Study Questions on Locke's Second Treatise:

  1. How does Locke distinguish political power from the powers of masters (employers), parents, husbands, and slaveholders? (Ch. 1)
  2. How does Locke's concept of the natural condition or state of man (the so-called "state of nature") compare and contrast with Hobbes's concept in chapter 13 of Leviathan? (Ch. 2)
  3. How does Locke's understanding of the "state of war" differ from Hobbes's, again as found in chapter 13 of Leviathan? (Ch. 3)
  4. How do Locke's ideas of natural freedom and equality differ from Hobbes's? (You might want to take a look at the first few paragraphs of chapter 14 of Leviathan to answer this.)
  5. What "natural rights" does man have by nature?
  6. What does Locke mean by "property"? What is the natural limitation of wealth? What makes something valuable? What is the nature of money? Does the existence of money change Locke's ideas about the natural limitation of wealth? How much of chapter 5 relates to the state of nature and how much to the exstence of organizewd or civil society?
  7. What authority does a parent have over a minor child? over an adult child? What is the basis of the authority or lack of authority? What is Locke's main point in chapter 6?
  8. After discussing conjugal (husband-wife) and master-servant relations in chapter 7, Locke begins to formulate his concept of political authority in the latter part of the chapter. What is the purpose of political society? Why do men wish to leave the state of nature? How do they leave the state of nature? From whence does political society get its authority? Does the civil society have absolute power or authority? Why or why not?
  9. How are civil or political societies begun? Who has the authority to govern? What are the governing principles of the society's authority? What is the authority of a society over the minor children in its population? Can't individuals ever escape their social obligations and form new societies?
  10. What is the main objective of organized society? What are the principal defects of the state of nature? What powers or rights does one give up upon entering society? What is the "common good."
  11. What are the main governmental models or forms that a society may choose?
  12. What is the ultimate purpose of the legislative (or law-making or governing) power of a political society. ("Society," "civil society," "political society," and "commonwealth" are generally synonymous in Locke's writings.) What are the limits of the legislative power; i.e., what may it not do?
  13. What are the three fundamental powers of government? How do these compare to the three fundamental powers of American government?
  14. What does Locke mean when he says that the legislative power is a "fiduciary power"? Who possesses the ultimate power in society? (Careful here; read a little further.) How can a state of war arise in a society between government and the people? What is the prerogative power?
  15. What power does a conqueror have over the conquered society? (Compare this to Hobbes's position in chapter 20 of Leviathan.) Does the conqueror have political authjority? Why or why not? Does a "usurper" acquire political authority?
  16. What is a "tyrant"? Do the people have a natural right to overthrow a tyrant? Explain.
  17. How can a society be dissolved? How can a government be dissolved? What's the difference?