose superior beings from Planet Twylo descend
    to earth and tell us they have a food shortage
  • To alleviate this shortfall, they plan on
    harvesting human beings
  • Would we accept the same arguments from them that
    we offer to justify eating animals or otherwise
    using animals as means to an end??
  • Just food for thought we wont pursue it now

II. Liberalism
  • So one component of liberalism is limited
  • The second component is capitalism
  • By capitalism, we mean the idea that as long as a
    transaction has no negative diseconomies and is
    mutually advantageous, the transaction is
  • A deal made between two consenting parties and no
    one is getting hurt, the state should not get
    involved in the transaction

II. Liberalism
  • The market is a private place where people
    voluntarily dispose of their own property
  • We each have a natural right to property
  • The overall idea justifying these economic rights
    is roughly parallel to our political rights in
    that the state should not interfere with people
    doing what they want to do with their property

II. Liberalism
  • Note, the argument itself need not be limited
    exclusively to property and thus exclusively the
    purview of the (political) right wing
  • E.g., sexual freedom, drug freedom arguments
    could work equally well
  • Since the world is embracing variants of this
    view today, an examination of its historical
    evolution and philosophical premises is both
    warranted and educational

II. Liberalism
  • The key idea linking to the two strains is the
    primacy of the individual
  • That is, the individual is the basis of power
    political, economic, social.
  • Political power does not come from divine right
    or the rule of the stronger, but the will of the

II. Liberalism
  • 2 Implications
  • If individuals are basis, then we cant treat
    others as means to an end each is an end unto
  • We are all individuals with separate and equally
    valuable lives (valuable at least to us)

II. Liberalism
  • Good political society is one which could have
    emerged from unanimous agreement by these
  • Locke is not trying to describe an actual
    historical situation hes not doing anthropology
  • Nonetheless, the description of human nature in
    this prepolitical situation needs to be accurate
    otherwise we can reject the conclusions by
    rejecting the premises

II. Liberalism
  • Question we need to face at root of political
    philosophy concerns the necessity of the state
  • That is, if the state did not exist, would it be
    necessary to invent it?
  • In other words, is anarchy a viable option for
    organizing human society?
  • Note lots of other animal species are social,
    but theyre all anarchic

II. Liberalism
  • This question carries with it important
    implications for understanding the society in
    which we live in that if political philosophy
    could not address and satisfactorily rebut
    anarchist arguments, the state loses much or
    indeed all of its intellectual support

III. Contractarianism
  • What do we mean by contractarianism?
  • Key idea
  • Contractarian theory posits a theory of justice
    which holds that our political and social
    institutions are just to the extent to which they
    could have been the object of a hypothetical
    agreement among affected persons
  • This is what we mean when we say that they sign
    or agree to a social contract

III. Contractarianism
  • Basic Structure of Contractarian Argument
  • Motivation Thesis
  • An account of the emotional/psychological factors
    of the persons
  • Environment Thesis
  • Description of the pertinent features of the
    environment in which the people are obliged to

III. Contractarianism
  • State of Nature (Non-Cooperative Outcome)
  • An account of the non-cooperative interaction of
    the persons so motivated and so situated
  • Laws of Nature
  • Practical principles, the application of which
    marks each contractor as rational in coming to an
    agreement on terms of cooperation
  • Social Contract
  • The terms of the social and political cooperation
    on which the people would agree

III. Contractarianism
  • So on to Lockes Second Treatise
  • Reminders
  • Remember, the state of nature the conditions of
    prepolitical man need not be read so much as a
    factual account as a logical construct
  • Its part of the argument in that we are
    postulating prepolitical relations and people and
    then trying to discover what type of government
    would they agree to

III. Contractarianism
  • Well address a number of questions
  • What would cause these people to give up their
    anarchic relations and form a state?
  • What would that state look like?
  • Remember, for the contractarian tradition, the
    just state is one that could have arisen by
    mutual agreement
  • We can choose an institution and ask ourselves
    would it have been the object of mutual consent
    of dissociated individuals?

III. Contractarianism
  • For example, slavery would not be chosen by
    mutual consent, so it was an unjust institution

III. Lockes Second Treatise
  • With the preliminary work behind us, we can dive
    into the Second Treatise