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The “Chief End”

October 31, 2010

Locke’s “Chief End” is the “protection of property”.

Hobbes’s “Chief End” is the “protection of lives”.

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What is property worth if we don’t have life?

This question becomes extremely interesting as you ponder it further.  The “Chief End”  holds such a final meaning; it is what is left at the very end.  As I think about my feeling towards Hobbes’ and Locke’s diverse personal meanings of the phrase, I can’t grasp how the protection of life is not the “chief end” according to Locke.  Certainly property is important since it is the sole possession that is always present; however, I can understand Hobbes’ thought process much more.  Property is worthless without a life to possess it.

What makes ownership of property so imperative to a life?

Property plays a bigger role than just being a possession, it is definitely an article which defines the existence of a life.  In this way, property is viewed as a substance that is owned by one; because of this it has a great importance.  Property, to some, holds the ability to be equal to an existence.  If I think about this concept from this specific angle I can undoubtedly understand Locke’s beliefs in terms of property.

In modern times, property is gained only with the creation of contracts that determine the finances as well as the upkeep of the property.  Part of me believes that the written name on a legal contract is the defining point of life and the ownership of property.  One’s signature on a contract of property is proof that the person has a “life worth living”.

Do you believe the ownership of property leads to a “life worth living”?

In addition, what is the difference in emotion when you rent a home as opposed to owning it?

Isn’t there a greater more fulfilling feeling that you are overwhelmed with knowing you own your own personal property?

Personal Property is called personal for a reason.  Personal means it is solely your property, no one else’s.  Life is also our sole property, which is why in the state of nature we evolve to be interested in only our desires as we forget of the people’s surrounding us.

In conclusion, property is defined in a myriad of diverse ways which are each expressed differently.  The most interesting facet of this idea of property vs. life and their relation to “what makes life worth living”.








  1. adamhollenberg permalink
    October 31, 2010 9:01 PM

    This is an interesting point, but I would gather to say that this author has misinterpreted the readings a bit, especially Locke. Part of a human’s property is their life and their body, thus the essential point in both readings is relatively similar. The readings are not even so different and they are not very independent of each other if it is looked at in this way. Thus, the chief end, is in fact, staying alive and healthy.

    • Meredith Ambinder permalink
      October 31, 2010 9:58 PM

      I agree with the above statement. I think when Locke discusses property, it is less of a materialistic view than what you make it out to be. He speaks more of owning rights and your own body than to actual physical objects, and I think those rights are what he feels make life worth living, rather than materials.

  2. seangordon permalink
    October 31, 2010 10:19 PM

    Going along with your interpretation of the text, I personally agree that the chief end should be to preserve ones own life. While property is surely important, (especially in the context of how we interpret the term) it is like you said, “What is property worth if we don’t have life?”. In fact, some people don’t have any property at all except for their life which is clearly the most important thing.

  3. matteric9 permalink
    November 1, 2010 10:43 AM

    When you state that property plays a bigger role then just being a possession you are correct. I think you are forgetting an essential point, property is possession combined with labor. Therefore, possession itself does play a significant role in obtaining property.

  4. mattwax permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:46 AM

    Although the protection of property might be the “chief end” of the government, we must remember that he does not exclusivly speak to this ideal of material preservation. He often refers to the significance of the preservation of life, and many parts of our constitution include allusions to this concept from Locke’s writings.

    “Man being born…hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate.”

  5. neilrab permalink
    November 1, 2010 12:00 PM

    You are right, according to Locke the chief end is the protection of property. However, property can have several meanings, ranging from property referring to land to property referring to one’s body, in other words one’s life. For example, this can be seen when Locke talks about slavery, since he says that when one is faced with the opportunity to kill someone (for a good reason such as during war), one can spare the enemy’s life and instead make them your slave, in other words your property. While I completely disagree with his way of looking at slavery, it shows that life, whether your own or someone else’s could be considered to be property.

    I know Hobbes and Locke differ in many aspects of their writing, but if you look deep enough you can see that in fact they share a number of ideas. Hobbes believes that in the state of nature all we care about is preserving our lives. Locke says that in the state of nature we want to preserve our property. So considering life is property, wouldn’t you say in the long run they are both in accordance that preservation of life is the most important chief end?

  6. mbhilton permalink
    November 1, 2010 2:49 PM

    As far as the property makes life worth living is concerned, is it really our possessions that make our lives worth living? When we die we don’t take any of our possessions with us unless we’re an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, so can we really use that as a measurement of the worth of our lives?

  7. jptrue permalink
    November 1, 2010 4:45 PM

    The sentiment expressed by a few of the people above is something that I thought about as well when reading your blog. While reading I think the interpretation of property is wrong. In Locke, the author refers to property as objects that you have put your time and labor into. Because value you add to the object, such as farming a field, can’t be separated…the person is said to own the property. I like this idea of creation that Locke evokes in his writing. Thus, I don’t think property defines ones existence by the things they are able to purchase. Instead, I think one’s life is defined by the property they are able create. As a result, protecting one’s property is not important because it defines who they are in a social hierarchy, but because its a reflection of a persons life. Thus, its important to protect property rights in order to maintain and ensure the longevity of the value we have added to the world during our existence.

  8. Andrew Berman permalink
    November 1, 2010 8:18 PM

    “Do you believe the ownership of property leads to a “life worth living”?”

    Locke and Hobbes lived in a different time period than modern society. The definition of property has greatly changed over time. Back then all man had was his property having very few material possessions. Today there are so many material objects that we consider our property. If we lose some of our ‘property’ such as a flat screen tv or an ipod life is still worth living. But if someone in Locke or Hobbes era lost their property they would be lost, therefore their life would not be worth living.

    • Steve Neff permalink
      November 1, 2010 8:52 PM

      Yes I totally agree with what the poster above is saying. It is very hard to compare Locke and Hobbes to current society interpretation. When we think of property today, our possessions come to mind, many of which are thinks we want. Locke and Hobbes were discussing absolute necessities, like food, water and shelter. Many things that we own today is excess and not needed.

      I think it would be very interesting if you compared a child from Hobbes/Locke’s era with a child from 2010. I feel in today’s world, the “Needs” have become expected when the “wants” have become “needs”. For instance, I expect things like water, food and shelter and those are things I don’t have to worry at all about. Many are not as privileged as me but I think it’s a fair assumption that most people in the United States expect those things. But if I was cut off from my cell phone, TV and computer for a month, I don’t know what I would do, I might go crazy. Maybe it’s because I think those things define me or my personality. So I strongly believe that the definition of property has changed alot since Hobbes and Locke’s era.

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