John Locke- Second Treatise

John Locke- Second Treatise

John Locke (1632-1704) is one of the most influential political philosophers of the modern time. His political philosophy has laid the foundation for major political thought. Subsequent philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and many other Scottish thinkers have in one way or another been influenced by his writing. In modern time his political philosophy is remembered for it influence to American revolutionaries.  In his political works ‘”A Letter Concerning Toleration” (1689) and “The Second Treatise on Civil Government” (1690), Locke created what would become the philosophical source for the founding principles of the United States. His contribution thought on liberal theory and classical republicanism are well captured in the American declaration of independence. Although almost of all of Locke’s writings have political overtones, his political thought is more elaborated in the Second Treatise on Civil government. The second treatise is a response to revolution of 1688 and the ascension of William of Orange to the English throne. It criticizes absolutist view of Sir Robert Filmer’s (Patriarchal theory of divine rights of kings) and Hobbes argument for the sovereign’s absolute power as contained in Leviathan.  Much of Locke’s work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. It is this anti-authoritarianism thought that makes Locke’s stand as one of the most important figure in democratization process. For instance, the American founding fathers rested the declaration of independence on Locke’s political theory in their opposition to tyranny. The central elements on Locke’s political theory are natural law and natural rights. Nonetheless his political theory has not evaded criticism. Some modern thinkers claim that his political theory fell short of a full democracy and that it was substantially on the way to a principle of democratic self rule. This essay examines where Locke’s political theory fell short of a full democracy and suggests the ways it can be upgraded to attain a full democracy status.

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Macpherson, B & Cunningham Frank. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke. London: Oxford university press. 2011.

Tocqueville, Alexis & Goldhammer, Arthur. Democracy in America summary. New York: Library of America. 2004. Print.

Tully, James. An approach to political philosophy: Locke in context. London: Cambridge University press. 1993. Print.