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Locke is clearly committed to the idea that hedonistically-construedoutcomes are a necessary condition of any system of law and oflegislative authority itself. In this regard, Locke's viewsare consistent throughout his corpus. It is worth noting thatLocke holds the same view in the early work, the Essays on the Lawof Nature, as he does in the more mature works quotedabove. In the Essays on the Law of Nature,Essay V, Locke asserts that both God and thesoul's immortality “must necessarily be presupposed ifnatural law is to exist” (Locke 1663–64, 113). Theinclusion of the immortality of the soul would seem to suggest thecentrality of rewards and punishments in the afterlife. Lockecontinues by asserting that “law is to no purpose withoutpunishment” (Locke 1663–64, 113). For Locke, then, anagent may well know the moral law, and that they are obligated to asuperior authority, but the obligatory force—i.e., what gives theagent a reason for acting—is the structure of rewards andpunishments built into the system.

FREE Essay on The Three Laws of Nature as Described by Hobbes

In order to get a complete understanding of Locke's moraltheory, it is useful to begin with a look at Locke's natural lawview, articulated most fully in his Essays on the Law ofNature (written as series of lectures he delivered as Censor ofMoral Philosophy at Christ Church, Oxford). Two predominantfeatures of Locke's natural law theory are already well-developedin this work: the rationalism and the legalism. According toLocke, reason is the primary avenue by which humans come to understandmoral rules, and it is via reason we can draw two distinct but relatedconclusions regarding the grounds for our moral obligations: we canappreciate the divine, and thereby righteous, nature of moralityand we can perceive that morality is the expression of alaw-making authority.

The Essays on the Law of Nature - University Publishing Online


Separate works include Epistola de tolerantia ad clarissinnun virrun… (Gouda, 1689), English trans. (London, 1689); Two Treatises of Government (London, 1690); P. Laslett, ed. (Cambridge, I960), a critical ed. with original text, intro., and commentary; An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (London, 1690), enl. (1694, 1700); A. C. Fraser, ed., 2 vols. (Oxford, 1894), prepared from a collation of 4 eds. published in Locke’s lifetime; John W. Yolton, ed. (London-New York, 1961), the best recent text; see also An Early Draft of Locke’s Essay, R.J. Aaron and J. Gibbs, eds. (Oxford, 1936), prepared from one of three surviving MSS; A Second Letter Concerning Toleration (London, 1690); Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, and Raising the Value of Money (London, 1692); A Third Letter For Toleration (London, 1692)—the letters on toleration have been reprinted together several times, see the eds. by A. Millar (London, 1765) and A. Murray (London, 1870); Some Thoughts Concerning Education (London, 1693), enl. (London, 1695); R. H. Quick, ed. (London, 1880); the most useful ed. is in James L. Ax tell, ed., Educational Writings(Cambridge, 1968); Locke’s Travels in France 1675–1679, J. Lough, ed. (Cambridge, 1953), Locke’s French travel diaries published for the first time; Essays on the Laws of Nature, W, von Leyden, ed, (Oxford, 1954), an early Latin text found among the Lovelace papers by the editor, who includes a trans, and an intro, of exceptional interest; and Two Tracts on Government, Philip Abrams, ed, (Cambridge, 1965), drawn from early MSS.