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Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy$
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Jonathan Wolff and G. A. Cohen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149004

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149004.001.0001

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Locke on Property and Political Obligation

Locke on Property and Political Obligation

(p.103) Chapter 3 Locke on Property and Political Obligation
Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy

G. A. Cohen

, Jonathan Wolff
Princeton University Press

This chapter considers John Locke's views on property and political obligation. A cardinal tenet of liberalism is the so-called thesis of self-ownership. Locke explicitly affirms liberalism in this sense, but the chapter argues that the passages in the Second Treatise of Government in which he does so raise two problems for him. This is the first problem: if the earth is given by God in “common to all men,” then how may people increase the domain of their ownership so that it extends beyond their own persons to include private property in external things? The second problem is this: if people own themselves, then with what right are social and political obligations of an enforceable kind laid upon them? These problems arise out of Locke's desire to defend the legitimacy of private property and government. The chapter examines Locke's solution to these problems.

Keywords:   property, John Locke, political obligation, liberalism, self-ownership, Second Treatise of Government, legitimacy, private property, government

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