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John Locke's Seconde Treatise of Government

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  1. Locke's theory of property, partly elaborated to refute Filmer's one
  2. How to transcend former contradictions
  3. John C. Winfrey's view on Locke's theory
  4. Conclusion

This extract from John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, exposes the basis of his theory of property which is aimed at refuting Filmer's justification of absolute monarchy. Starting from the same basis as contemporary authors, he soon dissents from them. Finally it plays a major role in his global thought and has later been interpreted in many ways, from pure liberalism to collectivism. According to Edward J. Harpham, Locke wanted to provide a rational alternative to Filmer's theory of property and to destroy his justification of absolute arbitrary political power. To strengthen his demonstration he starts from the same source: the Bible. Filmer had argued that God gave the world to Adam as private property or to mankind as a communal grant, concluding that there were only two options: royal proprietorship (by individual inheritance from Adam to kings) or communism. It seriously challenged contractualism by asking how this communal grant could end in private property without a general consent of all men, which appeared technically impossible. Locke disagrees and demonstrates that private property is possible, even if we start from the assertion according to which God gave the world to mankind in common.

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