Second Treatise of Government

The Muddled Philosophy and Life of John Locke

The examination of philosophy requires an in-depth look at two aspects of the philosopher. First one must examine their writings to grasp their points and perspectives, and then one must be able to examine the philosophers' personal lives to see whether they maintain their written philosophies, or whether they live their lives by alternative standards. The examination of John Locke thus becomes inherently necessary and extremely tricky. Often described as an incredibly virtuous man and portrayed as the founder of modern democracy, Locke is in truth a far more complex human being than many are aware. Although John Locke appears to condemn slavery on paper, his actions reveal a man torn between the acceptance and condemnation of slavery.

According to Locke, it is only a certain kind of slavery that is inappropriate. In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke protests outright slavery where the slave is owned as property by the slave holder and the slave subsequently no longer has in his possession the rights given to him in the state of nature. Locke explicitly states, "For a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot by compact or his own consent enslave himself to any one" (Locke 22). With this statement...

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