Based on John Locke's Two Treatises of Civil Government, can someone please help me answering the following questions: 1. What is the overall purpose of Locke’s second treatise? 2. What is the...

Based on John Locke's Two Treatises of Civil Government, can someone please help me answering the following questions:

1. What is the overall purpose of Locke’s second treatise?

2. What is the most important idea of Locke’s second treatise?

3. Is Locke correct in his description of how people act when left to their own devices? Explain.

4. What is Christianity’s creation myth?

5. How does it support the notion of nature for human beings?

6. Do you agree that Jefferson was heavily influenced by Locke?

7. Why is Jefferson placed in the same context as Locke, Hobbes, etc?


8. What does Locke mean by liberty, license and possession?

9. What is Locke’s definition of Natural Law?

10. Compose an argument for and against Locke’s explanation of Natural Law.

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Locke (1632-1704) is a renowned English philosopher who consistently warns against the control of unchecked government and its ability to usurp individual freedom and prevent the progression and process of natural law. 

1. In discussing Locke's Two Treatises of Government, Locke sets forth his own viewpoint and disputes the absolute power of the king to operate without the consent of the people. The government can only sustain itself with the co-operation of its citizens and, once an agreement has been made, both the government and its citizens are bound to uphold it. However, when a government or king (in this case Charles II), fails its people, the people are duty-bound to revolt and establish the rightful king (William, the "Great Restorer"). Thus, Locke wrote his second treatise, in part, to show his support for William III as king.

2.In establishing the sovereignty of the people and the influence of natural law, Locke discusses his theory that all people are equal in terms of natural law and that no one person can control another. The formation of communities is crucial in establishing fair process and this community then protects its people. There are responsibilities and obligations from both sides and ownership of property becomes the center around which everything revolves, making property possibly the most important argument and idea. The concept of "property' and what it constituted became very important when Thomas Jefferson began composing The Declaration of Independence.

3. Locke makes the assumption, although he knows that, when applied practically, his assumption is flawed, that people, when left to their own devices will use their own moral compass. He believes that basic morality and a desire for justice should be sufficient to establish a system of "rights" without which there can be no governance. Establishing whether Locke is right in his assumptions is a matter of scale and his philosophies certainly make up the basis of westernized governments and liberalized thought, thereby confirming both his positive and negative assumptions. As conflict arises because of communication breakdowns and due to people's own, often selfish perceptions, what some consider to be justified revolt and revolution does not equal what others perceive and, as such, many instances of conflict, as Locke notes, are never resolved.  

4. Locke discusses Adam and his divine right and therefore the rights of his heirs. Adam, it seems, has some rights because he was first but ascendancy and line by default simply because there was no one else is not according to God's intentions which were to give the world to "the children of Men", says Locke, and not to the "Fatherhood." Locke contends that, if it had been given to "fathers," only then would Adam be able to make his claim. Noah on the other hand, was made the "Heir of the World," and Locke contends that his rights are far more than an "enlargement of property," or just an expansion of what was already granted to Adam. Locke contends that Noah and his sons were given far more rights than Adam ever had so it could not have been merely an extension of Adam's own rights. 

Even considering both of these things, Locke argues that neither have absolute "Dominion." God made man in his image and gave dominion over the other creatures of the earth to all mankind. If God had given sovereignty to Adam, there would be nothing left to give to the rest of mankind and that is clearly not the case, Locke says. The myth then that is rejected then is Adam's absolute right over the rest of mankind. 

5. Locke supports his argument by reminding readers that God instructed mankind to "go forth and multiply." It makes no sense for man to rely on someone like Adam to feed them but rather rely on God who provided "so plentifully," because depending on the "Will of a Man" is counter-intuitive. 

6. Thomas Jefferson respected Locke's writings and The Declaration of Independence reveals this influence. The breaking away from the English monarchy - the "tyrant"- gave Jefferson and his revolutionaries cause and the preamble to the Declaration clearly reveals Locke's influence, especially in the words "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

7. It is the human rights element and the need for governance that places Jefferson in the same category as Locke and Hobbes. Hobbes' views are far more individualistic than Locke's and Jefferson followed and appreciated Locke's perspective as opposed to Hobbes limited perspective. All agreed on the concept of "inalienable" rights but their understanding and application differed.

Please re-post your remaining questions as, as pointed out above, they cannot all be answered sufficiently in one question.  

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since we do not have space here to address all ten of these questions adequately, I will answer a few of the questions only.

The main purpose of Locke’s second treatise is to outline the proper form for a society and government and to explain why his outline was appropriate.  In other words, he is trying to tell us how society should be and why it should be that way.  In my view, the most important idea in the second treatise is his view of what makes a government legitimate.  Locke says that the only reason for having a government is to protect the natural rights that people ought to enjoy simply due to the fact that they are human.  People, he says, are born with these rights, but other people will take those rights from them unless there is a society.  The only reason to have a society and a government is to protect those rights.  This is the most important idea in the treatise because it lays out the idea that government is supposed to do things for the people, not just for the benefit of the rulers.

Locke says we need government because our rights will be in danger if there is no government.  He says that people in a state of nature will constantly try to invade on one another’s rights.  They will try to steal our possessions.  They may try to enslave us.  If they want things we have, they might kill us.  I do agree that many people would act this way if left to their own devices.  I do not think that all people would do so, but many would.  People naturally think of themselves first.  When there is no society and no government to restrain them, many of them will be selfish enough to try to take things from other people.  Because I believe many people will act selfishly, I agree with Locke’s ideas about how people will behave if left to their own devices.