unit 1 assignment 2 Jane Berick

Passage: Gold, silver, and diamonds are things that fancy or agreement hath put the value on, more than real use and the necessary support of life. Now of those good things which Nature hath provided in common, every one hath a right (as hath been said) to as much as he could use; and had a property in all he could effect with his labour; all that his industry could extend to, to alter from the state Nature had put it in, was his. (paragraph 46)

This passage confused me at first because I couldn’t really get a grasp of what Locke was trying to say about money. He seems to be saying that all men have a right to as much money as he could use, but under that logic, couldn’t people just find other uses for money or other things they wanted to own, like more cows or food? Then I read this passage again in the context of what he says in paragraph 47, which is essentially that money is a good that will never spoil, unlike fruit or meat. Rather than thinking of money the way I would do now in 2019, I tried to think about it in earlier times, when it didn’t hold the power it does today and was just another item to trade or barter. There also weren’t as many options for spending money back then as there are now, so really you couldn’t have infinite uses for it. As he says in paragraph 49 (paraphrased), money doesn’t actually have a use to us since we as a society have to agree on what it means or what its value is, but food and shelter are inherently useful at any time. This definitely connects to Locke’s idea about a hypothetical perfect state of Nature, because I think in the real world people are more greedy and would take as much money as possible. We did not explicitly talk about money in class, but thinking about power and wealth, it’s interesting to consider a time when money did not hold the power it does today, and was just a good that was exchanged for other goods is very interesting. Today, money and power and definitely connected, so it’s interesting to think about the evolution of money and how power came to be so closely linked to it. 

Unit 1 Assignment 2 by River Meng

  1. Men being, as has been said, by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent, which is done by agreeing with other men, to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living, one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left, as they were, in the liberty of the state of Nature. When any number of men have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest. (Paragraph 95)
  2. The reason I chose this passage is because Locke introduced the concept of social compact and its mechanisms to his readers. Throughout the “Two Treatises”, Locke’s primary object was to figure out the origin of political power that is not “Divine Right”, as argued by Filmer. And this idea of “social contract” was his answer. Locke argued that the origin of political power came from people’s voluntary sacrifice of some of their perfect freedom and equality to make sure the world in which they live in doesn’t fall apart. He also argued that an ideal government should always make its decisions based on the consent of the majority, without which the government would be illegitimate.
  3. The underlying statement of this concept, which Locke inferred in the passage, is that since the government started as a social compact between the people, the people should have certain power and responsibility to overthrow the government when the majority of them believe the government is failing at doing its job. This is the very idea that inspired the Founder Fathers of the United States to start a revolution against Great Britain after the British started collecting all different taxes that weren’t accepted by the colonists. If we look at the language of the Declaration of Independence, we can find plenty of influence by Locke. One of the most famous lines in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” is directly influenced by Locke’s idea of “state of perfect freedom and equality” enjoyed by all men. 
  4. Why would anyone give up the freedom of the state of nature?

Rachael Devecka, Slavery, Humanity, and Locke

“This freedom from absolute, arbitrary power is so necessary to, and closely joined with, a man’s preservation, that he cannot part with it but by what forfeits his preservation and life together. For a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot by compact or his own consent enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another to take away his life when he pleases. Nobody can give more power than he has himself, and he that cannot take away his own life cannot give another power over it. Indeed, having by his fault forfeited his own life by some act that deserves death, he to whom he has forfeited it may, when he has him in his power, delay to take it, and make use of him to his own service; and he does him no injury by it. For, whenever he finds the hardship of his slavery outweigh the value of his life, it is in his power, by resisting the will of his master, to draw on himself the death he desires. 

This is the perfect condition of slavery, which is nothing else but the state of war continued between a lawful conqueror and a captive, for if once compact enter between them, and make an agreement for a lim- ited power on the one side, and obedience on the other, the state of war and slavery ceases as long as the compact endures; for, as has been said, no man can by agreement pass over to another that which he hath not in himself—a power over his own life.

I confess, we find among the Jews, as well as other nations, that men did sell themselves; but it is plain this was only to drudgery, not to slavery; for it is evident the person sold was not under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power, for the master could not have power to kill him at any time, whom at a certain time he was obliged to let go free out of his service; and the master of such a servant was so far from having an arbitrary power over his life that he could not at pleasure so much as maim him, but the loss of an eye or tooth set him free…”

One issue I’ve wondered about, was what Locke’s take on slavery would be. I first imagined that he would justify it by saying that by removing another person from the state of nature, you’d make them your ‘property.’ However, Locke’s actual stance is nothing of the kind. He first declares that nobody can enslave themself to anyone else, because we don’t have absolute right over our own lives and can’t give away more power than we have. He goes on to say that slavery is justified as a punishment (which is written into the 13th ammendment, so it’s easy to see the influence Locke had). Then there’s a bit about war and ‘perfect’ slavery, which I struggled to understand––both as a concept and in how it connected to the previous idea of crime. Locke ends the passage by going into examples of people who, it could be argued, did sell themselves––but into drudgery. At first, I didn’t understand the distinction between drudgery and slavery, but after looking up ‘drudgery’ and discussing the paragraph with classmates, we came to the conclusion that it referenced indentured servitude––which a person with rights to their own labor but not life could freely give. It wasn’t until I read Professor Quillen’s notes that I understood that Locke was being literal in his war comment, and actually considered war a justification for slavery. I now interpret the passage as saying that slavery is invalid between humans under normal circumstances, but servitude is okay, because it’s voluntary and the “master” has only limited control. I believe that Locke thinks that exercising absolute authority over another person is valid after the enslaved person committed a crime or entered into a state of war (which is essentially trying to commit a crime) and forfeited their intrinsic rights. This connects to the question of who is human and who is not. If Locke defines humans as having freedom, and slaves lack freedom, then, to him, people who commit (or attempt) crimes deserving of death are less than human.

Unit 1 assignment 1 by Simon Cheng

Group B

Question: How to deal with discrimination?

Agree on: Finding any similarity that makes the individual resonates deep in the heart with the other. In other words, find something the same among the difference.

Disagree on: Sometimes the difference is something that cannot be avoid, and bad things happened. But we can always buy him a chocolate milkshake.

Unit 1: Assignment 1 by Gwenyth Van Doren

Group B

Question: How do we connect with people whose views are vastly different from our own? 

Agree: There are more things that connect us as humans rather than divides us. 

Disagree: The power of human connections to change how we interact in society. 

Unit 1 Assignment 1 by Mary Shandley

Group A

Question: How do we replace our one-dimensional images of those who are “other” with an understanding of their multi-dimensional humanity?

Agree on: It is easier for us to dehumanize someone if all we know about them is what makes them “different” from us. Embracing others and talking to real people instead of relying on stereotypes to make assumptions is a way of bridging the gap between “us” and “them.”

Disagree on: the actual importance of identity and how we should make use of our own identities in this conversation

Unit 1 Assignment 1 by Harrison Diggs

Group A

Question: What effect does power have upon identity?

Agree: Identity can be reduced into a single “story” where the powerful background becomes seen as the main identity. This creates a stereotype where the full complexity and breadth of ones identity cannot be seen.

Disagree: Disagree on the magnitude of effect that power can have on identity.

Unit 1 assignment 1 by River Meng

Group A

Question: How should the “dominant” group of people  learn to fight off the problems of the post-colonial era(i.e. Stereotypes, cultural appropriation, cultural colonialism, etc.)?

Agree on: The “dominant” people, in most cases people with white Anglo-Saxon ancestry, need to learn and understand the “full” history and culture of other cultures. They should be encouraged to speak out their opinions after they became well-versed to a foreign culture,but they should not, under any circumstances, belittle foreign cultures. As the dominant, or homogenous group of western culture, white people, in some sense, have more responsibility to learn and appreciate other cultures, especially those from third-world countries, because of their imperialistic history.

Disagree on: The immigrant’s cultural transformation after arriving at the new country. 

Unit One Assignment One: Sam Van Horn

Group A


Question: Are generalizations of minority viewpoints due to societies’ warped perception from the driven, repetitive single narrative over time?

Agree on: Stories that originate from different viewpoints should be cherished and shared to dissipate the common “stereotypical” viewpoint now.

Disagree on: It is dangerous to only have one identity in today’s world.