Cathy Diop – Locke’s Distinction between states

Men living together according to reason without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of Nature. But force, or a declared design of force upon the person of another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal to for relief, is the state of war; and it is the want of such an appeal gives a man the right of war even against an aggressor, though he be in society and a fellow-subject. (paragraph 19)

I choose Locke’s passage on the difference between a state of nature versus a state of war because he made an interesting distinction between the two but I struggled with comprehending what purpose the passage served. In the state of nature, I viewed “authority” as a form of force and felt confused about how having force in one state was not the same as having force in the other state. I questioned if a world without force existed and therefore if a state of nature did. However, I failed to realize that Locke might have wanted an absolute state of nature to be questioned. I had to delve into my questions and the example mentioned within the text to start understanding the difference between the two states was not the presence of force but how force was utilized. Locke’s purpose in establishing this difference between the two states was to highlight that they aren’t mutually exclusive and this concept plays into his argument about the desire for political societies with rules that must be obeyed. In our discussions, the topic of whom the responsibility should be placed on came up in regards to being educated about more than a single story and I believe through Locke’s argument it can be interpreted that in a world of nature and war everyone bears responsibility when it comes to issues of social concern.

Leave a Reply