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Locke’s Political Society

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Some Problems of Terminology in Two Treatises of Government

image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

This paper not only describes a confusing network of terms (including “political society”, “commonwealth”, and “community”), thus defining a problem of interpretation, but also partially solves the problem. One result is that Locke turns out to differ in at least one important way from those theorists of social contract supposedly belonging to the same tradition, especially Hobbes, Rousseau, and Rawls. The Two Treatises lacks any social contract, that is, a contract constituting society in the inclusive sense usually given “society” in discussions of “social contract”. Locke’s concept of “political society” deserves a closer look, since it has largely been overlooked until now.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Philosophy, Humanities Department, Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL 60616, USA,


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