Ticket number 32. The Political Philosophy of John Locke

John Locke. No, not that bald dude from Lost, but a 17th century empiricist philosopher.

John Locke (1632 – 1704) – British educator and philosopher, representative of empiricism (a direction in the theory of knowledge that recognizes sensory experience as a source of knowledge and suggests that the content of knowledge can either be presented as a description of this experience, or reduced to it) and liberalism (philosophical and a socio-political movement that proclaims the inviolability of human rights and individual freedoms). Contributed to the spread of sensationalism (a direction in the theory of knowledge, according to which sensations and perceptions are the main and main form of reliable knowledge. Opposes rationalism. “There is nothing in the mind that would not be in the feelings.” ) His ideas had a huge impact on the development of epistemology (also epistemology, section of philosophy, theory of knowledge) and political philosophy.

Influenced by : Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Hobbes, Descartes

Influenced: Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer; Locke’s letters had an impact on Voltaire and Rousseau and the American revolutionaries (the founders of the USA). His influence is also reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.

The most famous works are: An Essay on Human Understanding (1690, took 20 years to write), The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695, at the request of the king, Locke writes about the reasonableness of the Anglican religion), Two Treatises on Government (The First… and Second a treatise on government, respectively, 1689), “Some Thoughts on Education” (1693)

Political philosophy

The English philosopher John Locke is rightfully credited with the theoretical substantiation of the foundations of liberal democracy . On the one hand, his reasoning unfolds in the direction of the theory of natural law outlined by Hobbes, but at the same time he establishes a close connection between natural law and individual freedom ; on the other hand, Locke develops the constitutional technique of liberal democracy in accordance with the requirements of individualism and asserts the right to resist oppression and oppression by the authorities.

“Two treatises on government” : the first is a criticism of Robert Filmer’s “The Origin of the State”, which focuses on the Bible as a real historical source = > paternal authority of Adam, and then royal authority is paternal authority, not despotic // Locke objects: he points out to the fact that if parental power is what is meant, then the power of the mother is equal to the power of the father, moreover, the subjects are not children, they are citizens. Locke rebels against the idea that existing monarchs are Adam’s heirs. According to Locke, the principle of inheritance of power cannot be accepted as defining and the only true one.

The second is the idea of the legal origin of the state. Assumption of natural law prior to human governments. The state of nature is a state of complete freedom and equality in the management of one’s property and one’s life. It is a state of peace and goodwill. The law of nature prescribes peace and security. A person is “born with the right to freedom of his personality, over which no other person has power and which only he himself can freely dispose of.” People carry within themselves the light of reason, which allows them to realize the natural law, in accordance with which they build their behavior.

However, unlike Hobbes, for whom the willfulness of people turns the state of nature into a “war of all against all”, Locke distinguishes between the state of nature and the state of war . In his opinion, the law of nature, clothed in the form of reason, “teaches all people who wish to reckon with it, that since all people are equal and independent, so far none of them should harm the life, health, freedom or property of another.”

In Hobbes’ description, the state of nature appears somewhat amorphous and formless, characterized only by complete anarchy and hostility. Locke’s natural state is more detailed, full of meaning and colors of life and resembles a description of the life of primitive man. First, despite the absence of civil society in the state of nature, there is a family and paternal power, distinguished by the philosopher from political power . “The power of a father goes no further than to provide his children with those means that he considers most suitable, strength and bodily health, power and purity of their minds … so that they will be able to benefit themselves and others as much as possible” . Unlike political power, paternal power extends only to the period of minority of children and can be manifested only to the extent necessary to guide them. In the state of nature, there is also a relationship between the master and his servants or slaves.

Secondly, and this is a fundamental point, property arises in the state of nature. It is within the framework of the theory of the state of nature that Locke develops his well-known labor theory of the origin of property. Initially, God gave the world “to all people together”, i.e. into collective ownership. The earth and everything on it were given to people “for the maintenance of their existence and their convenience.” Both the earth and all that it naturally produces, and the lower animals, originally belonged to all mankind. The only property that man possessed was “the labor of his body and the work of his hands.” By applying his labor, which belongs to him entirely and inalienably, to the objects of nature, man made these objects his own. And it did not require any consent or instructions from anyone. Thus, it was “the labor which was mine, and which was expended in extracting them [objects of nature] from the state of common possession in which they were, established ownership of them.” It was labor that “contained in itself the great basis of property.”

In the future, it is no longer the fruits of the earth and not animals, but the earth itself becomes the object of appropriation . When cultivating a piece of land, harvesting a crop from it, a person “as if fences it off with his labor from the common property”. The measure of property, on the other hand, was naturally determined in accordance with how far the sphere of a person’s labor and his comforts extended. But people have different physical abilities and “different degrees of diligence”, so their work gave different results. People began to receive surplus products and objects of labor, which they used for exchange or accumulation. In order to regulate this process, the use of money was introduced, “that durable thing that can remain with a person without being damaged, and which people accept by mutual agreement in exchange for really useful, but short-lived means of subsistence.”

Thus, already in the state of nature, as the English philosopher imagined it, there is an extensive network of relationships that need to be maintained and regulated . And since each person by nature has the right not only to protect his life and property, but also to judge and punish for non-observance of natural law, being both a judge and an executor of the law of nature, this creates significant inconvenience: “Power without power, turned against personality of a person, creates a state of war. In order to preserve their freedom and property – for the use of property in the state of nature is “very unsafe and very insecure” – people enter into an agreement, the result of which is a civil or political community. “Political society,” writes Locke, “is present there, and only where each of its members has renounced this natural power and ceded it, transferring it into the hands of society in all cases, which does not prevent him from turning for protection to the law established by this society.” The conclusion of a social contract puts an end to the private judgment of each individual, creates general rules and laws to which everyone is obliged to obey, and also appoints people who are entrusted with the burden of enforcing laws and administering judgment on behalf of the whole society.

In Hobbes, as we remember, individuals transfer all their rights into the hands of the ruler, and the power of the latter is absolute and indivisible; in fact, the well-being and security of citizens depend on how complete and absolute power is concentrated in the hands of the sovereign. Locke is not satisfied with Hobbesian absolutism. In his opinion, the political power established by the social contract should extend only to what is socially necessary. “The power of a society or legislature created by men can never extend further than is necessary for the public good; this power is obliged to protect the property of everyone, ” not allowing those inconveniences that would make the state of nature unreliable and unsafe.

Whoever has supreme or legislative power, he, according to Locke, should rule “impartially and justly”, “in the interests of the peace, security and public good of the people” in accordance with the laws proclaimed by the people, and not “by impromptu decrees” (there same, Chapter IX, § 131). Consequently, the establishment of a political society only limits, but does not completely destroy individual freedoms, and even more so property .

Locke formulates the basic principles of limiting the power of the state , in whose hands it may be concentrated:

1) civil society should be governed “by means of proclaimed established laws, which should not change in each individual case”; moreover, “there should be a single law for the rich and the poor, for the court temporary worker and for the peasant behind the plow”;

2) the ultimate goal of any government and any laws is the good of the people; –

3) civil laws should not raise taxes on the property of the people without the consent of the people;

4) “the legislature must not and cannot transfer the legislative power to anyone else … except those to whom it has been entrusted by the people”

The difference between the attitudes of Hobbes and Locke, perhaps not very significant at first glance, is in fact of great importance. It was Locke’s theoretical position on the limitation of state power and the preservation of a certain share of his natural freedom for the individual that marked the watershed between two traditions in political philosophy: on the one hand, political absolutism and even totalitarianism, in which a person belongs entirely to the state, completely absorbing his freedom and permeating everything his social being; on the other hand, liberalism, the political concept of which implies the transfer by a person of only a part of his existence. Therefore, it is John Locke who is traditionally considered the forerunner of political liberalism.

Another merit of Locke is the theoretical substantiation of liberal political institutions , i.e. such institutions as are best able to secure individual freedom. The first and foremost measure is the separation of powers .

Locke distinguishes three types of government in the state: legislative, executive and federal . The legislature is the supreme power in the state; it has the right “to indicate how the power of the state is to be used for the preservation of the community and its members.” But, as the thinker notes, a person is by nature weak and inclined to cling to power, therefore the one who creates laws may also want to concentrate in his hands the right to enforce the latter and thereby oppose his interests to the interests of the whole society. Therefore, society is entirely interested in the separation of legislative and executive powers. But in society there is another kind of power, which Locke compares with the power of nature, since it corresponds to the power that every person naturally possessed before entering society. This is a federal government. In contrast to the executive , which includes “the execution of the municipal laws of society within itself in relation to everything that is its parts,” federal power implies “guidance of the security and interests of society outside, in relations with all those from whom it can receive benefit or detriment.” The right to convene or dissolve the legislature belongs to the executive power, but this does not at all mean its supremacy and priority over all other types of power. And with regard to possible conflicts between the branches of government, when resolving them, one should be guided by the criterion of the good of the people: salus poluli suprema lex (the well-being of the people is the highest law) , says Locke, and one who sincerely follows this rule cannot fall into any bad delusion.

But in society there is also a deeper and more serious conflict than the conflict between the branches of power – it is a conflict between citizens and a tyrant. Tyranny is the exercise of power outside of law and for personal gain, when the actions of the ruler are guided not by law, but by ambition, revenge, greed, or some other unworthy passion. Moreover, not only monarchies are subject to tyranny, but in general all types of government. Tyranny can also be encountered in interpersonal relationships: “If a person legitimately possesses great power and wealth that exceeds what the vast majority of the sons of Adam have, then this is far from an excuse, much less an excuse for robbery and oppression, which is harm. another for no reason.” Moreover, the philosopher argues, it is even more shameful for the king to transgress the limits of power than for the constable.

What to do if the tyranny of the ruler is unbearable? Is it possible to oppose the orders of the sovereign? After all, such actions can undermine the foundations of the state and lead to disorder and complete anarchy? Locke answers these questions unequivocally: “… force should be used only against unjust and illegal force” ). Passive obedience and submission to a tyrant does not mean social peace. “Who will argue that a wonderful world exists between the powerful and the insignificant, when the lamb, without resistance, allows the all-powerful wolf to gnaw its throat?” A people that is mistreated and whose rights are constantly violated will strive in every possible way to get rid of the burden. But the recognition of the people’s right to revolt against their own ruler does not at all mean the transformation of political history into a series of riots and uprisings. The people, the thinker believes, are wise enough and perfectly able to navigate the situation: they are able to endure the mistakes and blunders of state power for a long time, but if they begin to realize that “there is a certain intent here,” then they rise up and transfer power to the more worthy. Thus, Locke concludes, “the people have the right to act as the supreme power, and themselves continue to be the legislature; he also has the right to create a new form of legislative power, or, retaining the old form, to transfer this power to new hands, depending on what he considers best .

Digest: the combination of the principle of individualism and the principle of freedom of the individual, the need to limit the power of the state and the proclamation of the freedom of the individual not only in the state of nature, but also in the civil, political state, the idea of separation of powers is one of the principles of modern liberal democracy.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.