John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government Essays

John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government Essays

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Locke's Second Treatise of Government, by far, is his most influential and important piece of writing. In it he set forth his theory of natural law and natural right. He shows that there does exist a rational purpose to government, and one need not rely on "mysticism and mystery." Against anarchy, Locke saw his job as one who must defend government as an institution. Locke's object was to insist not only that the public welfare was the test of good government and the basis for properly imposing obligations on the citizens of a country, but also that the public welfare made government necessary.
Locke believed that the mind is blank upon birth. As a person grows and develops, so does their mind. He urged individuals to formulate theories and to test them through experiments. The fundamental claim is that human knowledge begins with sense experience and primarily is derived from it. Locke begins his philosophical examination of knowledge by trying to disprove the claim that some of our knowledge is original, in the sense that it comes from ideas which are innate or inborn. Locke's attempted refutation depends on a questionable assumption: if an individual has an idea, then that individual would understand it and assent to its content.
Also, Locke believed in religious freedom and the separation of church and state. He thought that God established divine law. This could be discovered by reasoning, and to disobey it was morally wrong. He also held the opinion that no one should dictate the form of another's religion. But Locke points out that there is widespread disagreement over the concept of God. Furthermore, it does not seem to be present at all in small children. We form ideas as the endpoint of the action of physical bodies on our own bodies. Locke points out that sometimes he uses 'idea' to refer to the end product, what exists in the mind, and sometimes he uses it to refer to the quality in the body which causes the idea. The ideas of sense are the first ideas we have. Once the mind begins to be populated with them, it can operate upon them.
Locke classified ideas as simple and complex. All complex ideas are said to be made up, ultimately of simple ideas, and their complexity is the work of the mind. A simple idea is "one uncompounded appearance," said Locke. But it should be noted that the relation of simple to complex ideas is not...


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...st of the members of the society. The government is given its power to act by the property owning portion of the population, not by the society as a whole.
Another point that makes Locke's theory different is that society has the power to overthrow the government. Since a majority created it, they have the power to remove it. Locke stated that society could overthrow the government without returning to the state of nature because the social contract would still be in effect. All that was needed would be for the society to elect another government, by majority rule, to replace the old one. This introduces the idea that government should be accountable to the people. Locke was in favor of a limited government.
The importance and autonomy of the individual in society was of very importance to Locke. The extent to which this was true is that people existed as individuals before societies and governments came into being. They each possessed certain rights, and all had the freedom to do as they pleased, unrestrained and with some restrictions placed upon them by God, according to Locke. This freedom of the individual was important, for it was the foundation for modern liberal democracy.

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