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Two Treatises of Government

Two Treatises of Government

Looked at in philosophy and political science research papers, John Locke's concern in Two Treatises of Government is to present his view of the origins of civil governments and the proper relationship between individuals and those governments. It is his goal to support and explicate Two Treatises of Government, a theory that has been called the "social contract". This notion holds that there was once a situation in which human beings existed in a prepolitical "state of nature" characterized by near-total freedom, and that this state came to an end when individuals, seeking the protections and material benefits of society, voluntarily entered into associations with one another and, in doing so, agreed to be bound by the will of the majority. This is the origin of political societies. Note the contractual nature of the relationship between individual and society. An individual gives up certain rights-among which is the right to the executive power to punish the transgressions of others - and receives in return the benefits that the state confers.

The natural law is God-determined and Locke believes that He has determined that each human being has equal rights under that law. Aristocracy and absolute monarchy are not creations of God's will, but are rather distortions that have arisen out of civil governments gone wrong. The natural law's decree, that human beings are equal, is not capable of being wiped out by individuals' contractual agreements with the state. Natural law is not over-ridden by human law. Locke believes in the legitimacy of majority rule and believes that that legitimacy derives from the law of nature and reason. Thomas Jefferson will later encapsulate these ideas in the phrase "inalienable rights," a notion that says that human beings are not free to sign away their natural rights when they enter into the social contract.

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