John Locke Study Guides

  • Two Treatises of Government

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    Two Treatises of Government is a 1689 work of political philosophy by John Locke that argues against monarchy and for a more democratic government. The first treatise is a refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, a work that defended the idea of patriarchalism, the notion that monarchs are divinely-chosen and should act with absolute power, like fathers towards their subjects. In the second treatise, Locke outlines a theory of society's origins, arguing that men are created equal and that any government that does not acknowledge natural rights may be overthrown.

  • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

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    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a 1689 philosophical treatise by John Locke, in which he rejects nativism--the notion that humans are born with certain knowledge hard-wired. Locke claims argues that the human mind is a blank slate that is later filled with ideas through experience and reflection. Locke also discusses language as a uniquely human ability to create definitions and sharp distinctions, as well as the relationship between an individual's knowledge and actual knowledge.

  • Second Treatise of Government

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    The Second Treatise of Government is the second part of a work of political philosophy by John Locke, coming after the First Treatise, a harsh critique of patriarchalism. The Second Treatise examines the state of nature, arguing that society developed from divisions of private property and that all men have the right to life, liberty and property. With analogies to slavery, Locke argues against absolute monarchies, claiming that any form of government must be founded on a social contract that, if breached, permits the people to revolt.