Questions to answer about Locke.


In Locke’s Second Treatise, Read paragraphs 1-51, 72-3 (optional: 52-76, chapter on Paternal Power), 85-91, 94-99, 119-168, and 196-end.


1.    What is the distinction between the state of nature and civil society?  Note that by paragraph 13, most of the essential assumptions of the argument are asserted. 

2.    The state of nature is NOT the state of war (compare to Hobbes).  How is Locke’s state of nature different from Hobbes’?  See para 13, and also 124-7. 

3.    The central human motivation is self-preservation, and this is based on reason. It is a law of nature (but note that it is a natural right).  How so?

4.    Locke’s argument on slavery is brief—see paras. 22-4, and also 85, 172, 180, and 182.

5.    What are the beginnings of property for Locke?  Why is this one of his central ideas?: After the discussion of the value of nature, accumulation of property has a limit in the SN—the limit of spoilage. Why?  What is the significance of the way he overcomes this limit?  This chapter is quite important.  By the time you are up to para. 36, we have the beginnings of the argument about consent.  On that concept, see also paras. 45, 67, 74, 95, 112, and 134.  A closely related concept is obligation; see paras. 72-3, 97, and 116-120. 

6.    How does money change property?  What is the justification for inequality of possessions?

7.    Locke’s chapter on the family, “of paternal power,” is oblique but interesting.  Note, at para. 57, that liberty has implications for the family.  Note also, paras. 63-5, that the family has a natural origin—but, as Rousseau asked, if families are regarded as natural, why isn’t politics regarded as natural?  We see what he is doing by para. 66—the mother’s share in family power shows us, he asser4ts, that paternal power in no way leads to political power.  This is linked to his argument in the first treatise.  Note, at paras. 72-3, that inheritance is an important part of families, and that it confers a political obligation.  You might also see: para. 80, the family is natural; para. 82, the husband rules the wife (but what about those earlier exceptions?); para. 118, children are subject to the father; and para. 158, economic power is joined to political power. 

8.    Why do people form societies?  What are the signs that Locke believes humans are naturally inclined towards virtuous behavior?  When dealing with the argument, starting in para. 87, remember the great role of government, at paras. 42, 124. 

9.    What are the deficiencies of the state of nature?

10.All are bound to the political order, which is governed by majorities. Why?  Perhaps the central ingredient is at para 119, about express and tacit consent.  See para. 97 as well. 

11.The legislative is the primary political power. Why?  At paras. 136-140, we see several limits to the state.  See also paras. 163-4. 

12.Resistance to tyrants is a right. Why?  See para. 203, 235.  Note carefully what all gets changed in a revolution—at 211.  Also see paras. 222-225.  Does some of this language seem familiar? 


We will also look at a particular subset of Lockean values, described here.