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The Second Treatise of Government/A Letter Concerning Toleration
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The Second Treatise of Government/A Letter Concerning Toleration

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  648 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
The first of these two highly influential documents refutes the concept of monarchy's divine right. The second argues for a broad acceptance of alternative religious convictions. The basis of social and political philosophy for generations, these books laid the foundation of the modern democratic state in England and abroad.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published August 14th 2002 by Dover Publications (first published 1689)
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Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating read. I came to understand Natural Law much better, and it caused me to re-think my parenting and my current level of involvement with local government.

I was intrigued to read several phrases here that ended up in our Declaration of Independence. So fun to read the works the Founders read as they were deciding how to form our Republic!
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece that refined ideas of the early political philosophers (Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau) into what became American government. I can understand why the Federalist authors relied on Locke and see directly his influence in those works. All of the key elements are there: libertarianism (trade-off of commonwealth to protect property against the initiation of force), balance of powers, ultimate recourse of the people, state of nature, benefits of commonwealth, justice. He builds with the el ...more
Nov 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
Really well written and expressed, unlike other certain dense thinkers.

However, though he comes to many good conclusions, the premises are definitely wobbly.

Just a sampling:

* Individual possession as basis for rights: oddly enough it is the baptists who should tell us better. Man does not possess himself, but is owned by God, therefore everything else he owns, he owns in stewardship for the common good of man. Although Locke insists that mixing labor with land makes property, he knew that the c
Apr 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
John Locke is right about more or less everything.
Michael de Percy
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-reviewed
Locke is one of the many philosophers I am familiar with through secondary sources. but this was my first reading of his work. In the Second Treatise of Government, Locke painstakingly covers power in the parental, political, commonwealth, legislative, and tyrannical modes, leading to a conclusion that is equally applicable to social contract theory (explicitly put by Jean-Jacques Rousseau) and the doctrine of the separation of powers. What is taken for granted in liberal democracies today has a ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is a collection of the two most important parts of John Locke's political philosophy: the Second Treatise of Government and a Letter concerning Toleration (both published in 1689, in The Netherlands).

In Second Treatise of Government, Locke argues from the perspective of a social contract, like Hobbes and Spinoza before him (and Rousseau and Montesquieu after him). In the state of nature, mankind is in a perpetual state of war: everyone looks pursues his or her own needs and the fruits
Sep 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Whether or not Hegel was right that history is inevitably moving in a positive direction, he was most assuredly right that History is moving a direction that can limelight past social contradictions. When we look at Locke we see Hegel’s claim completely vindicated. His Second Treatise is both revolutionary for its time, and conservative for ours. Moreover, Locke, while challenging mainstream Political Theory of his day (e.g., Men are beasts in a state of war, and Kings have divine rights, and Mo ...more
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
Of all the great scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, and political theorists we studied this past semester, John Locke is my favorite.

In my oral final, I was asked to summarize each political philosopher with one sentence. My sentence for John Locke was, "Jefferson, you're welcome!" The more I read of Locke, the more I saw Jefferson and I loved it!

At some point in my reading this book, I scrawled in the cover the following: "Locke stokes the flames of rebellion, fueled by the embers of
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tedioso por momentos, explica claramente los derechos que tienen los hombres en cuanto a las sociedades en las que viven y sus gobiernos.
CJ Bowen
"Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws with penalty of death..." 2

"The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one; and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that, being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions." 3

"Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy." 14

"For in all the states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, the
Nov 14, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm reminded of Pastor Wilson's comment: "The only difference between salad and garbage is timing." Locke was a reasonably clever philosopher whose innovative thinking on government and church probably was timely, but his work is looking rather brown and limp right about now. He couldn't have predicted Secularism, and it has sucker-punched his philosophy. He assumes Christianity (a safe assumption at the time), but his belief that we can find morality and understand government through natural re ...more
Joshua Nuckols
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read the Second Treatise, and quickly browsed the Letter.


Christians give Locke a pretty bad rap, which I think is unjust. Locke relied heavily upon scripture for making his arguments. From what I've read, his main weakness was in having a less than Calvinist belief as to original sin, but then again, how many...

What is cool, is finding phrases that our Founders used, for instance in documents such as the Declaration: "long train of abuses..."

His contract is not different from the
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading a book about James Madison (author of the first amendment and father of the constitution), I decided to read all of the books that Madison reflected on prior to the Constitutional Convention in 1789. Locke's toleration letter is almost word for word the justification that Madison uses for the separation of church and state.
May 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
An excellent summary of the ideas and theories that compromise the society and culture of a capitalist republic. Though there are some details that one might dispute, it is clear that Locke is well-versed in his theories, and has an understanding of some of the truths behind human nature. An excellent place to start for anyone who is interested in beginning a study of Political Philosophy.
Lindsey Doolan
Read for Senior Traditio, N-term 2010. I don't think that, as a Christian, I should strictly agree with it, although the American in me was "amen"-ing most of the way through. I did like how dense this book was--think I highlighted something on just about every page. That's how foundational this book is to understanding the foundations of the American government.
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to Elizabeth by: A Philosophy Professor
The material might be dense but Locke writes about some very worthwhile topics that every world citizen should familiarize himself or herself with. If we all followed John Locke's ideas, this world would be far less of a mess. These are critical ideas that everyone should be at least vaguely familiar with.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While the basis of western government lies upon a foundation of John Locke's writing, we've pretty much forgotten what he said. This is an essential read for just about anybody who wants to say something intelligent about our political situation.
Rachel C.
So, I wrote a review for this when I read it but accidentally deleted a whole bunch of reviews when I was reorganizing my shelves... So I guess I just have to read them all again so I can give accurate reviews :D
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jill by: George Wythe College
I learned a great deal from this book, much about natural law, paternal law and duty, about why man forms society and how legislature works and when it doesn't, about conquering and being conquered - it's really a tremendous read. There are many truths to be learned here, highly recommend it!
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
We have John Locke and this essay to thank for our fundamental beliefs in inalienable human rights and freedom from tyranny. If you want to form a real understanding of these principles, not just regurgitated talking points, then this is the book for you. Read this book!
Feb 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic book that brought a lot more insight to my study of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It's slow in some places, but overall it's well worth the time invested in reading it.
Karl Schissel
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
It's interesting to look at the foundation while the house we live in is being torn down.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Concise and necessary. Read it. Be better for it.
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This made me a libertarian again. His chapter on property destroys the progressive social justice fantasy.
Fredrick Danysh
Jul 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: political
Locke writes about the role of government in the Second Thesis and about government's role in religion in the letter on tolerance. A good view on the political thinking of the period.
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political
John Locke is now one of my heroes. He truly understood governments proper role and how to set it up years before the revolution.
Mar 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Definitely one of the must-read political philosophy books. Better than Leviathan but the two must often be read in concert. The American Founding Fathers all read Locke.
Apr 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like private property
makes an interesting case for executive privilege
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
A great read - helped to build the foundation for constitutional democracy.
Brittany Petruzzi
Locke's understanding of government accounts for much of what is wrong with America. I wish I could burn this book from the memories of western culture.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

John Locke was an English philosopher. Locke is considered the first of the British Empiricists, but is equally important to social contract theory. His ideas had enormous influence on the development of epistemology and political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenmen
More about John Locke

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“Freedom then is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us, O. A.8 55, “a liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws.” But freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, where the rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man; as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of nature.” 1 likes
“making laws with penalties of death, and consequently” 0 likes
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