John Locke And Rousseau 's Theories Of The State Of Nature Essay

1503 Words Nov 17th, 2015 7 Pages
In John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theories, the state of nature is pre-political. It aims to explain the origin of the political order and the legitimacy of human society. Men in Locke’s theory give up their perfect freedom in the state of nature to secure the advantages of civilized society (Locke 495). The role of the government then is to protect the natural rights of all namely man’s property and liberty (Locke 493). According to Rousseau, men in their natural state have equality and liberty but they lose these when they enter the civil society. Civilization corrupts men. So, the state/government unites them under the general will and brings people into harmony. This paper argues that the role of the state differs for both Locke and Rousseau because they have different conceptions of rights derived from the state of nature. To do this, this essay examines Locke and Rousseau’s purposes of the state of nature, the law of nature, the right of nature, the social contract and the role of the state.
To explain the origin of political power, Locke situates men in their natural state. He denounces Hobbes’ natural condition of the constant state of war. To him, it is actually a chaotic state but it is neither good nor bad (Locke 501). Men are equal and free to do whatever they want, but they are bound by the law of nature or God’s reasons and will (Locke 493; 498). This state of nature is when a government or civil authority is absent. Rousseau’s state of nature paints…

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