Posts Tagged ‘Locke’

Locke and Gang Rape

As I went in search for a political piece of news to use for my blog post, I could not ignore the news story that kept reappearing on my screen. The news story was about twenty people involved in the gang rape of a fifteen year old girl outside of her high school homecoming dance. This story was so offensive that I had to find a way to make sense of it or examine it in the light of what we have learned about so far in class. This story can actually be easily related to the state of war within a society according to John Locke. To begin with, a person is in a State of Nature where “Everyone is bound to preserve himself and the rest of mankind and “may not, unless it be to do justice to an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of life, the liberty, health, limb or goods of another.” (Wootton, 288) For Locke, to avoid the State of War, we leave the State of Nature and men put themselves into a society by giving up their individual rights and agreeing to abide by the laws set forth by those who consent to be governed. (Wootton, 291) We as people desire to leave the state of nature because of the inconvenience of being our own judges. We also enter a civil society in order to be governed by laws, impartial judgment and the foundation of a constitution. However, in a civil society a State of War may still occur. In this particular news story, a total of ten men physically raped this young girl for two and half hours while at least ten others watched without calling authorities. Despite the fact that these people are in a civil society, that does not prevent them from entering into a State of Nature according to Locke. “Thus a thief, whom I cannot harm, but by appeal to the law, for having stolen all that I am worth, I may kill, when he sets on to rob me but of my horse or coat; because the law, which was made for my preservation where it cannot interpose to secure my life from present force, which, if lost, is capable of no reparation, permits me my own defense.” (Wootton, 291) The victimized girl was found unconscious and rushed to the
hospital via helicopter. In section it was discussed that Locke was actually a forward thinker for his time, incorporating women into his realm of equality. Every person is automatically given ownership of their body, it is their property. Therefore women own their body, the men do not own them. The action from these men and onlookers put the girl in a state of war within a civil society. “Force without right, upon a man’s person, makes a state of war, both where there is, and is not, a common judge.” Wootton, 291).
Unfortunately, the girl being outnumbered and eventually unconscious, was unable to defend herself. If she had been able to defend herself immediately she would’ve had the right to kill the men according to Locke even though she still remained in a civil society. This is because the law wasn’t there to intervene right away. However, after the crime had been committed, the girl would not be able to, in a civil society, hunt the men down and kill them after the fact. You cannot take from any man, part of or the whole of his property without his consent. These rapists violated this key element of Locke’s theory; protection of property. It is troubling to hear stories such as this in the news, but it is important to relate these actions to the violations of natural human preservation that each man and woman deserves. The question remains however, that if these men are not convicted of the crime and receive no punishment, would it be acceptable to Locke or perhaps any other theorist we have studied, for the girl to seek her own vengeance upon these men?

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Ever since I was born in the United States of America I have had to abide by the laws the nation has set forth in front of me. However, since I was born within the country and am a natural citizen, I never directly made a contract with the nation expressing that I wanted to be a part of it, and its rules. Therefore, the question of whether or not I am truly subject to the nation’s laws arises. The short answer to this question is yes, but on a deeper level it is merely expressive consent that makes me a U.S. citizen. I express my desire to live under the commonwealth of the United States by accepting any benefits it offers.  Due to this one condition, I am subject to its laws and rules.

To reinforce this condition of receiving benefits, let us examine the works of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.  What can be gathered from these philosophers is that all people in a commonwealth form an unspoken social contract to benefit from something the commonwealth provides. One major benefit, in both men’s interpretations, brings humans out of the state of nature through a form of protection.  Human’s join under commonwealths to gain the security the state of nature lacks. Naturally, the cost of this benefit is merely the agreement to live by the social contract or law of the commonwealth.

In Hobbes work The Leviathan, the major benefit a commonwealth provides is protection “from an untimely death.”  In Hobbes’ state of nature there is utter chaos. To relieve this chaos, people join commonwealths because, “if there be no power erected, or not great enough for security; every man will, and may lawfully rely on his own strength for caution against other men” (Hobbes, 173). Therefore in Hobbes’s commonwealth, if people receive protection, they are expressively agreeing rules of the power erected mentioned in the quote. In summarization, security is benefited when one abides by the commonwealth’s laws.

 Similarly, the major benefit Locke’s commonwealth provides is protection of one’s property.  Locke states in his work The Second Treatise of Government, “The great and chief end of men uniting into commonwealth, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property” (Locke, 320). Based on this quote, the commonwealth protects one’s property, and if the protection is accepted, one is expressively agreeing to unite under the commonwealth. Overall, both Hobbes and Locke believe that, accepting any benefits from a commonwealth, expressively binds you to the rules of that commonwealth.

 In conclusion, the major condition that makes any person part of a commonwealth is through receiving benefits.  As a result, one becomes subject to the rules that the commonwealth creates. Furthermore, there is a clear connection between receiving benefits and expressively agreeing to live under a commonwealth in my situation. I expressively agree to live under the law of the United States by receiving the provisions of law enforcement, paved roads, and other things of this nature.

Hobbes, Thomas. “The Leviathan.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche.   2nd Edition. David Wootton. Indianapolis, IN. 2008.

Locke, John. “The Second Treatise of Government.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd Edition. David Wootton. Indianapolis, IN. 2008.

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Locke 'N Load

The political philosophy of John Locke greatly influenced our Founding Fathers. This is evident by the long passages of Second Treatise of Government which were reproduced word for word in the Declaration of Independence. Locke’s ideas go on to influence the drafting of The Constitution of the United States of America, the oldest constitution that is still in use today. Amended into that document in 1791 was the Bill of Rights, which ensures us basic liberties. Most of us are familiar with these rights which include, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to due process, and others (The Constitution). However, some citizens question the logic of the 2nd Amendment, who’s text is reproduced below. The goal of this post is to make the logic of John Locke and our Founding Fathers clear regarding the inclusion of the 2nd Amendment into our Bill of Rights.

Text from The Constitution:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Text in Simple English:
“People have the right to have weapons, for example guns.”

The arguments in opposition of our 2nd Amendment Rights are based on the false notion that by living in a politic society with a common judge we have no need for weapons. In order for us to warrant nullifying the 2nd Amendment, we would have to show that there exist no cases in which a firearm or weapon could be used in a civil society. I will attempt to counter this reasoning by demonstrating that the philosophy of John Locke—one of the political and philosophical cornerstones that our nation was founded upon—has provisions in which the use of force, and thus, the use of weapons, would be permitted even in a modern civil society such as America.

First let us make clear Locke’s philosophies, beginning with the state of nature. In short, humans existed in “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature” (Locke §4). This state is governed by one law, “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Locke §6), this is the law of nature. Locke provides yet another state, called the state of war which is “a state of enmity and destruction…[arising from] designs upon another man’s life” (Locke §16). When we are put into a state of war, we have the right to take the life of that individual who has initiated this state of war and whom “has exposed his life to the other’s power to be taken away from him, or any one that joins with him in his defense” (Locke §16). As Americans, we have left this state of nature, for “want of a common judge with authority” (Locke §19).

This is where some Americans become confused with regards to the philosophy of Locke. ust because we have left this state of nature and relinquished our executive rights to a common judge does not mean that we need to relinquish our weapons as well. There are many cases in which there is neither the time, nor the option to seek remedy from a common judge.

A mugging for example. By using force, a mugger attempting to acquire your property is not only threatening to take that property, but, we can deduce, also threatening your life. For, if he is so willing to use unlawful force to acquire material goods, if he were to have you fully under his power, what would stop him from taking your life? The mugger merely poses the question, “your money or your life”. The mugger has not given you a choice, you “could not have time to appeal to the law to secure [your life], and when it was gone it was too late to appeal. The law could not restore life to [your] dead carcass. The loss was irreparable; which to prevent the law of Nature gave [you] a right to destroy him who had put himself into a state of war with [you] and threatened [your] destruction” (Locke §207). Locke’s philosophy holds true and we are given the right to defend ourselves, even if that means taking the life of the mugger. The mugger’s use of “force without right upon a [your] person makes a state of war both where there is, and is not, a common judge” (Locke §19).

“Where there is, and is not, a common judge”, this shows that Locke’s philosophy holds even after we have chosen to leave the state of nature by seeking a common judge with authority. Thus, Locke’s philosophies do allow for the use of force by the citizenry to defend themselves in situations in which there is no option of an appeal to a common judge. Next time you are posed with the question, “your money or your life”, choose both. Our 2nd amendment rights allow us to deal with those noxious animals—with fisticuff or firearm—who seek to impose their will upon us using unlawful force.

Works Cited:

The Constitution of the United States (1787).
Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. 1680. Print.

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