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Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government

Chapter 16-17: Of Conquest, and Of Usurpation

Summary Chapter 16-17: Of Conquest, and Of Usurpation

Locke never makes any provision or allowance for aggressive behavior; all aggressive behavior is performed by an unjust party against an innocent party, and thus justifies the destruction of the aggressor. Thus aggressive action can only result in the violation of natural or civil rights, and the surrender of those rights on the part of the aggressor. In fact, to jump ahead, in Chapter 18, Locke notes explicitly that "force is to be opposed to nothing, but to unjust and unlawful force." Locke's just member of society never stoops to force or aggression, unless he himself is first victimized or attacked.

Although Locke would never advocate the dishonest or forceful acquisition of another's property, his model of property gathering (once money has been established) allows for fairly aggressive behavior--it frees individuals to gather property without any limitations. And while this does not represent direct aggression against others, Locke does not even address the potential for aggression or competition. This discrepancy exists throughout the Second Treatise--Locke's standards for natural and moral behavior remain high, except where property is concerned. We cannot know if Locke was aware of this lapse in his model, whether it was a deliberate method of privileging property above all else.

Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government: Popular pages