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Locke's two claims about the state of nature

(1) We are naturally equal and free.

(2) we are bound by the Laws of Nature


Locke's Natural equality

A moral claim about the rights persons naturally possess.
We all have the same natural rights.
Contra-Filmer, no person has a natural right to subordinate another/no person has natural authority


Locke's natural freedom

The State of Nature is a state of perfect freedom.

Free from the authority of other individuals


Laws of Nature

According to Locke, the State of Nature is governed by the Laws of Nature.
These are Laws that exist independently of the conventions of humankind; they apply universally.
Locke thinks that Laws of Nature are commanded by God, and are (at least, officially) discoverable by Reason.


Fundamental law of nature:

Humankind is to be preserved as much as possible
We each have, above all-else, a duty of self-preservation.
We also have a duty to preserve the rest of Humankind, when this doesn’t conflict with our own self-preservation


The Executive Law of Nature: why does Locke make this claim?

Generally: having this Right enables us to preserve humankind.
Locke claims that the Laws of Nature would be in vain if there were no Power to enforce it
If anyone has the Power to enforce the Laws of Nature we all do (given that we have equal rights).


1st problem with the state of nature

We lack a settled and known Law
Disagreement about what the Laws of Nature require
Some people will be biased by their own interests.


2nd law of nature

We lack an impartial judge
We will be biased by our own interests in cases that concern us.
Judging in your own case is standardly taken to threaten justice


3rd problem with the state of nature

We will often lack the power to enforce judgments
Sometimes people will be too weak/fearful to exact retribution for transgressing the Laws of Nature.
This might mean that some people go unpunished.
In which case, justice isn’t done


2 Stages to the formation of government

1 contract with others to each give up our private executive right to execute the Laws of Nature – we pool our Executive Right. In doing so we form a Community which has this Right.
2 We then entrust Executive Power to a system of Government (by majority decision


Political Power must be sufficient so as to

Enforce and promulgate the Laws of Nature.
Constitute an authoritative and neutral source of the arbitration of disputes.
Preserve and regulate Property


Pro tanto duty

It is doubtful that Locke thought that the duty to obey the Laws of the state was an indefeasible duty.
e.g., breaking the speed limit to get your friend to hospital
Given Locke’s insistence that we are bound to Preserve Humankind, it seems reasonable to assume that he would advocate breaking the Law in this case


Locke's definition of property

Lives, liberties and possessions


Political obligation, a moral duty?

The justification for political obligation seems to stem from the Fundamental Law of Nature:
Humankind is to be preserved as much as possible.
This looks like a moral Law (related to God’s ownership


Problem: Role of Consent

Given that we don’t all explicitly consent, Locke will need to appeal to tacit
if we stay in a country and enjoy the benefits that the authority brings, choosing not to move anywhere else, then we tacitly consent to it