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John Locke and Jean - Jacques Rousseau and Private Property

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John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau cultivated theories on human nature and how men govern themselves. Locke argues that human rights are strengthened by private property and names property as a human right. Rousseau, however recognizes the massive inequalities that it creates between human beings, arguing that the acquisition of private property undermines human rights. How they differ on these views is understood by a deep evaluation of their theories. Rousseau's claims of inequality as an effect of private property seem to hold more weight than the insertions Locke makes about property.

Both men recognize that people develop a social contract within their society, but have differing views on what exactly the social contract is and how it is created. Both men also agree that before man entered into the social contract they all lived together in a state of nature. The state of nature is the condition men were in before political government came into existence. They disagreed with other philosophers such as Robert Filmer, who deemed that absolutism or the divine right of kings was the appropriate political authority. Locke's first treatise is concerned mostly with refuting Filmer's Patriarcha, which outlines Filmer's divine right theory. Starting from scratch, with no organized church, they needed a foundation for building society. The foundation of society arose first with the state of nature.

The state of nature that both men base their arguments on is distinct in several different ways. Locke views the state of nature as a peaceful time with ample resources. This is clear in his opening lines to Chapter II on the state of nature. "TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man" (Second Treatise of Government 269). Locke describes political power as the right to make laws for the protection and regulation of property. "Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws, with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties for the regulating and preserving of property (Second Treatise of Government 268). Locke goes on to discuss how all men are equal. It is noteworthy to point out that he does so while citing the Anglican Church. He uses as Judicious Hooker a reference when he argues his point, even though his opponents are supporters of the Anglican Church. God made us all equal and is on every man's side; Locke also uses this as a reason for so many civil wars during the time this work was produced.

Locke explains his state of nature is a state of liberty, but not a state of licence.

"But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence: though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure" (Second Treatise 270-271).

The State of Nature should be equal to Locke, because we are all property of God. Men also have human rights to preserve life, liberty and possessions. The State of Nature also has the Law of Nature to govern and oblige us. Reason necessitates equality in the State of Nature and creates justice through a transcendent source. This State of Nature creates much faith in man in this regard.

Rousseau's main point of distinction in his State of Nature is that men are free and equal, as far as their understanding of one another goes.

"But even if nature really affected, in the distribution of her gifts, that partiality which is imputed to her, what advantage would the greatest of her favorites derive from it, to the detriment of others, in a state that admits of hardly any kind of relation between them? Where there is no love, of what advantage is beauty? Of what use is wit to those who do not converse, or cunning to those who have no business with others? I hear it constantly repeated that, in such a state, the strong would oppress the weak; but what is here meant by oppression? Some, it is said, would violently domineer over others, who would groan under a servile submission to their caprices. This indeed is exactly what I observe to be the case among us; but I do not see how it can be inferred of men in a state of nature, who could not easily be brought to conceive what we mean by dominion and servitude" (Discourse on Origin of Inequality 58).

Rousseau's passage here is significant for many reasons, but no reason is more important than the notion that men in the State of Nature are much different from man in modern society. Society has created these practices of dominion and servitude. Thomas Hobbes' state of nature involved him transplanting the modern man into the state of nature, but the modern man has many different perceptions and conventions that the original man in the state of nature had yet to learn. Rousseau also believes that the motivating or governing factors in the state of nature are pity and reason. These take the place of the Locke's law of nature in his state of nature. "Pity is what, in the state of nature, takes the place of laws, mores and virtue" (Discourse on Origin of Inequality 55).

The one right that divides Locke and Rousseau is the right to property. Locke allowed for humans in the state of nature to have a right to property. "Thus labor, in the beginning, gave a right of property, wherever any one was pleased to employ it upon what was common" (Second Treatise on Government 299). Rousseau did not hold property to be a fundamental right and this is where the two seem to diverge. Rousseau believed that property could only be established after society, as law was necessary to establish and protect it.

The concept of private property, to Locke, is that it is existent in the state of nature. This is a fundamental notion of his theory because nothing that is common to all men could be solely utilized by one



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