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Locke rousseau comparison Essay

? By comparing and contrasting the role of property, the state of nature, and technology within the philosophies of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, this essay will argue the opinions of these two theorists. Each theorist has a different foundation of the conception of private properties. The state of nature is looked at deeply within how society perceives mankind and what is right and wrong. As technology changes, both philosophers speak about the developments of these great powerful sources. There are several advantages and disadvantages that both Locke and Rousseau discuss.

Regarding property both Locke and Rousseau have different approaches on this issue of matter. Locke speaks greatly on how property is natural and gives natural benefits to mankind. Locke responds with: “Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person; this no body has any right to but himself,” (Locke, 12). Locke takes an idealist approach on the matter.

He argues that human rights are reinforced by private property, and he even goes into saying how property is a human right in itself. Locke believes in private property and Rousseau does not. In Locke’s theories on private property, he firmly says that one could use nothing that is common to all men if he cannot make it his own. This being said, even in today’s society we still think of the big picture of this so-called “American Dream”, and that consists of ownership of property. Society still thinks back to Locke’s theories on private property by wanting it to be within our natural state.

The idealistic vision of ownership includes private property being ours. Locke goes into more greater details on how we were born free, which means we have natural freedom. Rousseau believes that private property could only be established, as the law was established to protect this idea. Rousseau does not perceive the same idea has Locke on private property, by saying that property is really only acknowledged once there is a state with laws. Rousseau goes on to say that property is owned by the state and that from over periods of time mankind just acquired their property.

Property is said by Rousseau to be conventional, and he goes into detail on tracing back in time to prove in his idea that the Earth furnished mankind to having any particular property. He reveals: “.. for this idea of property depends so much on prior ideas, which could only be successively acquired, that it could not be suggested all at once to the human mind…Let us recur therefore still farther back, and endeavor to trace under one point of view that slow succession of events and discoveries, as they proceeded in natural order. ”(Blaisdell,7) Rousseau undermines private property as being a human right. He sees property as eliminating the equality among people while being held in the state of nature.

Locke argues that humans seek more by the state of nature, while Rousseau believes that humans seek more from social influences. The state of nature for Locke is a state of freedom and equality.

The state of nature coincides with natural law, which is known to be a result of moral odds applying to all people. Equality is looked at widely from Locke when he speaks upon the state of nature. Not one man can attain more power than another. Locke says: “A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature.. ”(Locke,2).

Locke even wishes to say those who have supreme power of making laws do not even hold more power than any other man. Only criminals who become degenerate are the only ones to be of lesser power than others. Rousseau does not believe in the state of nature but more by how society influences humans. He says that people are not free as long as there are laws in society. Two distinct principles of human actions are that 1.

We keep ourselves interested in welfare and preservation and 2. Be sensible to any human being that is suffering pain and death. This being said Rousseau states: “It is from the concurrence and combination, which the understanding is capable of forming between these two principles, without its being at all necessary to annex that of sociability, that all the rules of natural equity appear to me readily deducible. ”(Blaisdell, 4). Rousseau fails to realize the state of nature controls mankind, because without that freedom and equality of the people will go unnoticed and they will not have a say in the world. Laws are used by government policies but yet should not be the only reason to influence the way humans think and act.

Moving onward to discuss the contrasting ideas of both philosophers, Locke and Rousseau, on the topic of technology both take a stand on the opposite side of the spectrum. For Locke he thinks technology and its development is good, and for Rousseau he thinks it is bad. The first revolution was men discovering tools and making them useful.

Without the usefulness of tools, how can one labor? Locke talks about improvements of mankind and these improvements would only come from developing and producing. With new technologies, money will generate allowing people to get wealthier without waste. Locke expresses: “For I ask, whether in the wild woods and uncultivated waste of America, left to nature without any improvement tillage, or husbandry, a thousand acres yield the needy and wretched inhabitants as many conveniences of life as ten acres of equally fertile land do in Devonshire, where they are well cultivated. (Locke,17)”

Rousseau talks about mankind during the revolutionary days of mining. He says that men were digging up for gold and silvers, but philosophers believed they were only mining iron and corn. Rousseau generally thinks technology is bad and that it was impossible for man to mine the believed gold and silvers. He begins to state: “It is very difficult to conjecture how mankind came first to know the nature and use of iron; for it is impossible to suppose they should think of digging the ore out of the mine, and preparing it for smelting, before they knew what would be the consequence of the process. (Blaisdell, 14). ”

Both philosophers John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau have substantially different theories on several topics. As discussed, Locke strongly believes in humans seeking motivation from nature, property having natural benefits, and that technology development is growing and is good for mankind. On the other hand Rousseau’s theories are complete opposite from Locke. He says that humans are influenced by society, property is not owned privately but is owned by government laws. Rousseau also says that technology is impossible and overall not good for mankind.


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