PHIL 332:  Locke Study Questions

 

1.  The State of Nature.  In class we have discussed the views of Hobbes and Locke on the State of Nature.  (a) Identify as many similarities as you can.  (b) Which similarities are the most important? 

(c) Identify as many differences as you can.  (d) Which differences are the most important? 

 

2.  The Original Compact.  (a) According to Locke, what sort of consent is required to establish a civil society?  (b) According to Locke, could those who establish a civil society consent to an absolute monarchy?  Explain.  (c) If Locke's theory is true, would all civil societies be temporary, lasting only until those who originally consented to them had died?  Explain.  (d) In Chapter 19, Locke claims that a government can be dissolved when the legislative or the prince act contrary to their trust.  What is their trust (i.e., the terms of the Original Compact)?  How does Locke know what it is?  [To answer this question, you must distinguish between the actual terms that people have agreed to from the claims Locke makes about what they would agree to.  Are his claims about what they would agree to necessarily true?] In answering this question, you need to find all the places where Locke claims to know what people would or would not agree to as part of the Original Compact and consider arguments for and against his claims. 

 

3.  Justifying Absolute Monarchy.  (a) The Malevolent Monarch.  Suppose I am a malevolent absolute monarch who rules over his subjects harshly.  Whenever I find anyone who is not already one of my subjects, I threaten them with death unless they sign a contract giving up all rights and authorizing me and my descendants to be absolute rulers in perpetuity.  When I threaten you with death, you sign the contract.  Do you thereby give up all rights against me, including a right to rebel if my government becomes oppressive?  Consider how Hobbes and Locke would answer this question.  (b) The Benevolent Monarch.  Suppose I am an absolute ruler who rules over a prosperous society.  I insist that all citizens of my society sign a contract giving up all rights and authorizing me and my descendants to be absolute rulers in perpetuity.  All of my citizens have signed the contract.  You want to live in my country and be one of my citizens, so you sign the contract.  Do you thereby give up all rights against me and my descendants, including a right to rebel if my government becomes oppressive?  Consider how Hobbes and Locke would answer this question.  (c) Some philosophers would argue that citizens always have a right to rebel if a government becomes too oppressive, regardless of the terms of the Original Compact.  What would Locke's position be? 

 

4.  The Potential for Tyranny of a Majority in Locke's Theory.  (a) Why does Locke think civil society must be bound by majority rule?  Why not unanimity rule or some other rule?  Why not an absolute monarchy?  (b) In Locke's theory, it may seem that there is a protection against tyranny of a majority, because he requires no taxation or other deprivation of property without the property owner's consent.  Explain why this does not protect against tyranny of a majority.  (c) Are there other elements of Locke's theory that could help to protect against tyranny of a majority?  Explain.  (d) Critically evaluate Locke's theory in respect to its protections against tyranny of a majority.

 

5.  Hobbes vs. Locke on individual conscience.  According to Hobbes, what should a citizen do if his/her conscience conflicts with a law of the sovereign?  Explain.  (b) According to Locke, what should a citizen do if his/her conscience conflicts with a law of the sovereign?  Explain.