Comparing Locke´s Natural Law with Rousseau´s Discourse on Inequality
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The relationship between nature, the state and individuals is a complex one; political philosophers have been studying these relationships ever since the dawn of time, with the goal being to determine the best way in which the people relate to nature. Based on the ideas of philosopher John Locke, the state does not have the ability to infringe upon the right of people to determine their own destiny; he believes that mankind’s best state is to bring the best parts of their natural instincts into society, collecting together into a “state of perfect freedom.” Conversely, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that mankind was at its best in its natural state, behaving like an animal and worrying only about its individual needs – the introduction of society makes them into monsters with unequal relationships to each other. These two philosophies are distinctly different, going under two wildly different notions about the influence of nature in a person’s life. Between these two philosophers, a complex understanding of the relationship between man and the natural order can be found, as well as the consequences of evil due to nature.
Locke on Natural Law
John Locke’s ideas are heavily linked with right-libertarianism: in typical liberalism and libertarianism, a small government is the road to a great civilization; individual liberty and free will is valued more than anything else, and people must be permitted to look after their own interests. Free market capitalism as it stands today is often derived from this principle, since it is conceived that the idea of a free market would permit individuals to achieve their dreams based on their will and resources. John Locke was often said to be the Father of Classical Liberali...
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...he natural man focuses on himself alone; Locke believes that man can be advantaged by modern society, as long as he brings natural laws like private property into the civilized world. These two philosophers have decidedly opposing views, insofar as Locke thinks the civilized world can include natural law and Rousseau does not. Given the severely entrenched nature of civilization in human history and life, it is easy to see how Rousseau’s philosophy can seem cynical; Locke’s perspective is much more willing to work within the confines of society that have been established.
Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. Awnsham Churchill, 1689.
Melchert, Norman. The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy (Oxford University Press), 2010.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. A Discourse on Inequality. New York: Penguin Books, 1984.