Locke and Natural Rights


Natural rights at the heart of Locke’s Political Philosophy

John Locke is the philosopher of the issue on natural rights. In the Treatise on Government, Locke wonders what is the role of government. Locke’s answer lies in one sentence: to guarantee people’s liberty and property.

The issue of ownership can be stated as follows: if the land belongs in common to mankind, then how can a particular person does legitimately have something on his own ? (Par.25). The purpose of Locke, which is to legitimize the property, is to  show that men can own and enjoy their property without “any formal agreement made between those who have naturally the same right” (Locke quotes)

1 – It is a natural right of man to reach the owner, and have no concern for the needs of others.

a) It is an institution of natural law-this means that it represents the modes and limits of fair appropriation.

The natural right to property is the corollary of the fundamental right to the preservation of the individual. It is equivalent to the natural right to appropriate all that is useful to us.

See Par.26: If, indeed, the land was given in common to all, and that therefore no one can be originally the owner of anything, it was given to our livelihoods and satisfaction, or she is must be useful, hence, it follows Locke as he is naturally necessary that owns something, otherwise we could not derive any benefit / advantage. Locke’s argument is somewhat mocking denying any personal appropriation as a flight by definition (perpetuated against the human race) is by definition denies that man can enjoy the land, and even ensure its conservation. After all, eating, or drinking, is not there to take possession of the food? And even, as shown below, the natural law enjoins us not to waste more food, and therefore, do not take possession, it is encouraging to waste …


In fact, Locke deduces the legitimacy of the right to own from the notion of person (cf. para. 27):

(1) everyone has a claim on his own person;

(2) the work of his body and the work of his hands are his own good;

(3) all he has learned the state of nature, for his sentence and its industry, is itself under

(1), and also under the abundance of the state of nature and natural law which states that if there are other similar enough and as good common things, so I no not in violation or the right of all the common possession of the land.

See par.44 “that nature has given all things in common, however, the man being the master and the owner of all his actions, all his work, always in itself the great foundation of property” …

b) The natural law thus stipulates that the only honest way is to appropriate to do so by his own work: it therefore poses limitations to what a man can (legitimately) take ownership and it states that man may, in his work, appropriating all that is or may become useful. The wrath of the natural law does not strike the greedy, but only wasteful.

See par.28: “There is nothing to make (things that a man eats) the care and trouble it takes to gather and collect them.” This is the work that contributes to make distinctions in the common property to mankind: it separates those things picked the rest of things and adds something that nature is not set, this is how things get particularly well. The work puts things out of the common state nature had left them, and thus, they become so much our own.

But,. 31, we have not provided the right to take whatever you want. Indeed, if we pass the bounds of moderation, if we take more things we need them, then it actually takes what belongs to others. The reason has set limits to things that are allowed to use. Cf; par.37 also on waste.

Par.36: “the extent of the property is very well regulated by the nature, scope of work as men, and according to the convenience of life.” Nature has done things since, enabling them to us to have that in our work, she was somehow forced to show restraint and moderation, Ala., since we can all take ownership, and therefore we can not thus harm the rest of mankind. This rule or measure of ownership is that “everyone should have as much good that it takes for their livelihood.

c) The law of nature says nothing of interest or the needs of other men because the state of nature is a state of abundance, ie, it “remains in common and for all, and pretty much as good “.

2 – The role of civil society vis-à-vis the property is not born, but responsible.

a) The men of property before such involve civil society, and they come to save or protect the assets they have acquired in the state of nature.

This means that if indeed civil society created civilian property, it does not, however, is the master, as the right to property is not derived from a contract. It is not society but the individual driven by self-interest alone, which is the origin of property.

b) in civil society, however, more work is a sufficient title to property by cons, you can purchase as many goods of all kinds and money you want.

Par.35: in a society requires the consent of all. Indeed, this land where we live, is the property of the country where the agreement was made.

And with the use of money, and the multiplication of people, land becomes scarce, and so on. (Cf.par.45), so the property was established by agreement and convention, thus continuing that work and the industry began to develop. (At the base of the institution of property, so there is not, contrary to Rousseau, theft).

c) In society, the desire to have more than is necessary just alter the value of natural things, which was independent before that, as their usefulness compared to life (par.37).

Locke therefore justifies the emancipation of desire to gain by showing that it leads to the common good: indeed, this emancipation is because of the overall abundance, and that the poor get richer. The government’s goal is the abundance, or the protection of property, and abundance requires the emancipation of desire.


Cite this article as: Tim, "Locke and Natural Rights, April 24, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 24, 2012, https://www.the-philosophy.com/locke-natural-rights.

Leave a Reply