John Locke pp 103-128 | Cite as

Moral Principles

  • J. D. Mabbott
Part of the Philosophers in Perspective book series


The Published Works. Locke’s published works contain few references to moral theory or to the laws of nature, in which he included the basic principles of morals. Though the Essay Concerning Human Understanding originated in a discussion about the principles of morality and revealed religion, in which Locke and five or six of his friends ‘found themselves at a stand by the difficulties that arose on every side’,1 the Essay itself does not deal in detail with these difficulties nor include a full enquiry on ethics. Locke intended to give morals the same kind of extended treatment afforded to other types of ideas in the Essay and he was urged both by friends and by critics to do this. His refusal seems to have been due to the survival of the doubts and difficulties which had launched the Essay and also to changes in his own views as he wrote successive drafts and published successive editions of it.


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  1. 2.
    W. von Leyden, John Locke: Essays on the Law of Nature, 1954; ‘John Locke and Natural Law’, Philosophy, 1956Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Two Tracts on Government, P. Abrams (ed.) 1967, to which notes 4–6 in section II (i) of this chapter refer.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Essays on the Law of Nature, W. von Leyden (ed.) 1954, to which notes 8–33 in section II (ii) of this chapter refer. 188Google Scholar
  4. 41.
    First published by W. von Leyden in Philosophy, 1956, p. 23Google Scholar
  5. 43.
    Printed in Lord King’s Life, 1858, pp. 308–13Google Scholar

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© J. D. Mabbott 1973

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