A preliminary analysis of John Locke"s two tracts on the civil magistrate



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In the two tracts that John Locke wrote on the power of the civil magistrate over indifferent matters in religious worship, he took a position that some have regarded as being uncharacteristically authoritarian. Even a cursory reading of those texts shows that to be the case; because of this quality of the tracts, they seem to have been set aside and ignored in discussions of Locke"s political thought. Although the tracts deal with a question that is basically religious, Locke did not limit himself to discussing the magistrate"s over strictly religious matters. Those wanderings from the apparent target of the tracts are numerous enough that if all of them are pieced together, they can be looked at as a complete political philosophy. What we intend to do in this thesis is to trace three concepts that are prevalent throughout the tracts and Locke"s later works to their end in the tracts. The concepts upon which we will focus our analysis are: the nature of man; the extent of the magistrate"s power; the end of government. By critically examining these concepts we hope to be able to draw some preliminary conclusions about the political thought of Locke in 1660.