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Does Chapter 5 of Locke's Second Treatise, ‘Of PROPERTY,’ Deconstruct Itself?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2006

Charles D. Tarlton
State University of New York, Albanby


Chapter 5 of John Locke's Second Treatise, ‘Of Property,” is a text that undermines itself, stammering to an unresolved and irresolvable conclusion because the structure of conditions upon which most of its moral argument about private property is based cannot be stretched to encompass the sudden twist Locke tries to make at the end. The moral conditions by which Locke defines a virtuous private possession within God's gift of the world to all mankind in common resist being extended to include an economy of money and limitless, unequal possession. The text comes to an end in total uncertainty, pointing simultaneously in two opposite directions. This paper explores just how deeply and hopelessly these distortions affect the text.

Research Article
The Royal Institute of Philosophy 2006

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