Thomas Hobbes,
another philosopher of the time, also had theories on the state of nature which
have been compared to Locke’s view of his state of nature. It can be said that
it is wrong to think of them as the same thing, as in Hobbes’ version there is
more conflict, whereas Locke’s state of nature is instead based on the duty
owed to God, another difference is that Hobbes’ definitions focus on the
behaviours carried out within the state of nature, Locke’s however is on the
laws people had to follow (Hampsher-Monk, 1992). Dunn (1984) claims that Locke
does not differ from Hobbes in his view on how people are likely to behave, but
for 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 without
authority. This shows that Locke’s theories whilst touching on similar areas,
cannot be compared to Hobbes’ as they focus on different things.


The government
was also expected to protect private property as this was one of the reasons
for joining the civil society. People can come to own private property through
their own labour, which affects the value of the property, and they can
accumulate 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 your
labour as well as any goods you own, therefore the government can not infringe
on your liberties, as they would come under property rights and would require
gaining consent first (Tully, 1993). When people joined the civil society, they
had to give up their complete freedoms, to the new legislature, this was in
exchange for the preservation of their liberties and property which was unsafe
in the state of nature (Second Treatise, 131).

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To escape the
state of nature to leave the inconveniences of having no written law men joined
together to form political society. All men agree to give up their liberties in
order to allow a government to rule them and protect them, this pulls them out
of the state of nature, it prevents the state of war from occurring as there is
now the presence of a judge and written law which is harder to manipulate to
one’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 in
charge because they could otherwise infringe on people’s liberties, therefore
whoever is in power should have majority consent of the public (ibid).


The state of war
can be seen as an opposite of the state of nature. The state of nature is a
state of perfect freedom for all men, governed by the law of nature where no
one man is stronger than or has more power than another, this precedes the
civil society. Men are free to do as they wish as there is no one who can tell
them what to do, as long as it is within the bounds of the law of nature, this
means not doing anything that goes against humanity which should be preserved
(Second Treatise, 1; 6). With the state of nature though there is always the
risk of falling into the state of war due to the law of nature being
interpreted and applied by the people themselves in their own favour as there
was no impartial judge to do this (Second treatise, 13).


All humans in
the state of nature live by the law of nature, which is set out in chapter 2 of
the Second Treatise, this is described by Gough (1950) as a law of reason, as
reason is common to all men. This suggests that if someone chooses to ignore
reason by doing wrong to another human, i.e. putting themselves into the state
of war, they are also going against the law of nature itself. Locke declares
that if someone choses to harm other people they themselves are putting
themselves outside the law of nature and under another rule, this is dangerous
for preservation of others who are in the state of nature and therefore it is
right for them to be punished (Second treatise, 8).


The ideas
highlighted in the passage are explained in chapter three of the Second
Treatise, 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 enter
into either if they are brought into or bring someone else into conflict
(Second Treatise, 16), which remains until the guilty party is brought to
justice by the innocent party (Second Treatise, 20). The law of nature was not
written down anywhere and there was no judge above all other men who could
accurately interpret these laws, therefore it was up to each person to
interpret the laws themselves which was objective and could be made to work in
each person’s favour (Yolton, 1958). The state of war is one of the reasons put
forward for moving to the civil society


First of all, it
is important to understand the concepts presented in the passage, which puts
forward that if someone makes an enemy of another they are allowed to punish
them 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 party
justice 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 they
have chosen to wrong another person they have lost their reason and are no more
than 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 do
not need to be treated as such.


John Locke was a
philosopher who lived during the English civil war, the restoration of the
monarchy, the exclusion crisis and the Glorious Revolution. The Second Treatise
is a part of one of Locke’s works; Two Treatises of Government. The Two
Treatises was likely influenced by the events that Locke had lived through, as
even though the exact time it was written is unclear, it would likely have been
around the time of the exclusion crisis and the Glorious Revolution, which led
to the main points being justifications of the rising against the monarchy at
the time (Dunn, 1984). This essay is looking at the above passage and how it relates
and fits into Locke’s work, focusing on the concepts it introduced, how it fits
into the text, its wider connections and a comparison to another Philosopher, Hobbes.