Locke's two groundbreaking treatises regarding good governance are present here in this complete edition.
At the time these treatises were written, English politics had undergone decades of upheaval in the wake of the English Civil War. When Dutch monarch William of Orange ascended to the English throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, burning questions over the best form of governance for England were prominent in the intelligentsia of the era. It was a time when England grappled with its incremental transition from monarchy to early forms of democracy and right to vote, where dynastic monarchy and religious theory still held considerable power over the formation of the state.
In the first treatise Locke proceeds to attack and dissect his prominent contemporary Robert Filmer, who was broadly in favour of absolute monarchy under the principle of divine right. The allusions to the Biblical Adam, wherein the monarch can be intimated as a continuation of the first man ever created, are debunked by Locke who asserts that God never asserted that one man had province to rule over all other human beings. Supporting his argument with known history, Locke concludes that no king over the centuries had asserted to be the heir of Adam and thereby the rightful ruler of a country.
In the second treatise Locke turns to a different topic - that of the state of nature. He discusses how humanity may have behaved prior to the establishment of formal societies, and concludes that humanity - even without an established government in place - had never been truly lawless even when freedom was at its farthest extent. In arguing against the tyranny of absolute monarchy, while acknowledging the advantages of humanity's freedom in its natural ungoverned state, Locke arrives at his conclusion: a democratically elected government, whereby humans are accorded freedoms but must conform to the rule of law, is the most advantageous type of government to which humans can aspire.
Lauded as a classic of political philosophy, the treatises by Locke are a common requirement in various educational courses concerning political science and philosophy to this day. While steeped in the historical realities of the late 17th century, the arguments Locke composes for governance favourable to the people and their country's development were immensely influential on political theory during and after the Enlightenment era.
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About the Author
John Locke (1632-1704) was one of the most influential philosophers and political theorists of the 17th century. In the area of politics, Locke is recognised as a proponent of limited government. His theory of natural rights argues that governments have obligations to citizens and can ultimately be overthrown by citizens under certain circumstances. He also argues powerfully in favor of religious toleration.
He is at times regarded as the founder of the British Empiricism school of thought, and he contributed to modern theories of limited, liberal government.
In the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke provides an analysis of the human mind and its acquisition of knowledge. His empiricist theory is that we acquire ideas through our experience of the world and we examine and combine our ideas in different ways. Knowledge consists of a special kind of relationship between different ideas.