State Of Nature
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Comparison Of John Locke's and Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Philosophy On Human State Of Nature
by Milap Patel
- 1 Comparison Of John Locke's and Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Philosophy On Human State Of Nature
- 2 Abstract
- 3 Introduction
- 4 Section 1: Background
- 4.1 John Locke's Life
- 4.2 Jhon Lock's View On State of Nature
- 4.3 Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Life
- 4.4 Jean-Jacques Rousseau's View On State Of Nature
- 5 Section 2: Deliverable
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 Text References
- 8 Image References
- 9 External Links
Section 1: Background
John Locke's Life
John Locke is an English philosopher who was born in England in the year, 1632. He initially studied medicine at University of Oxford, graduating with a degree in that field, but later joined Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, assisting him on business and political matters along with being his personal physician. John Locke was deeply influenced during his time with Cooper where he started to understand politics. He eventuality take a stand against monarchy, believing that the government was for the benefit of the people. This was clearly not the case during his time. The kings of England, King Charles II and King James II, were abusive of their power, forcing their will on the citizens by passing laws that favored their view. Locke saw this as an oppression and slavery of the people. He wrote the Two Treatises Of Government where he tried to justify the fall of monarchy and a creation of a new from of government for the people. However, for Locke to understand what would make a good form government for the people, he first looked at how humans were in their natural state far before any authority was in place. He considered this state to be the state of nature.  
Jhon Lock's View On State of Nature
Locke claims that humans are originally in a state of nature without a ruling government. However, being in the state of nature leads to the state of war which is full of violence. To avoid being in the state of war, Locke calls for a government where common law governs the society in a peaceful manner.
Humans In The State of Nature
Locke claims that all men are originally in a state of nature in his work called Two Treatises of Government. He says that all men are perfectly free and perfectly equal without an overseeing government in this state. In other words, Locke implies that people are only bounded by the law of nature where each person lives, acts, and uses his possessions as he sees fit without a common authority. The natural law, or the "Fundamental law of Nature," as Locke calls it, is the right to self-preservation. It states that each man is empowered to do whatever is in his power to preserve himself in the state of nature. 
How State of Nature Leads to State of War
Locke then moves on to talk about differences between the state of nature and the state of war in chapter III if his Second Treatise. In the state of war, people exert unwelcome force on other people by interfering with their natural rights and freedom. According to Locke, a state of nature which at first is a condition of peace and mutual trust, quickly degenerates into a state of war when a crises or a disagreement arises between the people. This happens because there is no overseeing authority in the state of nature meaning each individual serves as a judge, jury and executioner of the natural law. This leads to force and violence, the only resolution since common law does not exist between the people.  
Acquiring Property In State of Nature Leads To A State of War
Property is a key subject Locke brings up in chapter V of the Second Treatise. In this chapter he links humans behavior of acquiring property to the state of war when humans are living in the state of nature. Locke begins this chapter by first stating that the earth is considered the property of all the people where the people can use it for their collective survival and benefits. Locke writes, "God gave the World to Men in Common, but he gave it to them for their benefits, and the greatest Conveniences of Life they were capable to draw form it." Locke then considers the concept of individual property where individuals take possession of the things around them when in state of nature. He says, "Human nature is very much that of man as the property-acquiring animal in the state of nature." In other words, Locke is suggesting that humans tend to take possessions of things around them and call it their property. This, however, bring up the question of ownership. Locke defines ownership as labor preformed by a person. He writes, "Every man has a Property in his Person. This body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his...For this Labour being the unquestionable Property of the Laborer." In other words, Locke says that a person owns his own body and all the labor preformed by that body. Labor then leads to the ownership of property that the labor relates to. Now, when another person adds his own physical labor, which is his own property, to a foreign object or material, then that object and any resulting products also become his property. But in a state of nature, there are no common laws to determine who owns what part of an object or fruits of collective labor since each person has his own idea on possession. This ultimately leads to the state of war over the conflict of possession where the resolution ends in violence and dominance of the fittest.  
Call For Government To Prevent State Of War
Locke calls for a government to secure individuals property. As he puts it, the natural law dictates a right of private property, and it is to secure this right that government is established. Locke further explains this by relating it to the state of war. He call the state of nature "unstable" with no civil authority where people are in constant dispute over the ownership of their property. This prevents peaceful enjoyment of the fruits of their labor which are constantly threatened by war and conflict by others around them. This is the key reason why Locke calls for a common government where common laws can resolve the conflicts without resorting to a state of war. Locke writes, "protection of property is the great and chief end of Men's uniting into a commonwealth." 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Life
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on 28 June 1712 in Geneva, Switzerland. He moved to Pairs as a young man where he was educated. While in Paris, he was exposed to opulence and luxury which was the order of the day for the nobleman. At the same time, he was also exposed to the life of the lower classes that were not as pretty, filled with despair and struggle. To understand what made the social classes different and why they exist, Rousseau decided to take a look at life before civilization where men were originally in a state of nature. 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's View On State Of Nature
Jean-Jacques Rousseau thought differently about human state of nature then what was traditionally believed during his time. For one, Rousseau thought that humans were good when in the state of nature but joining society was what corrupted them. He argues this point in his famous work, Discourse on Inequality.
Defining State of Nature
In his work, Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau implies that human state of nature is a condition of humankind far before the creation of civilization. Rousseau defines state of nature as a morally neutral and peaceful condition in which individuals act according to their basic urges, like hunger, along with their natural desire for self-preservation. When in the state of nature, humans are no different then the state of other animals. This means that humans, in the state of nature, are barbarians who only focuses on their daily needs and self-preservation just like the rest of the animal kingdom. Rousseau also says, when in this state, humans tend to more easily understand their state of mind where they are drawn to essential features of a satisfied life. Essential features of life include love of family, respect for the beauty of nature, mild curiosity of others and a taste for simple entertainment like music. 
Transformation Form State Of Nature To Societies
Population growth of humans in the state of nature caused individuals to associate with each others. It was then that Rousseau thought humans started to form societies. He believed that when forced to interact with one another, humans underwent a psychological transformation where they started to value the good opinion of others as an essential component of their own well-being. Rousseau, further, stated that these interactions is what allowed humans to flourish with developing ideas of agriculture, metallurgy, private property and the division of labor. Now, with these revolutionary ideas and collaboration of multiple individuals, humans were able to surviving harsh consequences of nature such as harsh climates and overcoming natures law of survival of the fittest. Rousseau indicated that humans were slowly drifting away form being in the state of nature by adapting to the early forms of civilization. 
Human Corruption In Societies
Rousseau says humans became corrupt in societies. He observed evil, greed, and selfishness emerge as human society began to develop. As people formed social institutions, they developed vices. One such institution was private property that encouraged greed and self-interest. Rousseau viewed private property as a destructive, impulsive, and egotistical institution that rewarded people for their greed and luck. Further more, inequality developed in societies as some people produced more and earned more, creating classes where the rich became richer while others remained poor, or even enslaved to the rich. As such, Rousseau considers societies to be corrupt and evil where majority of the people gave up their freedom, once held in the state of nature, for wealth and power in societies. Rousseau writes, "since the most powerful or the most miserable made of their strength or their needs, a kind of right to the possessions of others, equivalent in their opinion, to the right of property, equality was destroyed and followed by the most frightful disorder." 
Call For A Government To Limit Corruption
Rousseau points out that people are incapable of returning to the state of nature as their instincts are dulled by the luxury of society. He says that people are too attached to their life in societies, perusing wealth and power, to return to the state of nature. Because of this, Rousseau believes there must be a governing body to limit the corrupting aspects of society. He says that the governing body must keep the interest of all its people and try to diminish the inequalities produced by the negative morals of society. 
Section 2: Deliverable
In this section I will demonstrate how John Locke's and Jean-Jacques Rousseau's philosophy compare and contest from each other. I will began by comparing the lifestyles during their time. I will then compare their views on human state of nature followed by their views on what caused humans to shift to societies. I will end this section by comparing their views on the need for a government followed by giving my interpretation of how human state of nature is seen today.
Life During Locke's And Rousseau's Time
John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau both lived during a time of turbulence. Locke lived a life when monarchy ruled England where its people obeyed one man, the king. Unfortunately, the kings, during his time in England, were not considered ideal. They passed laws that favored them but for the people, these laws caused unwanted suffering and misery. As such, the people considered monarchy in England, during Locke's time, a from of tyranny. The people believed monarchy stripped them of their freedom and demoted them to a form of slavery where they were forced to obey the unjust king.
Rousseau, on the other hand, also lived during a time of monarchy. However, unlike Locke's time, the people in France, during Rousseau's time, faced a problem dealing with social classes. The people in higher social classes were well off, living a life in luxury with abundant wealth and power. This, however, was not true for the lower class. The lower class, majority of the population in France at that time, was a working class who faced continuous poverty. They paid the most tax within the entire social class system which forced them to constantly face harsh living standards, such as hunger, and abuse.
In both, Locke's and Rousseau's time, the people considered their ruling government to fail at its obligations to the people. As such, the people, in both cases, called for a new form of government that favored the people as a whole, not just a few. In England, the people overthrew the tyrannical monarchy in the Glorious Revolution while in France, the people also overthrow its monarchy and the class system in the French Revolution. For both of these key events, their respective philosophers, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, influenced the movement through their political philosophy on a good form of government for the people. However, for them to understand what made a government good, they both looked at the idea of humans in the state of nature.
Locke's And Rousseau's View On Human State Of Nature
Both, Locke and Rousseau, claim that humans were originally in a state of nature. In this state, both philosophers say that human were inherently good where their main focus was on self preservation without an overseeing authority. Locke further claimed that humans were perfectly free and perfectly equal in the state of nature. Each person, according to Locke, lived, acted, and used his possessions as he saw fit, restricted only by the laws of nature, when in state of nature. Rousseau, on the other hand, implied that humans where barbarians who were morally neutral and peaceful. They, according to Rousseau, only acted according to their basic urges, such as self preservation and mild entertainment, just like the rest of the animal kingdom when in state of nature.
Locke's And Rousseau's View On Societies
Locke and Rousseau have completely different views on the formation of societies. Locke claimed that societies emerged because people feared being in the state of war while they lived in the state of nature. As Locke put it, state of war is a byproduct of state of nature when conflicts arise. Since there are no common laws or authority to resolve conflicts, people result to violence as the only common method of resolution. This is especially true regarding property. Locke considers people to be property acquiring animals that consistently fight over each others properties calling it their own. This in turn leaves the people being in a constant state of war while they live in the state of nature. Locke concludes that people created societies to resolve their conflicts with a common authority between the people. This is particularly true regarding ownership of property where people can enjoy their fruits of labor peacefully without resulting to the state of war.
Rousseau, however, has a competently different view on why people joined socialites. As Rousseau put it, people were pure, peaceful, and happy in the state of nature, but the growing human population caused people associate with each other resulting in the formation of societies. He believed that people underwent a psychological transformation when they began to interact with each other. These interactions allowed humans to collaborate and flourish in societies, but at the same time also become corrupted with evil, greed, and selfishness when introduced to wealth and power that accompanied societies. As such, Rousseau considers societies to be evil where they have a negative influence on the individuals unlike Locke, who believes societies are positive for the individuals.
Locke's And Rousseau's Call For A Government
Both Locke and Rousseau call for a governing body, but they both call for it for different reasons. Locke call for a government to secure individuals property and prevent people from resorting to a state of war when a conflict arises. Rousseau, on the other hand, calls for a government to stop the corrupting aspects of societies since humans are incapable of returning to the state of nature at this point.
The State Of Nature Relating To Modern Societies As I See It
I believe both philosophers are correct in their theories. People, in today's world, are filled with greed and selfishness over acquiring property. Why do I say this? Its really quite simple. People, today, value having money and fame over having compassion for others or fulfilling their basic needs outlined in nature. This can be seen in school. If you ask any student what they want to do when they grow up and why they want to do it, you will always get an answer revolving around fame and money. You might ask why they might say this. Well, it simply for fulfilling their overgrown fantasy. People, today, believe in obtaining large mounts of tangible property, like large houses, expensive furniture, personal servants, and so on, in order to live a basic fulfilled life. This is as a result of idealizing others who have more then the person in question. As such, I believe Rousseau is correct in his theory of people being corrupted in societies since people today value basic needs that far surpass what is required for self preservation in the state of nature. This concept can be is proven by a person who travels from a first world country to a third world country where we, or at least I, believe that the third world country is insufficient for our living standards. We consider the third world country to be unsanitary and undeveloped, but when compared to the state of nature, it is equivalent to being in heaven. This just goes to show how corrupted we become in societies where we worry more about how we live rather then worrying about fulfilling our basic urges, like hunger, required for self preservation outlined by the state of nature. Furthermore, Locke's concepts on state of war can also be seen in today's world. If you turn on the news, you will always find a story relating to acquiring property or division of money, which is also a type of property. But don't worry, if you are like me who does't watch a lot of news, I can simplify it to just looking at a single family. We can see our inherent behavior of acquiring property, outlined by Locke, when it comes to dividing up our farther earnings after his passing. You must have, or at least I have, heard many stories of how the offspring fight over who gets what part of their fathers earning. This usually gets resolved in a legal manor but if this took place in the state of nature, Locke would be right where the children would go to a state of war to reach a resolution. For that exact reason I can also agree with Locke on humans joining societies with a common government to prevent us from reaching a state of war.
In the end, I believe both, Locke and Rousseau, are correct in their unique philosophy on the state of nature and societies. I believe that the government still needs to continue improving so we can limit the negative aspects of societies, since being in the state of nature is no longer an option for us, along with better protection of our property.
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