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Locke vs. Rousseau Essay

?According to Rousseau, the original condition of mankind was a peaceful and quixotic time in which people lived solitary, uncomplicated lives. This differs from Locke’s concept of the state of nature in that, his natural condition of mankind was a state liberty in which one was able to conduct one’s life as they saw fit. Like Rousseau’s, it was a time of peace between the people, but Locke’s was not necessarily a solitary life. ?The state of nature for Locke was a state wherein there were no civil authorities or governments to punish people for transgressions against laws, but was not a state without morality.

It was pre-political, but was not pre-moral. In it, persons were assumed to be equal to one another, and therefore equally capable of realizing and being obliged by the law of nature. (The law of nature being one internal, which commanded that no one should harm another as concerning their “life, health, liberty, or possessions” [p. 4]). In Locke’s pre-contract condition, one was not at absolute liberty to do whatever one chose to do; they were inherently bound by the law of nature. ?Rousseau’s state of nature had no private property. Private property was something which arose from the stages leading up to the need for authority.

Where Locke saw property as something which was naturally protected in the state of nature, Rousseau conceived of property ? the result of greed, competition and vanity- as humanities reason for abandoning such a time and entering into the contract. ?For Rousseau, the few needs of the people in the pre-contract condition were easily satisfied by nature. Because of the abundance of nature and the small size of the population, competition was non-existent, and persons rarely even saw one another, much less had reason for conflict or fear.

?Moreover, for Rousseau, the simple and morally pure persons in the pre-contract condition were naturally endowed with the capacity for pity, and therefore were not inclined to bring harm to one another. There were no inherent ? laws’ forbidding transgressions on another; it was an internal aptitude for pity. It was the division of labor (once families and communities had developed and leisure time had resulted) that led to value and property, whereas Locke saw property as something that was existent in the natural condition.


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