Social Contract Theory: Natural Rights and Personhood Within Democracy

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Personhood is a central issue within ethics and natural rights debates. For any theory of ethics or system of declaring natural rights which purports how man should be treated and/or to what rights he is so entitled must begin with what ‘man’ is. There is no doubt man has an inherent value that entities such as flies and trees lack. This value does not come from mere physical form, but from what comprises personhood; because these things can be separated from our physical form they can fail to be developed or instantiated within man’s physical form. Natural rights, and the debate about what they are and where they come from, have been long-standing issues in the philosophical as well as political communities. One thing that does seem clear…show more content…
Both Locke and Rousseau believe that man, within the state of nature, is not a brutal creature void of morality. Hobbes famous quote concerning man’s natural condition, “and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," is indicative of his vastly different views regarding the State of Nature.
The Law of Nature, which is Locke’s basis for all morality, is bestowed upon humanity by God. This is what keeps the State of Nature from automatically becoming an intolerable warzone. His belief in God greatly influenced his views of human nature, and what constitutes personhood, but his version of the Social Contract Theory had no less influence on our modern secular democracy. The Law of Nature demands that man not harm another man in respect to his, “life, health, liberty, or possessions.” Locke’s view of human nature grants all men equality under the Law of Nature and the capacity to recognize what it is in him that demands this protection from harm, in others. Nevertheless, the Law of Nature does allow man the defense of his own life. Rousseau has a similar idea regarding the conditions in the state of nature. However, his basis for this idea is not contingent upon a God-given Law of Nature, but upon the capacity for human empathy. According to Rousseau, the state of nature was simple and peaceful. Man was a relatively small

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