The Philosophy Of John Locke Essay

1560 words - 6 pages

In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke proposes an idealized state of nature in which men are self-sufficient and content. The implications of his idealized population lead him to derive the existence of government from its own theoretical roots: Locke proposes government as a naturally occurring consequence of his state of nature. This derivation is founded on the injustice of man in his natural state: it is the imperfections found in the state of nature that necessitate government. This paper aims to show why the inequality caused by the existence of a market economy is an intentional and necessary path from Locke’s state of nature to the existence of the commonwealth. It will first argue that unequal possession is an inevitable consequence of property as defined by Locke. It will then show why this inequality is a necessary transition out of the state of nature for mankind. It will finally argue that each man’s consent to currency, and the injustice it brings, is the foundation for the overall consent to the commonwealth. The existence of inequality is naturally introduced and maintained throughout Locke’s argument. Hobbes successfully defends that economic inequality is both a natural and crucial part of political society; both the inequality of human ability and the resulting economic inequality precede the existence of an ideal state.
In Locke’s state of nature, men exist in a “state of perfect freedom” over their actions, possessions, and persons, within the law of nature (Locke 269). They do not depend on other men for anything. This complete intellectual and physical freedom is a natural state, but is not a perfect state. Locke acknowledges that full freedom, without a government to moderate it, does not prevent men from disobeying the law of nature. The law of nature is each man’s right to life, health, liberty, and possessions (Locke 271). Enforcing just punishment is one of the main pitfalls of his state of nature: when “everyone has the executive power of the law of nature...self-love will make men partial to themselves and their friends” (Locke 275). Men have full freedom over their lives and liberties, yet they are incapable of perfectly living out this freedom. This is a profound idea because it implies that the state of nature is not temporally indefinite. It is rather a phase men go through before entering into the contract that Locke endorses in this treatise. Locke’s description of the absolute freedom men have in nature and the inequality inherent in this freedom therefore necessitates some sort of societal development.
Rather than directly introducing a proposed social contract, Locke defines the existence of property. The existence of inequality follows into this discussion. His description of property is of central importance, since it introduces a solution to the problem of the state of nature. Locke provides a very concrete argument, based on the freedom present in his state of...

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