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The state of nature, social contract theory by Locke starts from the concept of man in a primitive state without political authority or formal checks on the behaviour of individuals. They considered that such a stateless autonomous condition could not prevail if man was to move beyond a primitive existence. This could only be achieved if man could be guided by natural law that would lead them to a developed social and political life. The major purpose of this project revolves in stating and analyzing the theory of the state of nature, social contract as seen and conceived by John Locke. John Locke’s state of nature is a state of natural law. The natural being “the non-aggression principle.” The state of nature is governed by a law that creates obligations for everyone. And reason, which is that law, teaches anyone who takes the trouble to consult it, that because we are all equal and independent, no one ought to harm anyone else in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. There are lots of information that can be derived from the study. In Locke’s state of nature, social contract, described the state of nature and man’s progression into ‘civil’ society. Locke agrees that before men came to govern themselves, they all existed in a state of nature. But, however, the reasons which force man into such a society differ from one author to the other. This, in turn, leads them to have a contrasting view point on the powers and duties of the sovereign as well the state.








John Locke (1632-1704) developed his social contract theory at a time of religious, political and social upheaval in England. He was archetypal enlightenment figures well acquainted with the scientific and philosophical concerns of their time. Locke was a physician and a member of the Royal Society. He shared the enlightenment view of the world. For him God was the first cause but his scientific understanding of cause and effect shaped his view, not just of physical objects in the natural world and how they interacted but also of individuals and how they interacted in society.


Locke published Two Treaties of Government in 1690 “to justify” (TToG) the struggle of 1640 – 1660 and the revolution of 1688. It was a time a great political turmoil. The certainty and stability that had been provided by the divine authority of the monarch had been removed. With the removal of government legitimized by the church and by God a return to stability required the creation of new certainties. Locke was both making social, political and religious statements as a result of the Puritan uprising and civil war. More importantly they were intending to formulate forms of government that had intellectual integrity and gave legitimacy to the political structure after revolution and the removal of the old order. Using scientific method, he argued from his understanding of the first principals of human interaction and he came to powerful rational conclusions. To develop his theory of government he started with man in his original condition, or “the state of nature”. Where it differed was in his assumptions about the nature of ungoverned human interaction and behaviour. (jb summary). Starting from his very different assumptions as to the “state of nature” he came to different conclusions and provided different prescriptions for the government of society.



As earlier stated, social contract theory has been used by many philosophers in various ways. John Locke also saw it from different perspectives to a certain level. John Locke conceived social contract to exist wherever some citizens united into one body having a common established law and judicature to appeal to with authority to decide controversies between them and punish offenders.


According to Locke: Social contract exist wherever any number of men so unite into one society as to quit every clue of his executive power of the law of nature and to resign it to the public in all cases that excludes him from appealing for protection to the law established by it.

The problem consequently hinges in the confusion and discrepancy inherent in trying to understand the philosopher’s theory of social contract.



The major purpose of this work revolves in stating and analyzing the theory of the state of nature, social contract as seen and conceived by John Locke.



In spite of Locke’s belief that his political doctrines would resolve conflicts, his work aroused immediate opposition and has given rise to unending controversy.

In this work the state of nature, social contract by John Locke has been made to significantly enable us gain a more profound understanding of Social contract theories.



It is worthy of note to point out here clearly that the theory of social contract is not the generality of the works of the philosopher. For instance, John Locke wrote other works in addition to his social contract. Locke’s most important and influential political writings are contained in his Second Treatises of Government. The second treatise contains Locke’s own constructive view of the aims and justification for civil government and is titled, Essay concerning the true original extent and ends of civil government.


Locke’s books were the product of long years of reading and reflection. As at fifty-four, he has not published something of importance though he has written a good deal that remained in manuscript.  His letter on toleration appeared both in Latin and English in 1689.  His great essay concerning human understanding saw the light of the day in 1690. And in the same year, he published the two treatises of government.


Most importantly, it should be understood that this work does not intend in any way to handle all the philosophical works of this philosopher in view. The scope of this study is simply limited to their theory of social contract. It does not tackle any other issue outside this. That is to say that other philosophies postulated by the philosopher are outside the scope of this work.



The method of this research work shall be expository and analytical. I intend to expose the different views of John Locke on social contract. After the exposition of his thoughts, a comparison and a contrast and critical evaluation will follow. Over and above all, this research uses scholarly, academically and philosophical method.





SOCIAL CONTRACT: This is a theory or model, originating during the age of enlightenment that typically addresses the questions of the origin of society and the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.


THEORY: This is a contemplative and rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking, or the results of such thinking. Depending on the context, the results might, for example, include generalized explanations for how nature works.


COMPARATIVE STUDY: This is the systematic observation of the similarities and dissimilarities between two or more branches of science or subject of study.



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