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Locke, Hobbes, Mill, Thoreau

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John Locke

John Locke explains the state of nature as a state of equality in which no one has power over another, and all are free to do as they please. He notes, however, that this liberty does not equal license to abuse others, and that natural law exists even in the state of nature. Each individual in the state of nature has the power to execute natural laws, which are universal.

I believe that Locke is correct in his analysis of the state of nature however; LockeÐ''s theory includes many assumptions. First is the assumption of a system of morality, the natural law derives from a theory of justice, a set of rights. No one would have any "rights" at all in the absence of a moral code applicable to human actions, nor would there be any standard of "just" punishment. Locke frequently uses the term "rights" and appeals to conscience and "calm reason", all of which reflect his assumptions about justice and morality.

For individual property to exist, there must be a means for individuals to appropriate the things around them. Locke starts out with the idea of the property of person; each person owns his or her own body, and all the labor that they perform with the body. When an individual adds their own labor, their own property, to a foreign object or good, that object becomes their own because they have added their labor. This appropriation of goods does not demand the consent of humankind in general, each person has license to appropriate things in this way by individual initiative.

Locke then places a bound on this type of acquisition, a person may only acquire as many things in this way as he or she can reasonably use to their advantage. One can only take so much as one can use. Lock applies these rules to land: a person in a state of nature can claim land by adding labor to it, building house on it or farming on it, but only so much as that person can reasonably use without waste. Locke then defines labor as the determining factor of value, the tool by which humans make their world a more advantageous and rewarding place to inhabit.

Locke states that in order for a civil society to be established, the individuals must forfeit some of their rights that they have in the state of nature. This needs to be done so everyone can live together in peace. If everyone had the right to take whatever he or she could use, this might infringe on another member's right to take whatever he or she could use. This "consent" to the laws in put upon the society in an indirect way. The people didn't actually say "I will not take that man's land" but it is inferred through the agreement that the other man wont take my land. This way we can all live in harmony together.

Locke points out that any society has the right to rebellion. In order to justify this, Locke says a society must be in a very poor state. The state must be infringing on the natural rights of the people. A society couldn't rebel for the sake of rebellion, this would cause chaos and in order to return chaos to order tyranny would follow. Locke is very opposed to tyranny for obvious reasons. The voice of the people doesn't get heard and causes injustice. This eventually leads into a cycle. This justifies rebellion but since the people have to be strictly controlled, a rebellion couldn't get organized and there is no way out of the circle.

John Stewart Mill

Mill writes a majority may consciously try to oppress a minority. He also states that this concept of a tyranny of the majority has come to be accepted by major thinkers. What ever the general will of the majority dictates is what gets done. This is illustrated in the United States Congress. It doesn't necessarily consciously try to oppress the minority, but if the US didn't have the balance in power, what ever the majority wanted would get done without the consent of everyone.

Mill discusses why silencing opinions hurts humanity. His first argument is that the suppressed opinion may be true. He writes that since human beings are not infallible, they have no authority to decide an issue for all people, and to keep others from coming up with their own judgments. Mill asserts that the reason why liberty of opinion is so often in danger is that in practice people tend to be confident in their own rightness, and excluding that, in the infallibility of the world they come in contact with. Mill contends that such confidence is not justified, and that silencing potentially true ideas hurts all people. This brings us to the next argument Mill makes. He observes that if an opinion is true, it will survive persecution. This is generally true; however when history is written, it might conveniently forget the truth for many generations. A perfect example of this is Nikola Tesla. He was considered one of the greatest if not the greatest scientist in his time, but his opinion (the truth) was silenced because he was thought to be crazy. Mill tries to show the

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