Clarendon Press, ; Leyden, W. Cambridge University Press, ; Dunn could also be included in the above list, e.
This is the philosophy on which the American Constitution and all Western political systems today are based. But there are many different interpretations of the natural law, from the Ciceronian to the Thomistic to the Grotian. What version of natural law supports liberal politics? Some argue that this is a misguided question.
This is probably the greatest controversy in Locke interpretation today. Natural law theories hold that human beings are subject to a moral law. Morality is fundamentally about duty, the duty each individual has to abide by the natural law.
Is Locke a follower of Hobbes, basing his theory on right rather than natural law? What difference does it make?
The moral logic is something like this: This right is the fundamental moral fact, rather than any duty individuals have to a law or to each other. The priority of individual right reflects our separateness, our lack of moral ties to one another.
Individuals create societies and governments to escape this condition. The sole purpose of the contract is to safeguard the rights of each citizen. Locke speaks of a state of nature where men are free, equal, and independent.
Is it natural law or Hobbesian natural right? The Founding Fathers, in the Declaration of Independence, speak of both natural rights and natural laws. Natural law and natural right may be combined, but if they are, one must take precedence over the other.
Hobbes had argued that freedom and equality, and the priority of individual right, meant that individuals in the state of nature could pursue their survival and interest without limitation. They had no duty to respect the rights of others. This is why the state of nature was a state of war.
The source of this duty, he says, is natural law. Hobbes and Locke agree that individuals have a right to property in the state of nature, but Hobbes denies that individuals have any duty to respect the property of others. Locke says individuals have a duty to respect the property and lives and liberties of others even in the state of nature, a duty he traces to natural law.
Here, then, is the issue in the natural law—natural right dichotomy: How extensive is this loophole? In the beginning of the Second Treatise, Locke seems to claim that the state of nature is a place of peace and harmony. This is the deepest controversy in Locke interpretation today, a controversy that is sometimes acrimonious.
Even for those who see Locke as a kind of Hobbesian, though, it is generally agreed that Locke believes in some degree of natural duty to respect the rights of others.
Similarly, for those who see Locke as a natural law thinker, there is controversy over the source of that law. Locke says, in the First Treatise of Government and elsewhere, that God is the source of the natural law.
But God is much less in evidence in the Second Treatise. Further, if Locke is serious about natural law, it is clear that his version of natural law is quite different from that of other natural law thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas.
If Locke is a natural law thinker, his version of natural law is much more individualistic, much closer to Hobbes, than were previous versions.This has been changed with the appearance of a manuscript in which are preserved eight essays on the law of nature written by Locke in Latin shortly after the Restoration of and thirty years before the appearance in print of his major works.
- John Locke, amongst other things, was a 17th century political philosopher who became renowned for his beliefs in the state of nature, natural law and the inalienable rights of man; often being referred to as the ‘Father of Liberalism’. Hobbes’ state of nature differs from Locke’s.
Locke’s state of nature is peaceful and is separate from his state of war. Hobbe’s argues that a state of war exists within the state of nature. Written before his better-known philosophical works, these essays fully explain how natural law is known and to what extent it is binding.
present essay is meant to show that Locke’s teaching on the law of nature is not based on divine revelation,3 or a juridical doctrine of individual 1 Daniel J. Mahoney, The Conservative Foundations of the Liberal Order: Defending Democracy against Its Modern Enemies and Immoderate Friends (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, ), xiii,