Customer Reviews

69
4.2 out of 5 stars
Second Treatise of Government
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$12.30 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

81 of 86 people found the following review helpful
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. Locke believed that faith in God, certain moral norms and understanding consequences were inherent in human reason. So, even though people acquire everything they know about the world through the senses, they are able to think for themselves and reason at a higher level about what they learn.
Locke presumed that there are universally recognized principles and that the consequences are practically scientific. He was greatly influenced by Isaac Newton (1647-1727) who wrote The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Locke took the ideas that there were "natural laws" in science and tried to extend that to society.
Natural laws, or rights, in Locke's view, are obvious and learned through human reasoning, and apply to everyone. They are also called "self-evident," which appears in The Declaration of Independence. All humans are created equal, and Locke bases this idea on the golden rule, that people are to do to others as they would have others do to them. Natural equality is the basis of the first and most important "natural law" which is to care for one another. (p. 9) Locke believes that with or without government, there were universal natural rights.
Without government, people are unprotected from harm by other people. Where there is no government, people are free to do as they please, even to harm others. In this state, natural laws still apply, such as the right of people to protect themselves and seek reparation for injuries done to them. However, people are naturally inconsistent in executing punishments, because they have a propensity to act out of hate or revenge. Therefore, laws are necessary in a civil society to fairly arbitrate justice. The purpose of creating a civil society is to avoid major conflicts and keep peace.
Thus, civil government is a "contract" between people to regulate their affairs fairly. According to Locke's theories, people enter into a social contract by forming governments that will preserve order.
Locke describes a civil government as being democratic with some checks to ensure that it does not overstep its boundaries, and having both legislative and executive powers. A civil government is democratic or representative, meaning laws are created by the consent of the people through the voice of a majority vote. The legislature should represent the people equally based on population. (Salus populi suprema lex) All people are subject to the law, including the rulers-no one is above the law. Even the legislature needs "standing rules" to keep it from over-stepping its boundaries. Locke advocated the principle of division of powers. Because the legislature only meets at appointed times to create or revise laws, there needs to be an executive power that is constantly enforcing the laws. So Locke describes a division of the legislative and executive powers.
In contrast to what was being claimed by the rulers of the time, Locke taught that the purpose of government is to serve and benefit the people and that it should be controlled by the people for which the government was made. His claim that people have the right to rebel against government was controversial. Second Treatise of Government served as a foundation for future political philosophies.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
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.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
Please note that this book only covers chapters 1-5, leaving out 6-29. Don't find out the hard way like I did. Amazon should pull this edition of the book from their website.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This great work is a must read for all those wishing to understand the real historical basis for the American experience. This was once required reading in High School classes on Civics and Government and now finds itself blacklisted by neo-coomunists as being to politically incorrect! Buy it. Read it! And arm yourself with the truth.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is one of the foundations of the United States as they were created, and one of the reasons they were so much more successful than other nations in recent history. If you care about history, philosophy or economics, this book is a must read.

The only problem is that reading it is not easy - the writing style is perhaps as tedious as it can possibly get. The syntax serves as a barrier on entry to those who aren't persistent enough to get through it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Simply put, this document is a must read for anyone who wishes to further understand the US Constitution and the logic behind its design. It's also a mental exercise for those of us who are not experienced with the language of this era. Take the time to read the text, then take the time to understand it. You will be happy you did.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I've been reading this book to supplement my understanding of the context in which the constitution and other foundational documents were crafted. The writing in this book is clear and accessible to the modern reader.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2011
Verified Purchase
If you are at all interested in philosophy and in particular in political philosophy, then you must get this book. it is short. However, length isn't everything; it was written in 1689 so you must remember the English is a bit difficult. None the less, it is imperative that you read this book if you are at all interested in philosophy. You don't have to like his writing. In fact, you can jolly well hate his guts and disagree with him completely, but it doesn't make him any less important of a philosopher that you should read.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
Second Treatise of Government (Hackett Classics)
Second Treatise of Government (Hackett Classics) by John Locke (Paperback - June 1, 1980)
$8.50

Leviathan (Penguin Classics)
Leviathan (Penguin Classics) by Thomas Hobbes (Paperback - February 25, 1982)
$8.69

On Liberty (Dover Thrift Editions)
On Liberty (Dover Thrift Editions) by John Stuart Mill (Paperback - June 19, 2002)
$3.00
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.