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Burke And Locke On Revolution Essay

4003 words - 16 pages

I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. - Thomas JeffersonPolitical rebellion takes place when the people of a country feel it is essential that a change in government is made. Different nations have different ideas about the responsibilities of government, and as a result there are many possible reasons for political rebellion. John Locke, an English medical doctor and philosopher who lived until 1704, published his liberal theories about government, property, and the rights of man, in his book Second Treatise of Government. Edmund Burke, a writer with a legal background who spent his life involved in English politics, published his opinions about revolution in 1790 in his book Reflections on the Revolution in France. Both Locke and Burke support political rebellion, but Locke’s belief that politics are based upon abstract natural rights drives his support for the complete dissolution of government in the event of rebellion, while Burke’s belief that rights and morals are derived from the conventions of society makes his support for rebellion more reserved and conditional. This comparison is significant to any individuals considering revolution as a means of changing government. The outcomes of rebellion can depend on the underlying beliefs driving it, and both writers’ positions are useful to establish the underlying reasons for revolution, and some of the risks involved depending on the extent of the change.Locke believes that before we form civil society by consenting to establish government, we live in a State of Nature. He describes this pre-political state as,“...a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending on the will of any other man.” (Locke, 1980, p.81)The State of Nature is ruled essentially by human nature. Liberty, equality, self preservation, reason, and property are the most prominent principles that Locke feels are innate to humans. Locke explains how nature intended for all men to be equal,“...creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same facilities should be equal amongst another...” (Locke, 1980, p.8)Locke comes to the conclusion that humans are self preserving in the State of Nature, through his observations that we are attracted to pleasure and have aversions to pain. He believes that God gives us these attractions and aversions that preserve us, because we are essentially all the property of God. This limits the “perfect freedom” present in the State of Nature. Since we belong to God, we do not have the liberty to destroy ourselves. Although we are not all born with property (except through inheritance which Locke fully supports) the ability to acquire property is...

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