Thomas Hobbes,another philosopher of the time, also had theories on the state of nature whichhave been compared to Locke’s view of his state of nature. It can be said thatit is wrong to think of them as the same thing, as in Hobbes’ version there ismore conflict, whereas Locke’s state of nature is instead based on the dutyowed to God, another difference is that Hobbes’ definitions focus on thebehaviours carried out within the state of nature, Locke’s however is on thelaws people had to follow (Hampsher-Monk, 1992).
Dunn (1984) claims that Lockedoes not differ from Hobbes in his view on how people are likely to behave, butfor Locke this refers to the condition that God put humans in in the world,instead for Hobbes it is based on how he thought man would behave withoutauthority. This shows that Locke’s theories whilst touching on similar areas,cannot be compared to Hobbes’ as they focus on different things. The governmentwas also expected to protect private property as this was one of the reasonsfor joining the civil society. People can come to own private property throughtheir own labour, which affects the value of the property, and they canaccumulate as much as they want that they can reasonably use before it spoils (Dunn,1984) Furthermore property can also be interpreted as your person and yourlabour as well as any goods you own, therefore the government can not infringeon your liberties, as they would come under property rights and would requiregaining consent first (Tully, 1993). When people joined the civil society, theyhad to give up their complete freedoms, to the new legislature, this was inexchange for the preservation of their liberties and property which was unsafein the state of nature (Second Treatise, 131). To escape thestate of nature to leave the inconveniences of having no written law men joinedtogether to form political society. All men agree to give up their liberties inorder to allow a government to rule them and protect them, this pulls them outof the state of nature, it prevents the state of war from occurring as there isnow the presence of a judge and written law which is harder to manipulate toone’s own aims than it had been in the state of nature as mentioned above(Tully, 1993).
It is important though that those in power are legitimately incharge because they could otherwise infringe on people’s liberties, thereforewhoever is in power should have majority consent of the public (ibid). The state of warcan be seen as an opposite of the state of nature. The state of nature is astate of perfect freedom for all men, governed by the law of nature where noone man is stronger than or has more power than another, this precedes thecivil society. Men are free to do as they wish as there is no one who can tellthem what to do, as long as it is within the bounds of the law of nature, thismeans not doing anything that goes against humanity which should be preserved(Second Treatise, 1; 6).
With the state of nature though there is always therisk of falling into the state of war due to the law of nature beinginterpreted and applied by the people themselves in their own favour as therewas no impartial judge to do this (Second treatise, 13). All humans inthe state of nature live by the law of nature, which is set out in chapter 2 ofthe Second Treatise, this is described by Gough (1950) as a law of reason, asreason is common to all men. This suggests that if someone chooses to ignorereason by doing wrong to another human, i.
e. putting themselves into the stateof war, they are also going against the law of nature itself. Locke declaresthat if someone choses to harm other people they themselves are puttingthemselves outside the law of nature and under another rule, this is dangerousfor preservation of others who are in the state of nature and therefore it isright for them to be punished (Second treatise, 8). The ideashighlighted in the passage are explained in chapter three of the SecondTreatise, which is on the state of war, this is separate to the state of nature.Locke describes this as a place of hostility and destruction that people enterinto either if they are brought into or bring someone else into conflict(Second Treatise, 16), which remains until the guilty party is brought tojustice by the innocent party (Second Treatise, 20). The law of nature was notwritten down anywhere and there was no judge above all other men who couldaccurately interpret these laws, therefore it was up to each person tointerpret the laws themselves which was objective and could be made to work ineach person’s favour (Yolton, 1958). The state of war is one of the reasons putforward for moving to the civil society First of all, itis important to understand the concepts presented in the passage, which putsforward that if someone makes an enemy of another they are allowed to punishthem themselves as suggested by “one may destroy a man who makes war upon him”this could be by killing them if necessary to, if it brings the innocent partyjustice as “the safety of the innocent is to be preferred” (Second Treatise,16). The idea of reason is also mentioned, with it being claimed that as theyhave chosen to wrong another person they have lost their reason and are no morethan any beast “they are not under the ties of the common law of reason”(Second Treatise, 16) as they are no longer tied to other men by reason they donot need to be treated as such.
John Locke was aphilosopher who lived during the English civil war, the restoration of themonarchy, the exclusion crisis and the Glorious Revolution. The Second Treatiseis a part of one of Locke’s works; Two Treatises of Government. The TwoTreatises was likely influenced by the events that Locke had lived through, aseven though the exact time it was written is unclear, it would likely have beenaround the time of the exclusion crisis and the Glorious Revolution, which ledto the main points being justifications of the rising against the monarchy atthe time (Dunn, 1984).
This essay is looking at the above passage and how it relatesand fits into Locke’s work, focusing on the concepts it introduced, how it fitsinto the text, its wider connections and a comparison to another Philosopher, Hobbes.