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Unformatted text preview: John Locke- John Locke, (August 29, 1632 October 28, 1704) was an English philosopher. Locke is considered the first of the British Empiricists, but is equally important to social contract theory. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and contributors to liberal theory. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, as well as the American revolutionaries. Locke was the first philosopher to define the self through a continuity of "consciousness." He also postulated that the mind was a "blank slate" or "tabula rasa"; that is, contrary to Christian philosophy, Locke maintained that people are born without innate ideas. Second Treatise on Government- The Second Treatise is notable for a number of themes which Locke develops therein. It begins with a depiction of the state of nature, wherein individuals are under no obligation to obey one another but are themselves judge of what the law of nature requires. It also covers conquest and slavery, property, representative government, and the right of revolution. Although the Two Treatises would become well-known in the second half of the eighteenth century, they were somewhat neglected when published. By the 1790s Locke was associated with Rousseau and Voltaire and being blamed for the American and French Revolutions as well as for the perceived secularization of society. State of War- Locke accomplishes two objectives. First, he neutralizes the claims of those who see all authority flowing from William I by the latter's right of conquest. In the absence of any other claims to authority (primogeniture from Adam, divine anointment, etc.), all kings would have to found their authority on the consent of the governed. Second, he removes much of the incentive for conquest in the first place, for even in a just war the spoils are limited to the persons of the defeated and reparations sufficient only to cover the costs of the war, and even then only when the aggressor's territory can easily sustain such costs (i.e., it can never be a profitable endeavor). Needless to say, the bare claim that one's spoils are the just compensation for a just war does not suffice to make it so, in Locke's view. State of Nature- Because there is no divinely ordained monarch throughout the world, as was argued in the First Treatise , the natural state of mankind is anarchic. In contrast to Hobbes, who posited the state of nature as a hypothetical possibility, Locke is at great pains to show that such a state did indeed exist. Indeed, it exists wherever there is no legitimate government. While no individual in this state may tell another what to do or authoritatively pronounce justice in a given case, men are not free to do whatever they please. "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" (2 nd Tr., 6). The specifics of this law are unwritten, however, and so each is likely to misapply it in his...
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