Work of Choice - Outside Reading #4 - Government
May 5, 2009
The inspiration for John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government began with the Enlightenment–the Age of Reason, a time when widespread beliefs in natural law and universal order served to promote scientific exploration and a scientific approach to political and social issues. Thinking men began to openly express their thoughts in writing and read the thoughts of others, the brilliant minds of the Enlightenment included men such as: Francis Bacon, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and David Hume. One, foremost among their ranks, was John Locke.
John Locke was born on August 28, 1634 in Somerset England ...view middle of the document...
Patriarcha was written in defense of divine monarchy, the doctrine that asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority because his right to rule comes to him directly from God. Locke’s argument proceeds along two lines. First, he demolishes the Scriptural support that Filmer offers for his thesis, and second he argues that the acceptance of Filmer’s thesis can only lead to the demise of governments. According to Filmer, the Biblical Adam in his role as a father possessed unlimited power over his children and this authority passed down through generations. Lock attacks this on the grounds that while fatherhood does indeed grant authority, it does so only through the act of “begetting” and cannot be transmitted to one’s children because only God can create life, nor, argues Lock, is the power of a father over his children absolute since parents share authority over their children. Filmer also posits that Adam’s absolute authority came from his ownership over the whole world. To this, Locke argues that the world was originally held in common and that God’s grant to Adam extended only to the land and brute animals, not human beings. Locke ends the First Treatise by examining the history told in the Bible and the history of the world, and concludes that there is no evidence to support Filmer’s thesis. According to Lock, no king has ever claimed that his authority rested upon his being the heir of Adam and that the doctrine of divine right will eventually be the downfall of all governments.
In the Second Treatise, Locke develops a number of themes beginning with his view of the state of nature–that men are born in a state of nature; therefore men must follow the laws of nature–God’s laws. The treatise also covers the themes of conquest and slavery, property, representative government, and the right of revolution. According to Locke’s view on the state of nature, men may live, act and make use of their property and possessions however they wish. Not only is it a man’s duty to conduct himself according...