Locke Praxiology

John Locke: The Praxiology of His Concepts

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)—war of all against all

Richard Hooker (1554–1600)—The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity

Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), Principia Mathematica


Government a trust based on the people

Locke's rationality of man vs. calculating interests of Hobbes's man

State of nature peaceful—rules ascertainable by reason, positive laws of state; so have trusteeship not Leviathan. Inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property. Property a natural right preceding civil society and not created by it.

Labor theory of value—labor creates property; hence, lives, libertie, and estates of men; thus, the limits are his utilitarian needs. Age of the greatest happiness to the greatest number.

Marx: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need (communism).

A lack of security and certainty in the enjoyment of property and rights leads to civil society as man becomes more complex in his material reproduction of life's necessities—surplus leads to exchanges and division of labor. It is a historical state of nature.

The Social Contract

1. Unanimous—surrendering only the right of enforcement of contract.

2. Between free individuals—ruler excluded—beneficiaries the ruled—duties all on side of trustees or government.

3. Social contract drawn up only once—then assume tacit consent of the people across overlapping generations.

4. Majority rules in order to be practical—minorities accept in the expectation that no fundamental wrongs would be committed.

Separation of powers

1. legislative, executive, and federative functions

2. emergency powers to be held in reserve

3. counterbalanced by the right to revolution (resistance to tyranny)—but men are conservative by nature and will suffer an accumulation of wrongs before there is rebellion—a high threshold of toleration for abuse of power

David Hume (1711–1776), who wrote An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, attacked Locke on empirical and logical grounds

1. Hume said primitive man had no concept of contract.

2. Hume: Locke cannot explain why men obey. Men through utility meet necessity and its needs so as to create society and state; they are coincidental.

3. Hume: Conscience can oppose a majority; after all, the majority has been wrong about slavery and women. Second Treatise epitome of laissez-faire liberalism: the ends of government entail the good of mankind.

The minimalist government of Locke allows it to

1. make war

2. adjudicate disputes

3. resist aggressors either in other nations or the unjust ruler as in the state of nature.

Chapter I. The public good is the use of power to defend property and the commonwealth.

Chapter II. Civil society protects property and the commonwealth, in turn, protects individuals from foreign injury.

1. Injunction against suicide and homicide.

2. Criminologist: proportionate punishment up to death penalty.

3. Important to be true, that is faithful, to word—bonds men together in civil society or .state of nature.

4. Man seeks other men to fulfill economic needs—result of the surpluses.

5. Government restrains passions of men when wronged.

Chapter III. Resist imposition of slavery by another in state of nature—state of war ensues to the death—force without right makes for state of war; whereas absence of a common judge with authority puts all men in a state of nature that is potentially if not actually unstable.


1. Conscience can compel revolt—but Final Judgment to be rendered by God and is His due—hence that axiom acts as a damper on vendettas and blood feuds.

Chapter IV. Slavery—cannot by agreement pass over to another that which he has not in himself to give away or alienate—a power over his own life.

Chapter V. Property in own self—Labor mixed with nature equals property. "Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy." America for lack of labor had lack of conveniences; badly needed population growth to create value of industry. Insinuates fallow land is the patrimony of mankind—owned in common according to international law if land is not worked. Fair share determined to the point where if the goods in your possession perish, then there is an abuse of that right and it comes to a termination. Invention of money comes from surpluses of perishable goods—exchanged—traded—division of labor. Money makes men work harder to build surpluses because it has no use value. Governments regulate right of property and possession of land is determined by positive constitutions. Physiocrats—wealth in land.

Chapter VI. Juridical equality—men have different capabilities, dispositions, intelligences, and so forth. Natural freedom should not be subjected to the arbitrary will of another but rather on criteria of merit and virtue. Parents have condominium over children—cherish until they reach maturity. It is a trusteeship and a model for good government.


1. Primogeniture and entail

2. Can leave land by compact and alienate the land—but within the laws of the civil society.

Chapter VII. Necessity, convenience, and inclination drive man into society.

Man abler and stronger than woman to rule in family. Woman equal status in the contract—a full liberty to separate from him and might even take the children. Slave—no status, hence, can have no property rights; nonetheless, the master is responsible for his maintenance.

Paterfamilias—limited power over family, servants, and slaves. Political society rules as an empire and there is established a universally applicable law to make a body politic; otherwise, we would be in a state of nature where there are iniquitous men. Each judges for himself and executioner of the natural laws—inherently volatile. Monarch in a state of nature with his subject/slaves if there is not independent source for disputes. Subject alienates his reason and natural rights from nature to the monarch. If abused, there is the right to rebellion. The answer is to place the legislature in collective hands, that is Parliament, if you cannot find righteous monarchs.

Chapter VIII. Majority rule in the Commonwealth

Indians have simple needs; hence, rulers are only generals in times of crisis and have very circumscribed sovereignty. Locke finds this exemplary; the less government, the better.

Ambition and luxury corrupt power.

Monarchy not divine—a fiction for ideological purposes to sanction at times tyranny.

Men are ever separating from sovereigns to start anew elsewhere; otherwise, we would be a universal monarchy. Perpetual change like in nature. Men and their property annex themselves to the dominion of government—the better to protect it and their rights. "Nothing can make any man so but his actually entering into it by positive engagement and express promises and compact." Consent makes one a member of the Commonwealth in consequence.

Chapter IX. "It is not without reason that he seeks out and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties, and estates, which I call the general name 'property.' "

Things wanting in the state of nature

1. Known law—common measure of standards of right and wrong make for predictability in social behavior.

2. Indifferent judges—preempt factions from politics.

3. Right needs power in order to execute judgments.

4. These three requirements make for the common good and happiness.

Chapter X. Majority the "perfect democracy"; oligarchy; or monarchy—three forms of government—can be mixed. In other chapters, there is a separation of power in the executive, federative, and legislative. Legislative should be the supreme power because it embodies the sum of the rights of individuals.

Chapter XVIII. Tyranny

James I's definition: "whereas the proud and ambitious tyrant doth think his kingdom and people are only ordained for satisfaction of his desires and unreasonable appetites, the righteous and just king doth, by the contrary, acknowledge himself to be ordained for the procuring of the wealth and property of the people."

Tyranny occurs when a monarch or ruler impoverishes the people. James I, an absolutist, believed all power flowed from his will, but this power is beneficent and rational. Divine right of kings is a doctrine wherein God's will is said to work through the exercise of power in the monarch.

Chapter XIX. Dissolution of government

Government dissolved when laws in effect are not executed, the trusteeship abused and lives, liberties, and fortunes of the people are constantly assailed. Supreme executor has double trust in the legislative and supreme execution of the law—when he sets up his arbitrary will against society he acts against that trust. He can betray by force or corruption of offices, particularly by cajoling or threatening the electors. However great the provocations, peoples are loath to change the form of government, even though might execute a treasonous king—people conservative by nature and laws of nature. But people will rebel when

- continually abused—cumulative pressure delegitimizes government;

- long train of abuses form a self-evident pattern-when worse off than in a state of nature, people will take to arms;

- people will revolt when rulers abuse authority; they are the truly lawless and must be brought to account by proportionate means.


Greatest crime is rebellion, whether by ruler or ruled, high treason.


Force used without right results in a state of nature—all ties sundered—beginning anew: principle of natality of Hannah Arendt. A superior no longer a superior when he breaks the laws, for he no longer has right on his side—the subjects inherit this superiority by default.


According to William Barclay a conservative theorist of monarchy a sovereign loses power if

- he lays waste to his own kingdom, such as Nero and Caligula; or

- he alienates territory to another prince.


Conclusion: People depute power whether to King or Parliament.

They must consent to government.

EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPTS OF LAW OF NATURE AND NATURAL RIGHTS

1690: The law of nature pertains to property and consent to government.

1776: The law of nature pertains to inalienable right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, subsuming property with the right to revolution as a first and not last principle.

1848: "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions," Seneca Falls Convention. Lucretia Mott, a reformist, wanted the extension of equality before the law extended to women through the vote.

1852: "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" Frederick Douglass advocates right of a race to rebel when faced with crimes against humanity; hence revolutionary. John Brown, too.

1857: Dred Scott case, due process clause of Fifth Amendment demotes African Americans to status of chattel property. Roger Taney Court: Prelude to Civil War.

1865: Thirteenth Amendment: Africans emancipated; radical.

1920: Nineteenth Amendment extends vote to women; reformist.

1946: Nuremberg Trials: crimes against humanity; crimes to wage war; crimes against the peace; and conspiracy to commit war are internationally defined as putting responsible leaders in a state of nature—to be killed. Hannah Arendt's concept of "enemies of mankind"—revolutionary concept because brings precepts of morality to Realpolitik.

1992: Supreme Court upholds 1973 precedent of Roe v. Wade in Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. A woman has a constitutional and natural right to abort a fetus before viability, although the state has interests in mother's welfare and health of a tenable fetus. Radical politics by the Supreme Court insofar as a divisive issue for a generation has been indefinitely laid to rest.

Types of Politics

1. Reactionary

2. Conservative

3. Reformist

4. Radical

5. Revolutionary