On the Case of Locke’s Limit of Free Speech, and Its Justification

John Locke Second Treatise on Government Freedom of Speech Harm Liberalism


  • Muhammad Reza Tryandhi Karundeng
    School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America, and Department of International Relations, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Hasanuddin University, Makassar, Indonesia
Vol. 2 No. 1 (2023)
Regular Research Articles
December 31, 2023


John Locke’s Second Treatise exists as one of the fundamental concepts in modern political thoughts, acting as a basic foundation of liberalism at its early stages due to its core concepts focusing around freedom of speech and expression. His understanding of said freedom, however, comes with a limit centred around both direct and indirect harm, which acts as this article’s main point of interest. The author argues that Locke’s implementation of a limit on free speech does not impede the people’s freedom at all, but instead serves to create an environment where every opinion matters, no matter the origin, be it from a majority or minority. To support this argument, the author has put forth three claims based around several parts of the Second Treatise, along with case studies relating to them. As a result, Locke’s emphasis on the limits of free speech advocated for a wide-ranging opportunity for everyone to declare their opinions freely and openly, necessitating vigorous debates between opinions without resulting in friction between differing groups, acting as a tool for progress instead of conflict. To conclude, Locke reveals a nuanced understanding of freedom of speech while highlighting its role as a cornerstone of early liberalism while acknowledging limits around harm, and contending that his imposition of boundaries fosters inclusive environment while encouraging debates between opinions, and ultimately promotes progress in a society.