John Locke on Private
Property and Possessions

Kim Lyons

This following essay concerns the concept of Private Property and Possessions and the conflicts that might be set off over perceptions of property, through a comparison of John Locke the philosopher and John Locke on Lost.  It takes into account events on the island through season 2, episode 13.

John Locke the Enlightenment philosopher wrote about the idea of personal possessions after being steered towards politics by his employer and friend, the physician Anthony Cooper. These writings shed light onto one of the many sub-plot lines in the show.

John Locke the philosopher thought that, for example, if a group of people would find a virgin plot of unharvested land, the land belongs to all of them.

But if the land is labored on, the fruits of the labor belong to those who perform it. He also asserted that one's own body belongs to oneself.

John Locke the character metaphorically found an (conveniently) unharvested field in the hatch. He and others applied their labor to it, and thus appropriated the property. If Locke the character is based on the philosopher, my bet is that Mr. Friendly takes an opposite stance to that of John Locke the character's attitude on property.

When Capt. Zeke Gorton (aka Mr. Friendly, aka Tom) gave the little speech about "rude guests... not taking off their shoes in a man's house", he was referring specifically to the hatch and generally to the island. From Zeke's POV not only did Locke and Co. trespass into the hatch, but they took his possessions: weapons, food, appliances, etc.

What I find interesting is that Zeke refers to them as GUESTS, and he limits their access to certain boundaries. In his logic, that means that he also perceives them (their persons) also as possessions. Gorton thus stands in stark conflict with John Locke the philosopher who views one's body as one's possession.

In essence, Capt. Gorton makes a possessive claim on the hatch and its contents, as exemplified in his little speech about "rude guests not taking off their shoes in a man's house". If one logically extends Gorton's POV, on might perceive anything on the island as his possession. The point of that scene is the schism that marks their contrasting viewpoints, added to the fact that John Locke the philosopher sees one's own body as his or her possession. Gorton may not be in agreement with this primary platform of John Locke's philosophy. Gorton is the landlord. This schism will begin a war.

John Locke the philosopher thought one of a government’s basic responsibilities was to protect its people and their private property. We've already seen Claire and Walt kidnapped; Cindy is missing, and perhaps another abduction will call Locke into government formation; if Locke the character is based upon the philosopher, we should see the beginnings of a government form.

According to Locke, because all are equal in the state of nature, the proportional punishment of criminals is a task anyone may undertake. Only in cases when the precipitate action of the offender permits no time for appeal to the common sense, reason, and will of others, does this natural state degenerate into the state of war of each against all.

The above may explain why Locke takes the guns and other decisions into his own hands. "Punishment.... is a task anyone may undertake."


For further explanation, the following explains John Locke the philosopher's notions of property

Respond to this essay here.

Lost Online Studies 1.2

@2006 drabauer
The Society for Lost Studies