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Property in Second Treatise of Civil Government and Robinson Crusoe

Property in Second Treatise of Civil Government and Robinson Crusoe

Both John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe deal with the question of property. In these two texts, the following questions arise: when does common property become an individual’s property; and what factors make the appropriation of property justifiable or not? These questions may be answered by looking at each author’s political views, followed by how they are incorporated in their work. Locke outlines the procedures for the transition of property to private ownership, while Defoe details the way Crusoe appropriates property (i.e., food, accommodations, and slaves) during the course of his stay on the deserted island. However, in order to really examine the question of ownership, it first must be established how property was viewed during Locke’s and Defoe’s eras.

Property was “a revolutionary force in the seventeenth century” (Larkin 56). A dictionary from that time period distinguished an individual’s property by “its independence from others’ control, defining it as ‘the highest right that a man hath or can have to anything, which is no way depending vpon any other mans courtesie'” (Harris 224). Property was widely distributed in England during Locke’s life (Larkin 57). Since it was natural to associate political authority with property during the seventeenth century, Locke’s theory of property was “seated with a view to politics” (Harris 226; Larkin 57). His Treatise of Civil Government was written after the civil war of 1642 (Larkin 57). Referring to property as that which individuals have “in themselves, and also in goods,” Locke expressed the view that “the supreme power cannot take from …

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Works Cited

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: Bantam Books, 1991.

Harris, Ian. The Mind of John Locke. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Larkin, Paschal. Property in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Howard Fertig Inc., 1969.

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government, The Works of John Locke. Vol. 5. London: Thomas Teggs et al., 1823. 352-367.

Novak, Maximillian E. Defoe and the Nature of Man. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

Shinagel, Michael. Daniel Defoe and Middle-Class Gentility. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.

Simmons, A. John. The Lockean Theory of Rights. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Tully, James. A Discourse on Property: John Locke and His Adversaries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Welch, Dennis. Thesis Statement Feedback. 27 October, 1998.

Guilt and Shame in Some Thoughts Concerning Education and Robinson Crusoe

Guilt and Shame in Some Thoughts Concerning Education and Robinson Crusoe

In Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century England, a major transition was occurring; attitudes were shifting towards a more sensibility-based perspective, in which the “warrior” mentality of earlier times was falling out of fashion, in favor of sensitive “gentlemen.” Such gentlemen were expected to be morally sound, well-educated, “enlightened.” Yet, despite all this, men were still expected to be masculine to be able to take control of a situation or solve a particular problem. John Locke postulated that all of this could be encouraged in young men via their education. Sadly, he found that no educational program at the time was up to the task. He argued that one of the foremost goals of education should be responsible self-government, or the ability to determine properly what to do and what not to do without an external authority commanding it. This ideal became very en vogue among sensible folk at this time many Englishmen (as well as other Europeans) wanted to be so morally upright that they need only answer to themselves. Locke, of course, had some thoughts on this, and those thoughts revolved chiefly around (of all things) shame.

Some Thoughts Concerning Education was first published by Locke in 1693. The ideas it advocated were progressive, even by today’s standards. One point he makes very clear is that physical rewards and punishments (as a system of encouraging morally-correct behavior) are ineffective in raising children to be responsible, moral adults (38 – 39). As an alternative, he suggested the following:

Esteem and disgrace are, of all others, the most powerful incentives to the mind, when once it is brought to relish …

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…other is standing nearby with a scornful eye, but true self-governance is about much more than that. Locke knew this to be true, and I think it’s obvious that Defoe agreed emphatically enough to base one of the most successful novels in history on very similar views.

Works Cited

Bredvold, Louis I. The Natural History of Sensibility. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1962

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: Bantam Books, 1991 (“Defoe”)

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe, Norton Critical Edition. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1975 (“Norton”)

Locke, John. Some Thoughts Concerning Education, The Works of John Locke, vol. 9. London: 1823

Moore, C. Backgrounds of English Literature 1700-1760. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1953

Yolton, John W. John Locke and Education. New York: Random House, Inc., 1971

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