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John Locke Paper #1

John Locke Paper #1

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Published by: molina29 on Jun 20, 2009
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Social Contract Theory


John’s Locke Social Contract Theory CJA 530 University of Phoenix Facilitator : Patrick Cote

Social Contract Theory


Abstract John Locke’s social contract theory is one of the oldest philosophies that view a person’s moral or political obligations are based on a contract between a person to form a society. John Locke is a British philosopher, whose association with Anthony Cooper influenced him to become a government official that collected information about trading colonies, an economic writer, and opposition political activist. Locke believes that people should use reason to search for the truth, and Mr. Locke did not think people should just accept the opinion of authorities. However, he wanted people to use reason to try to grasp the truth. I will be discussing Locke’s theory about the civil government and, Locke’s point of view about the state of nature.

Social Contract Theory


Civil Government

John Locke believes that determining the legitimate functions of institutions will make an effective society. “So while Locke might admit some governments come about by force or violence, he would be destroying the most central and vital distinction, between legitimate and illegitimate civil government.” (Stanford, 2000, p.34). Locke believed illegitimate civil government is instituted by the consent of those governed. People who make this agreement give up their rights to the civil government, their right of executing the law of nature and the right to judge their own case. People have the right to judge their own case is consistent with the criminal justice system today, because many people are representing themselves in court today.

When establishing universal consent it is essential to establish a political community, and a majority consent to answer the questions. Universal consent and majority consent are different to a certain degree. “Locke’s argument for the right of the majority is the theoretical ground for the distinction between duty to society and duty to government, the distinction that authorize an argument for resistance without anarchy. When the designated dissolves, men remind obligated to society acting through majority rule.” (Stanford, 2000, p.35).

Social Contract Theory


Civil Government

The focus of a legitimate civil government is to maintain the rights to life, liberty, health and property of citizen and to punish a citizen who violates the rights of others. Also, to advance the public interest where that may be a conflict with the rights of individuals. And doing that act it provides something not available in the state of nature, which is an impartial judgment to determine the severity of the crime. This happens to be one of the main reasons civil society is an improvement on the state of nature. An illegitimate government fails to protect the rights to life, liberty, health, and property of its subject, illegitimate government claim to violate the rights of its subject.

The government also claims to have absolute authority over its subjects. “Since Locke is arguing the position against Sir Robert Filmer, who held that patriarchal power and political power are the same and that in effect these amount to despotic power over its subjects.” (Miller, 2002, p.4). Locke stated that the great mistake of government was the founding of those distinct powers with one another. Despotic power means the right to take the life, liberty, health, and property of any one person subject to power.

Social Contract Theory


State of Nature

The state of nature is the natural condition of mankind. State of nature can also mean state of perfect and complete liberty to conduct one’s life as one sees fit, and without the interference of others. State of nature does not mean that a person is not free to do anything that one pleases to do. Although state of nature does not have civil authority or government to punish people for their crimes, it is not a state without morality. People are equal to one another in the state of nature and are capable of being bound by the law of nature. The state of nature is a pre-political but it is not pre-moral. “The Law of Nature, which is Locke’s view the basis of all morality, and given to us by God, commands that we do not harm others with regards to their life, liberty, or possessions.” (Williams, 2004, p.6). In today’s society citizens are held accountable for those same laws, and if the citizens are caught violating the laws they will be brought to justice by the courts. In conclusion, John Locke’s Social Contract Theory outlines rules and regulations that are used in our present day criminal justice system.

Social Contract Theory



1.Miller, Stanley. (2002, August 16). John Locke retrieved from www.iep.utm.edu

2. Stanford, Robert (2000, May 17). John’s Locke Social Contract Theory retrieved from www.essortment.com/johnlockesocia

3. Williams, Larry (2004, March 13). Social Contract Theory retrieved from http://plato.stanford,edu/entries/locke/.

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