Locke and Rousseau Essay

1785 Words 8 Pages
Locke and Rousseau present themselves as two very distinct thinkers. They both use similar terms, but conceptualize them differently to fulfill very different purposes. As such, one ought not be surprised that the two theorists do not understand liberty in the same way. Locke discusses liberty on an individual scale, with personal freedom being guaranteed by laws and institutions created in civil society. By comparison, Rousseau’s conception portrays liberty as an affair of the entire political community, and is best captured by the notion of self-rule. The distinctions, but also the similarities between Locke and Rousseau’s conceptions can be clarified by examining the role of liberty in each theorist’s proposed state of nature and …show more content…
Hence, the institutions and laws of civil society exist under the mandate to protect the “life, liberty, and estate” of each member. Therefore, liberty, for Locke, requires certain enabling conditions to allow it to be enjoyed, and these conditions are put in place by law. Rousseau’s state of nature differs greatly from Locke’s. The human in Rousseau’s state of nature exists purely as an instinctual and solitary creature, not as a Lockean rational individual. Accordingly, Rousseau’s human has very few needs, and besides sex, is able to satisfy them all independently. This human does not contemplate appropriating property, and certainly does not deliberate rationally as to the best method for securing it. For Rousseau, this simplicity characterizes the human as perfectly free, and because it does not socialize with others, it does not have any notion of inequality; thus, all humans are perfectly equal in the state of nature. Nonetheless, Rousseau accounts for humanity’s contemporary condition in civil society speculating that a series of coincidences and discoveries, such as the development of the family and the advent of agriculture, gradually propelled the human away from a solitary, instinctual life towards a social and rationally contemplative
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