Front Page Titles (by Subject) Locke, Suicide, & Political Resistance - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
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Locke, Suicide, & Political Resistance - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Locke, Suicide, & Political Resistance
“Locke on Suicide.” Political Theory 8(May 1980): 69–182.
Locke proclaimed in the Second Treatise an absolute prohibition against suicide on the grounds that we are God's property and are thus made to last during His pleasure. However, other aspects of Locke's thought don't fit with this absolute, theologically based doctrine. In The Essay on Human Understanding, we are told that nature intends the pleasure and preservation of the whole, not each of its constituent parts. God designed pain for the preservation of the whole. This implies that suicide for those with unceasing pain cannot be condemned by Locke as it does not impede God's plan for the good of the whole.
Furthermore, within the Treatise itself there are doubts concerning how seriously one should take the absolute prohibition on suicide. Locke justifies the taking of slaves in war partly on the grounds that, should the victor's reign become too harsh, the slave can resist and thus obtain the death he desires. And Locke suggests that the slave is a moral agent in doing so, since he acts voluntarily. That a voluntary action designed to produce one's death is not denigrated but rather is used as a partial justification of slavery points to Locke's less than absolute prohibition of suicide.
Even more direct evidence is provided by Locke's declaration that in the state of nature man lacks liberty to destroy himself or any creature in his possession except where justified by some “nobler use.” Why then the insistence that the “law of nature” absolutely prohibits suicide? The author offers three reasons. First, Locke wanted to bask in the reflection of conventional (theologically grounded) opinions. He believed theological arguments were important for the vast majority of mankind that must believe rather than know. Furthermore, parallel secular and nonsecular argument would help the reader become accustomed to the fact that God's demands are not distinct from those stemming from one's desires. Secondly, the prohibition of suicide furthers Locke's argument in the following way: since all men are equal as God's workmanship, prohibition on suicide provides Locke with a nonutilitarian argument for refraining from taking others' lives. Thirdly, the denial of a man's arbitrary right to take his own life provides support for the right to revolution. Citizens can resist arbitrary power because no “body can transfer to another body more power than it has itself” and nobody has absolute power over oneself. The right to resist arbitrary power is strengthened by our status as God's property. Of course, the fact that no one has arbitrary power over one's own person or property under the law of nature does not rule out suicide under all circumstances.