Essay Concerning Human Understanding Impact

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Locke knew his work was dangerous—he never acknowledged his authorship within his lifetime.

Two Treatises was first published, anonymously, in December 1689 (following printing conventions of the time, its title page was marked 1690).

Locke chose Filmer as his target, he says, because of his reputation and because he "carried this Argument [jure divino] farthest, and is supposed to have brought it to perfection" (1st Tr., § 5).

Filmer's text presented an argument for a divinely ordained, hereditary, absolute monarchy.

The Two Treatises begin with a Preface announcing what Locke hopes to achieve, but he also mentions that more than half of his original draft, occupying a space between the First and Second Treatises, has been irretrievably lost.

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Peter Laslett maintains that, while Locke may have added or altered some portions in 1689, he did not make any revisions to accommodate for the missing section; he argues, for example, that the end of the First Treatise breaks off in mid-sentence.The First Treatise is an extended attack on Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha.Locke's argument proceeds along two lines: first, he undercuts the Scriptural support that Filmer had offered for his thesis, and second he argues that the acceptance of Filmer's thesis can lead only to slavery (and absurdity).The original title of the Second Treatise appears to have been simply "Book II," corresponding to the title of the First Treatise, "Book I." Before publication, however, Locke gave it greater prominence by (hastily) inserting a separate title page: "An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent and End of Civil Government." The First Treatise is focused on the refutation of Sir Robert Filmer, in particular his Patriarcha, which argued that civil society was founded on a divinely sanctioned patriarchalism.Locke proceeds through Filmer's arguments, contesting his proofs from Scripture and ridiculing them as senseless, until concluding that no government can be justified by an appeal to the divine right of kings.The First Treatise attacks patriarchalism in the form of sentence-by-sentence refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, while the Second Treatise outlines Locke's ideas for a more civilized society based on natural rights and contract theory.This publication contrasts former political works by Locke himself.that of the Lord proprietors of the colony; the document was a legal document written for and signed and sealed by the eight Lord proprietors to whom Charles II had granted the colony.In this context, Locke was only a paid secretary, writing it much as a lawyer writes a will.Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, Locke's mentor, patron and friend, introduced the bill, but it was ultimately unsuccessful.Richard Ashcraft, following in Laslett's suggestion that the Two Treatises were written before the Revolution, objected that Shaftesbury's party did not advocate revolution during the Exclusion Crisis.


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