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Second Treatise of Government Paperback – Unabridged, June 1, 1980

ISBN-13: 978-0915144860 ISBN-10: 0915144867

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Product Details

  • Series: Two Treatises (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Pub Co (June 1, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0915144867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0915144860
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'Macpherson provides for his readers a tightly written, meaty, and often invigorating critical assessment of Locke's argument. In it one finds some of the best of Macpherson's now famous criticism of liberal-democratic government.' --Gregory E. Pyrcz in Canadian Philosophical Review

From the Publisher

Library of Liberal Arts title. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

The edition is pretty good.
If you care about history, philosophy or economics, this book is a must read.
Sextus Empiricus
Lots of good stuff written here on this.
Ivan Yager

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Luttrell on October 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
In his book, Second Treatise of Government, John Locke (1632 - 1704) writes that all humans are born equal with the same ability to reason for themselves, and because of this, government should have limitations to ensure that people are free from the arbitrary will of another person, according to the laws of nature. Government, in Locke's view, is a social contract between the people in control, and the people who submit to it.
The editor of this edition, C. B. Macpherson, gives a little background and overview in his introduction to this book. He writes that the book "was directed against the principles of Sir Robert Filmer, whose books, asserting the divine authority of kings and denying any right of resistance, were thought by Locke and his fellow Whigs to be too influential among the gentry to be left unchallenged by those who held that resistance to an arbitrary monarch might be justified." (p. viii)
Locke's book served as a philosophical justification for revolting against tyrannical monarchies in the Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution. His book was practically quoted in the Declaration of Independence.
Locke lays out his basis for government on the foundation that people are able to reason. Because of this, people have inherent freedoms or natural rights. Though he believed in reason, Locke was an empiricist, meaning he believed that all knowledge of the world comes from what our senses tell us. The mind starts as a "tabula rasa", latin for an empty slate. As soon as we are born, we immediately begin learning ideas. Thus, all the material for our knowledge of the world comes to us through sensations. Nevertheless, Locke had an unshakable faith in human reason. He believed that people do learn what is right and wrong, regardless of what they choose to do.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By D. W. Casey on December 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
It is difficult to write a review of the Second Treatise of Government in that it is a book whose central ideas so permeate both British and American thought that no review can do it justice.
Any student of American history, particularly of the revolution and the formation of the Constitution, out of necessity should read this book. It is a book that the revolutionaries themselves were well acquainted with, and formed the rational basis for justifying both the Revolution and the establishment of the Constitution.
Locke is, also, suprisingly easy to read, even today. Cogent, well-formed arguments inform every page of this masterwork. This is a fascinating book that shaped history itself.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. Scott on January 31, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Locke presents in "Second Treatise on Government," his theory of government which he believes is essential to promulgate "lest men fall into the dangerous belief that all government in the world is merely the product of force and violence."

Locke defines political power as, "a right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defense of the common-wealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good." In order to explain political power, Locke presents his theory of the state of nature. To better explain his thoughts on the state of nature, he argues that, basically, in a state of nature there is also a state of equality. Locke asserts that all men are created equal, and therefore, no person should violate another person's rights. Further, Locke argues that if a person should ever harm another, since as we are all equal doing so would essentially be harming ones self.

Liberty is a reccuring theme and prominently featured in Locke's writings. Locke asserts that liberty is the freedom to be governed exclusively by the laws of nature and by nothing and no one else. After reading this book, one might wonder what Locke's personal feelings were regarding such issues as the European slave trade and/ or the displacement and subsequent genocide of Native Americans Indians, which occurred during his lifetime.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ivan Yager on June 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is usually the third book you read in a Political Philosophy course after "The Republic" and the "Nichomachean Ethics".

Locke comes to an understanding of "society", "government", and "property", among a number of notions central to our way of life. Doing that, he's also justifying them, as they exist. He states better and more clearly than anyone else what it is we think these things are and why we should view them as good. I don't know if anyone is thought to have done these particular things any better. (I guess I'm saying that Hobbes, Rousseau, etc., did other things.)

Lots of good stuff written here on this. Just think it's worth pointing out that Locke's argument for man's leaving the state of nature and his argument for the establishment of property are notoriously inconsistent.

The "state of nature" is more rhetorical device or thought-experiment than historical description. Nonetheless, it is essential to the argument.

Oh well. Plato's dialogues often end in despair.

I wish more people knew political philosophy. It would raise the general level of discussion. People would spend less time monkeying demagogues, charlatans, and hucksters.

Good edition too.
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