John Locke's Second Treatise of Government

Read this text. While Hobbes saw human nature as brutal, Locke's thinking reflected the ideals of the European Enlightenment. For enlightenment thinkers, people were broadly considered to be equal and independent. Locke's thinking revolutionized how people thought about citizenship by proposing that all individuals have a right to "life, liberty, and property".

Also consider the rights of private ownership in the United States. As these rights are not directly spelled out in the Constitution, it can be said that Locke's influence was once again a driving philosophical force in the American mind as the Industrial Revolution was progressing.

Study Guide Questions:

  1. Describe and evaluate Locke's defense of property rights. Bear in mind the distinction between rights over one's person (self-ownership rights) and rights over material resources (world ownership rights).
  2. Explain Locke's doctrine of consent to government. Is the doctrine strictly necessary to his account of legitimate government? Carefully distinguish between different kinds of consent (explicit, tacit, etc.), and pay close attention to conquest and usurpation, where power is acquired without a contract.