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This page will eventually contain a detailed summary of John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, 6th edition (1764; the first edition was originally published in 1689). The book is not about utilitarianism but describes a theory of rights that is based on a theological conception of natural law. This page will eventually be used as a bases for comparing and contrasting utilitarianism with deontological ethics of natural law.

Locke's Treatise has been influential in the theories of rights as expressed in the U.S. Constitution and has influenced libertarian theories, such as those of Robert Nozick (especially Book II, Chapter VII of Locke's Treatise). Thomas Paine, in his Rights of Man, also repeated many of the arguments in Locke's Treatise.

In the case of the U.S. Constitution, Nozick's theory, and also in subsequent libertarian theories, focus is directed away from the theological basis of natural law that pervades the natural law arguments of Locke, St. Thomas Aquinas, and many others. Exclusion of Biblical reference is sometimes rationalized by suggesting that there is a force of nature (independent of a divine being) that has designed or otherwise rendered humans such that their natural tendencies will conform to the dictates of a metaphysical entity that represents a moral truth. An example of this approach is the work of the legal scholar John Finnis[1] whose research is explicitly based on the work of Christian theologians including St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, but in some important areas he attempts to obviate the need for reliance on divine beings by claiming that certain principles of morality are self-evident through reason. He justifies this by asserting that science is likewise based on unprovable assertions[2].

The first book is a criticism of a book by Robert Filmer who was an apologist for divine rule and an opponent of individual rights. The majority of Locke's criticisms of Filmer's view of rights are based on Biblical analysis, mostly of the stories of Genesis and Noah. Reading a few chapters of the first book is enough to reveal the format of Locke's arguments.

Having defeated Filmer's arguments in the first book, Locke continues with the second book to build an opposing view of rights and liberty that he derives initially from Biblical interpretation and then applies some reasoning to fill in the details. It is the first part of the second book that has been most influential in subsequent political philosophy.

Note that marking of italics in quotations might not be accurate in some places.

Book IEdit

Chapter I: IntroductionEdit

The book starts with statements against slavery as depicted in a book by Sir Robert Filmer (p. 1). Filmer's case was that government is an absolute monarchy, princes have divine right and no man is born free, people are "subjects to Adam's right heir" [3](p. 2), because man are not born free they cannot choose their own government (because Adam was an absolute monarch and so are all princes after him; p. 5).

§3 Locke challenges divine right to power—he asks to see those laws and evidence of the oaths that bind them (p. 3).

§5 Locke is does not know how divine right started (p. 4). People like Filmer say that people "could never have the liberty to choose either governors, or forms of government" (p. 5).

Chapter II: Of Paternal and Regal PowerEdit

§6 Filmer says that people are not naturally free (p. 5), that children are born under the subjugation of their parents, and this is royal authority (p. 6). Locke basically denies Filmer's assertion that this is a fatherly right or royal authority that was then given to princes.(p. 6).

Filmer's defence of patriarchial rule is that it started with Adam and was reinstated after the great flood when he gave the Israelites kings (p. 7). The Bible says to honour thy father and mother, but Filmer omits the mother (p. 7).

§7 Filmer gave no definition of monarchy in general (p. 8).

§8 More details of Filmer's idea of patriarchial government: Adam had royal authority. "The father of a family governs by no other law, than by his own will."

According to Filmer, written laws were made so that the common people could know "his prince's pleasure" when the ruler was busy with wars or other business (p. 10). God gave rights to the father, including the right to sell his children.

§11 Filmer made many "bare suppositions" (p. 13). Locke cannot find any justification for Filmer's claims of the various powers of Adam and authority: "upon attentive reading that treatise, I found there so mighty a structure raised upon the bare supposition of this foundation: for it is scarce creditable"(p. 13). Filmer just repeated the royal authority claim with no support (p. 14).

§13 Filmer just repeats his claims and provides no justification.

§14 If Adam did have the powers that Filmer said he had, nobody could claim them except by an explicit donation from Adam (and presumably across each generation separately; p. 16).

Chapter III Of Adam's Title to Sovereignty by CreationEdit

§15 Filmer claimed that natural freedom cannot exist without denying Adam's creation (p. 16). Locke sees no problem with assuming natural freedom and believing that God created Adam (contrary to what Filmer said; p. 16–17).

§16 Filmer said that when God told Adam to subdue the earth and have dominion, it made Adam monarch (p. 18). Locke says that the grant of dominion happened after Eve was created thereby was granted to both Adam and Eve (p. 19).

§17 Locke asserted that Filmer's logic would make the right of governing dependent upon the right of fatherhood, which first requires children (p. 20). Filmer's arguments are based on descriptions of laws of nature. This requires that Eve existed when dominion was granted (the argument presented is not in this order).

§18 Locke says that Adam was a ruler in habit but not in act (p. 21).

§19 Being a king in habit but not in act is to be no king at all (p. 22).

§20 Filmer's work is incoherent but entertaining to read (p. 24).

Chapter IV: Of Adam's Title to Sovereignty by DonationEdit

§21 The discussion now proceeds to Filmer's claims about Adam's sovereignty (p. 24). Filmer quoted Selden who said that Adam was granted private dominion over himself by donation from God but Filmer's conclusion was that Adams descendents had no personal sovereignty (p. 25–26).

§22 Filmer's argument started one way and finished another.

§23 The Bible quote in Genesis mentions dominion over creatures but not people, but Filmer claims that Adam had power over all (p. 25–26).

§24 Locke outlines his denial: God gave Adam no power over men or his children (p. 26–27); God granted Adam a right in common with others, not an exclusive right.

§25–26 Locke reviews detail of what was created and the terms used to describe those living things (p. 27–29).

§27 What God granted to Noah is no more that what Adam got (p. 30). If God gave the powers the Filmer claims he did, then rulers should be allowed to eat their subjects (p. 31).

§28 Ainsworth found no monarchical powers in his review of the Bible.

§29 Adam's dominion was in common with that of other people (p. 32).

§30 If we assume that God's donation occurred before Eve, Locke's case is stronger because of the reference to "them" would not make sense if Adam were the only human (p. 33). Locke quotes the passage as saying "let them have dominion over the fish..." (p. 33).

§31 Filmer said that God gave the earth to "children of men," and that Adam was therefore the monarch.

§32 Filmer denies scripture when he tries to claim that Adam had dominion over people and that this continued with Noah (p. 35–36).

Chapter V: Adam's Title to Sovereignty by the Subjection of Eve Edit

§ Filmer sites where God tells Eve to desire her husband and that Adam will rule over her (p. 49).

Chapters V-VIII not ready Edit

Chapter IX: Of Monarchy by Inheritance from AdamEdit

It's plain to see that people need governments (p. 97). How do we know whom to obey? that person has no identifying marks (p. 97).

Filmer's primary mechanism for transferring sovereignty from Adam to princes is inheritance (p. 100).

'Adam gained a property right in animal from the donation of and grant of God (p. 100). God planted a sense of self-preservation in humans. God directed Adam by his senses and reason and directed animals by giving them instincts (p. 102). People did not have use of the creatures before this grant. reason is the voice of God within humans (p. 102).'

If common consent (vote or voice of the people) had established inheritance rights, it would be only a 'positive right', not a natural right. "where the practice is universal, it is reasonable to think that the cause is natural"(p. 104). Bob says that Locke must have ignored the lack of property rights among American Indians.

The strongest desire that God put in mans is for self-preservation, which is "the foundation of a right to the creatures for the particular support and use of each individual person himself" (p. 104). Next to this is the desire to propagate, "this gives children a title to share in the property of their parents, and right to inherit their possessions"(p. 104).

God has "ordered the course of nature" (p. 105). If a person has no relatives, property goes to the community (p. 107). People can't inherent sovereignty of one sibling over another because if any status is inherited it is split equally among the children (p. 107).

As for using animals: "so that he may even destroy the thing, that he has property in by his use of ti, where need requires" (p. 108). Government is for the good of the governed and the magistrates sword is a "terror to evil doers" (p. 109).

"All that a child has right to claim from his father is nourishment and education, and the things nature furnishes for the support of life, but he has no right to demand rule or domination from him"(p. 110).

If God gave rule and dominion to somebody, God must act to give it to the children (p. 111). If power cannot be transferred from father to son by the act of begetting(p. 113–114). Somehow inheritance of this type could lead to the son inheriting rights to the mother (p. 114). Any power arising from begetting cannot be transferred or inherited (p. 116).

The biggest question of all is "not whether there be power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it (p. 122).

Filmer doesn't tell us who gets the right to be ruler. We don't find evidence that superiority or dominion belong to Moses (p. 128).

Chapter X-XI not readyEdit

Book IIEdit

§1 The previous book established that Adam did not have any monarchical power that Filmer suggested, and even if he did, Adam's heirs did not have such power and there is no "positive law of God that determines which is the right heir in all cases that may arise" (p. 193); if there were a law that said that the first-born has such rights, confirmation of that lineage has been long lost (p. 193–194).

Filmer's claims are bogus, and "lay a foundation for perpetual disorder" (p. 194) that demands consideration of the nature of political power and "another way of designing and knowing the persons that have it" (p. 194).

§2 Toward that goal, Locke will define political power as the power of a magistrate over a subject (p. 194).

§3 Political power implies the "right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws" (p. 195; there has not been any justification for these assertions so far).

Chapter II: Of the State of NatureEdit

§4 To understand the justification for the claims made in section 3 of Chapter 1, Locke says that we need to understand the natural state of humans (p. 195). It is "a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man" (p. 195). They are also born into as state of equality in terms of power over each other (p. 195–196).

§5 Hooker perceived equality to be "so evident" that it formed the basis of his conception of duty. The result was a philosophy that included a positive duty to satisfy the desires of others (p. 196–197).

§6 The natural state of man is not one in which they have a liberty to destroy themselves

The "state of nature" has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all "equal and independent," no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such “subordination” among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s. (Locke, 197–198)

§7 Everyone has a right to punish people who harm others.

§8 Restraining others and obtaining reparation from previous offences are the only justifications for harming others (p. 199). When people violate the law of nature, their violation constitutes a declaration of rejecting the principles of reason and common equity. "every man hath a right to punish the offender, and be executioner of the law of nature" (p. 200).

§9 Prince's (under the old system that Locke criticizes) have no right to punish aliens who commit crimes inside the prince's domain because the alien is not bound to the will of the prince (p. 200).

§10 Another references to reason is that crime varies "from the right rule of reason" (p. 201).

§11 Claims for reparation stem from the right of self-preservation (p. 202). Here is another passing reference to reason as the basis for a God-given mechanism for identifying natural law: "...to secure men from the attempts of a criminal, who having renounced reason, the common rule and measure God hat given to mankind..." (p. 202).

One defence for retribution as a natural law comes from a Bible quote that Locke cited: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shalt his bood be shed" (p. 202). Locke provided no basis for identifying that passage as a natural law as opposed to other passages, such as those saying that those who work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Locke's mention that Cain thought that everybody had a right to retribution does not seem to suffice, but Lock referred to Cains revelation by saying "so plain was it writ in the hearts of all mankind".

§12 Punishment should correspond to the degree of the crime (p. 203). Here is another reference to the role of reason in revealing natural law:

"for though it would be besides my present purpose, to enter here into the particulars of the law of nature, or its measures of punishment; yet, it is certain there is such as law, and that too, as intelligible and plain to a rational creature, and a studier of that law, as the positive laws of common-wealths; nay, possibly plainer; as much as reason is easier to be understood, than the fancies and intricate contrivances of men" (p. 203).

§13 Self-love and passion will lead people to go too far in punishing others for crimes, so "God hath certainly appointed government to restrain the partiality and violence of men" (p. 204; ). Locke suggested that the death penalty should be used for nearly every crime: "By the same reason may a man in the state of nature punish the lesser breaches of that law. It will perhaps be demanded, with death? I answer, each transgression may be punished to that degree, and with so much severity, as will suffice to make it an ill bargain to the offender, give him cause to repent, and terrify others from doing the like" (p. 203; but the next sections offer some practical limitations on this policy).

§14 Locke asked if people live in such a state of nature. He said that "all governors of independent communities" are in a state of nature between men (p. 205).

§15 Locke says that people are in the state of nature until they voluntarily form a political society (p. 206).

Chapter III: Of the State of WarEdit

§16 When one person plans to harm (kill?) another (not simply in the heat of passion) and declares as much, the person making the declaration is in a state of war (p. 206–207). People have a right to destroy what threatens their lives.

§17 From the implications of the previous section, when one person tries to place another under absolute power, that constitutes a declaration of war (p. 207).

§18 By the same reasoning, people are justified in killing thieves even if thief does not threaten the homeowner's life (p. 208).

§19 The sate of peace is one of "good will, mutual assistance and preservtion" whereas a state of ware is one of "enmity, malice, violence and mutual destruction" (p. 209). This leads to a definition of the state of nature: "Men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature" (p. 209). When force is used or threatened over another, it becomes a state of war.

§20 The state of war stops when actual force ends (p. 210). §21 Avoidance of a state of war motives men to join society. When there is no (legitimate) judge on earth, God will be the judge (p. 212).

Chapter IV: SlaveryEdit

§22 No legislative power is legitimate unless it is by consent (p. 212). Freedom means freedom from the arbitrary will of another.

§23 Freedom is so important for self-preservation that it cannot be forfeited p. 213). A man cannot enslave himself to another.

§24 Slavery is an ongoing state of war between a master and slave. Some Biblical accounts of people selling themselves were not accounts of selling into slavery because the master's did not have the right to kill slaves (p. 214).

Chapter V: PropertyEdit

§25 The chapter begins with another invocation of reason as a means to determine natural law:

Whether we consider natural reason, which tells us, that men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and such other things as nature affords for their subsistence: or revelation, which gives us an account of those grants God made of the world to Adam, and to Noah, and his sons, it is very clear, that God, as king David says, Psal. cxv. 16. has given the earth to the children of men; given it to mankind in common. (p. 215).

Locke will show how property rights came to be.

§26 God gave men reason. Everything on earth is here for the "support and comfort" of humans (p. 216). In the beginning, things were held in common and nobody had an exclusive right to anything, but "there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use" (p. 216). The fruit or venison that serves as food to Native Americans is not enclosed (in a fence), but it must become the property of one Native American before it can benefit him.

§27 "The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property" (p. 217)..

§28 When somebody picks up an acorn, it becomes that person's property. There is no need to consult the commoners about this (p. 218).

§31 "God has given us all things richly " (p. 220), but people can take only that which they can use.

§32 Locke considers the animals on the planet to be potential objects of property. God's commandment compels people to labor to subdue the earth and derive benefit from it, Locke followed this statement implying that it justifies private property.

§33 This process and converting land to private property does not harm other people so long as there is "still enough, and as good left; and more than the yet unprovided could use" (p. 221), meaning that private property can be claimed only when there is a surplus of good land still available for those who have not yet claimed their share. God gave these things "to the use of the industrious and rational, (and labour was to be his title to it;) not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious" (p. 222).

§36 The amount of property that individuals can claim through labor is only a small part of the total "so that it was impossible for any man, this way, to intrench upon the right of another, or acquire to himself a property, to the prejudice of his neighbour, who would still have room for as good, and as large a possession (after the other had taken out his) as before it was appropriated. This measure did confine every man's possession to a very moderate proportion" (p. 223).

§37 In the beginning, the value of things was based on their use (before the desire to have more than needed become commonplace ; p. 225). Enclosing land benefits others by greatly increasing its productivity (p. 226).

§39 This review of the creation of property rights explains those rights clearly "wherein there could be no doubt of right, no room for quarrel" (p. 229).

§41 Those who have not developed their resources might have only 1 percent of the conveniences of those who have developed them.

§43 Land in England has value because people use it to produce wheat, but the same land in America would be nearly worthless because no labor is applied to it. Labor is the greatest part of the value of land (p. 231).

§46 Many things produced in American are necessities with short duration (e.g., food), but gold, silver, and diamonds have value in excess of use in the support of life. Those things last a long time, but it would be foolish to gather more food than can be used. When people trade perishables for other things, that put those perishables to use.

§47 The system of exchange called for money—it doesn't spoil (p. 235).

§48 "Where there is not some thing, both lasting and scarce and so valuable to be hoarded up" (p. 236) people will increase their possession of land (this might mean that, in an economic system without money or gold, people would seek gain by increasing land that produces things that have short self-lives).

§49 In an economic system that has money, people will increase their possessions (p. 237).

§50 Gold (or money) represents the basis upon which a person can fairly have more property than can be used, because gold (or money) can be preserved without impinging upon the availability of useful things that others might need.

Chapter VI: Paternal PowerEdit

§52 The phrase paternal power can be misleading. The term implies that the father, but not the mother, has power over their children, which is not the case (p. 238). "the positive law of God everywhere joins them together, without distinction, when it commands the obedience of children" (p. 239). Locke gives a few examples.

§55 Children are not in a state of equality because their parents have jurisdiction over them, but this is a temporary state (p. 240).

§56 "Adam was created a perfect man" (p. 241), and was therefore able to act on the "reason which God had implanted in him" (p. 241). Adam and Eve were obligated by law of nature to provide for their children as "the workmanship of their own maker" (p. 241; this might mean that they were not shaping their children according to Adam and Eve's design but according to the design or plan established by God).

§57 "The law, that was to govern Adam, was the same that was to govern all his posterity, the law of reason" (p. 241), but children are born without reason and therefore not subjected to that law (p. 241); therefore they are not free (p. 242). "the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom... for liberty is, to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be, where there is no law" (p. 242), but freedom is not "a liberty for every man to do what he lists [likes]" (p. 242).

§58 The power of parents arises from their duty to care for their children (p. 243).

§59 What gives men the right to do what he wants with his property within the boundaries of the law? It is his ability to know the boundaries of the law and keep his actions within them (p. 243).

§60 What happens to those who never attain reason? "lunatics and ideots are never set free from the government of their parents" (p. 245).

§62 It seems that Locke started to address a contractarian description of freedom: "Common-wealths themselves take notice of, and allow, that there is a time when men are to begin to act like free men, and therefore till that time require not oaths of fealty, or allegiance, or other public owning of, or submission to the government of their countries" (p. 247). Perhaps Locke saw the duty of parents to retain control over children who never attain reason as a natural gate-keeping mechanism for entry into society, but the explicit oath of adults to government is not mentioned here—see section 73 for another reference to a voluntary pledge of children to the government upon acceptance of an inheritance.

§63 God obliged parents to care for their children and gave the parents "suitable inclinations of tenderness and concern to temper this power, to apply it, as his wisdom designed it, to the children's good, as long as they should be under it" (p. 248).

§64 The father can use discipline to benefit the family, but the mother can also do this.

§67 Because of the inclinations that he gives to parents, "there is little fear that parents should use their power with too much rigour" (p. 242).

§68 Children are obliged to obey their parents.

§69 A person might owe honour, respect, defence, support, gratitude, or other such things to other people in some situations, but there is no right for create laws to compel such conduct (p. 254–255).

§72 Customs influence inheritance, but the father can adjust the inheritence.

§73 Some say that the father can oblige his children to be loyal to a given government with the inheritence dependent upon the children's pledge to the government, "and so is no natural tie or engagement, but a voluntary submission" (p. 257). These are "conditions annexed to the possession of land " (p. 258).

§74 The father's power does not extend to children that reach the age of majority, and that power does not extend to making laws or punishment for those (adult?) children (p. 258). The power that the father had in the old days when land was plentiful was by consent (because the children could just go somewhere else). The role of this consent can be seen by observing that people cannot punish other people's children (p. 259).

§75 The preceding discussion allegedly explains who the child's consent allows the father's authority. Children became accustomed to obeying this authority, and a gradual progression extended this obedience into adulthood.

§76 By extension, people followed this obedience across generations [such as to the grand father or great grand father] and eventually to princes (p. 261).

Chapter VII: Of Political or Social SocietyEdit

§77 Locke begins by asserting that God designed a multitude of conditions that compels humans into social order:

God, having made man such a creature, that in his own judgment, it was not good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligations of necessity, convenience, and inclination to drive him into society, as well as fitted him with understanding and language to continue and enjoy it. (p. 261–62)

The process of society begins with the family structure (p. 261).

§78 Comments on "conjugal society."

§79 "Conjunction betwixt male and female" lasts until the children are independent, except in species in which the male contributes nothing (such as in grass-eating species; p. 263).

§81 Locke asks why these conjugal bonds (marriage) could not be formed by consent or compacts (contracts; p. 265).

§82 In creating any such contracts, the rule "naturally falls to the man's share" (p. 265), but the wife retains some power like the power to separate.

§85 In master-servant relationships, the master has temporary power (p. 267), "but there is another sort of servants, which by a peculiar name we call slaves, who being captives taken in a just war, are by the right of nature subjected to the absolute dominion and arbitrary power of their masters" (p. 267).

§86 The head of the family has no right to kill any member, not even the slaves.

§87 Men are born into freedom has rights to "preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men" (p. 269). He can also punish offenders. Locke presented what is now called a libertarian view: political society needs to be able to protect property and punish offenders, "there, and there only is political society" (p. 269).

§88 From this comes the development of the common-wealth. It can also punish people not in the common-wealth (p. 270). Those who enter the society relinquish their right to punish others (and they let the state do it).

§89 People who are not in a society that has a "judge on earth" are in a state of nature.

§90 Absolute monarchies are inconsistent with civil societies—the prince is in a state of nature because he is not part of the system in which people relinquish their right to punish others.

§91 There is no "judge on earth" to address the offenses of the prince (p. 273).

§92 Those who think that absolute power purifies men's blood are mistaken.

§94 When men see somebody outside the bounds of civil society, they "are apt to think themselves in the state of nature in respect of him" (p. 277). In other words, if the prince has not joined society and relinquished his right to punish others, then the citizens retain their natural right to punish offenders and thereby retain the right to punish the prince.


References Edit

  1. Finnis, J. (2011) Natural Law and Natural Rights (2nd ed). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press
  2. Finnis (2011) p. 33—34
  3. Locke J. (1764). Two Treatises of Government. London: Millar et al. [1]


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