Understanding John Locke: The Smart Student's Guide to Locke's Second Treatise of Government

Genre: Non Fiction

Book Summary

This is the second book in the Smart Student's Guide to Philosophical Classics series. Understanding John Locke is an introduction and guide to one of the most influential books in the history of political philosophy: John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, first published in 1689. John Locke's short book was the intellectual inspiration of two revolutions: The Whig revolt against absolute monarchy in 17th century England and almost 100 years later, the revolt of the American colonies against British rule, culminating in the founding of the United States of America. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Mason and James Madison all ranked John Locke as one of the most influential thinkers they consulted during the American revolution and the formation of the liberal constitutional state that emerged from it. In his introduction to Second Treatise, Laurence Houlgate takes the student along with him in a clear account and exploration of Locke's main theories about the nature and origin of political power, the state of nature, the state of war, the law of nature, the social contract, the origin of private property, the distinction between political, paternal and tyrannicall power, the legitimate placing of political power, the separation of legislative and executive power, and the conditions for justifiable revolution. Houlgate's book concludes with a postscript comparing the replies that Locke and his ancient Greek predecessor Plato might give to the central questions of political philosophy. Professor Houlgate's book is not a version of Cliff Notes, nor is it a lengthy scholarly monograph full of end notes and incomprehensible technical terms. It is a book for beginning philosophy and political science students who want more than an outline. It is a book for smart students who also want to understand the progression of John Locke's ideas, arguments and methodology.

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About the Author

Laurence Houlgate is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of California, Los Angeles and subsequently held professorships at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and George Mason University, Virginia. He has published many articles in philosophy and law journals and is the author of several books: The Child and the State (Johns Hopkins UP, 1980), Family and State (Rowman and Littlefield, 1990), Morals, Marriage and Parenthood (Wadsworth, 1999).
His most recent publications are three books in his Smart Student's Guide to Philosophical Classics series: Understanding Plato: The Smart Student's Guide to the Socratic Dialogues and the Republic (Amazon Kindle, 2016); Understandng John Locke: The
Smart Student's Guide to Locke's Second Treatise of Government (2017); and Understanding John Stuart Mill: Utilitarianism and On Liberty (2018).

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