Political philosophy of John Locke

Seminar Paper 2007 15 Pages

Philosophy - Philosophy of the 17th and 18th Centuries



1 Introduction

2 Historical Conditions and Biography
2.1 Historical Conditions
2.2 Biography

3 Political Philosophy
3.1 Political Power and the State of Nature
3.2 The Law of Nature
3.3 Violation of the Law of Nature
3.4 Inconveniences of the State of Nature
3.5 Social Contract
3.6 The Extent of Government Power
3.7 Separation of Powers
3.7.1 Legislative
3.7.2 Executive and Federative
3.8 The End of Government

4 Importance of Locke's Political Philosophy


Internet Sources

1 Introduction

Today in most western countries the political structure is characterized by a democratic system and the separation of powers. Moreover individual liberty and property rights are for most western states self-evident qualities. But to achieve these political modern comforts it took a long time of development. In this connection one of the key pathfinders and masterminds for democratic system was John Locke.[1]

John Locke’s philosophical works can be seen as a part of the Enlightenment. This describes a time of intellectual awakening. The Enlightenment began after the middle ages or better said it caused the end of the middle ages by the Reformation and Renaissance, which were the earliest parts of the Enlightenment Age. In the middle ages the minds of men were cowed by the great mystery of the universe, of their origins and their minds. Moreover there was wide-spread ignorance and a fear dominated executive of political power. This was the mixture why the people had not put the system in question. Almost everything was taken for granted and as the origin state of nature.[2]

Where as the Enlightenment was a time when mankind began to use its rational facilities and pulled himself out of the medieval pits of mysticism and in the process shoved aside the state and church authorities of the day. Beliefs in natural law and universal order sprung up, which not only promoted scientific findings and advancements of a material nature, but which also gave a scientific approach to political and social issues.[3]

More and more thinkers examined the nature of existence, the way of thinking, the justification of religion and political power. There were different streams in arguing and different point of views. In this connection John Locke is considered one of the founders of the British Empiricists[4] and also a very important representative and developer of the Social Contract Theory[5].

His ideas had huge influence on the development of epistemology and political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and contributors to liberal theory.[6] His writings influenced many Enlightenment philosophers, as well as the American revolutionaries. For example this influence is reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.[7]

The objective of this paper is to highlight the basic ideas of John Locke’s political philosophy. To classify his philosophy and the way it was influenced, it is necessary to give a short overview over the historic conditions and brief biography of Locke’s life. This is done in the second chapter. Based on this, the third chapter is dealing with Locke’s political philosophy itself. In this connection, especially the reasons for forming a political society and the extent and share of political power are in the centre of this examination. In the last chapter the influence of Locke’s political philosophy on subsequent history and current political systems is pointed out.

2 Historical Conditions and Biography

2.1 Historical Conditions

John Locke was born in 1632 and died in 1704. His life felled in the middle of a time which was determined by conflicts between the English Royalists and Parliament and the overlapping religious denominational conflicts between Protestants, Anglicans and Catholics, which swirled into civil war in the 1640s. During this civil war Locke's father, who was a country lawyer and clerk to the Justices of the Peace served as a captain for the Parliamentarian army.[8] With the defeat and death of Charles I by the Parliaments army, there began a new but uncertain area. The monarchy was abolished as well as the House of Lords and the Anglican Church. Oliver Cromwell established Commonwealth of England (Protectorate) in the 1650s, which was the first republic on England’s ground. The collapse of the Protectorate after the death of Cromwell in 1658 was followed by the Restoration of Charles II — the return of the monarchy, the House of Lords and the Anglican Church. This period was marked by continued conflicts between King and Parliament and debates over religious toleration for Protestant dissenters and Catholics. This period ends with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which James II was driven from England and replaced by William of Orange and his wife Mary. This is a milestone in English history because it marks the point at which the balance of power in the English government passed from the King to the Parliament.[9]


[1] Ref. Cahn, S.: Political Philosophy – The Essential Texts, 2005, p. 243.

[2] Ref. Williams, D.: The Enlightenment, 1999, p. 1-8.

[3] Ibid..

[4] Empiricism is in the philosophical view a theory of knowledge that emphasizes the role of experience, which is mainly accountable for forming the scientific knowledge. (Ref. Faith, J. in Issue 73 of INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM, 1996).

[5] The social contract theory implies in the philosophical way that there is an implied agreements by which people form state authority and maintain a social order. (Ref. Wolff, J.: Political Philosophy, 2006, p. 39-41).

[6] Ref. Specht, R.: John Locke, 2007, I.

[7] Ref. White, M.: Political Philosophy – An Historical Introduction, 2003, p. 145.

[8] Ref. Cahn, S.: Political Philosophy – The Essential Texts, 2005, p. 243.

[9] Ref. Moritz, E.: Kapitel II und III in Weltgeschichte, 1966, p. 41-45, 54-67.


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Political John Locke Philosophy



Title: Political philosophy of John Locke