Locke: In Rousseau’s Eye Essay, Research Paper
The state of nature, as described by Locke, is a state of perfect freedom, a state in which man is completely free, but would Rousseau agree with this? The answer to this question is more complex than it seems. Locke and Rousseau, both great philosophers of their time, have similar ideas, but the similarities between them end at that. They have very different views on just about every philosophical topic and retain these differences. When comparing two of their works, The Social Contract, Rousseau, and Second Treatise of Government, Locke, the differences between them become clear. It almost seems that The Social Contract was written to combat Locke s Second Treatise of Government, and if so, his point comes across very clearly.
Rousseau begins this work on political theory much in the way Locke did, with a discussion on the state of nature. This is the point at which we see our first difference between Locke and Rousseau. Locke describes it as a state in which every person has power over no one but himself or herself and has the freedom to do as they please without endangering others. He also states that natural man follows a set of natural laws in which he can punish any transgressor in a manner that fits the crime and in such a way that dissuades the individual from committing such a crime in the future. Such transgressors of the state of reason now enter one of to natural states; a state of war or a state of society.
In the state of war, we are not longer governed my reason, but a force. That is where the difference between the two lies. When man exists in nature, without the influence of a governing faction, we tend to govern our selves according to reason. However, when this reason rails to exist, and we govern ourselves by force, war ensues. In this state of war, the innocent parties have the right to continue the war until the transgressors give reparations for the deeds. These reparations can often end in a state of slavery in which slave gives up all of the rights given to him by the state of nature to the master. At this point a contrast can be clearly drawn between Rousseau and Locke. Rousseau openly denounces the idea of slavery in the opening of The Social Contract. He feels that a state of slavery is unnatural and should be avoided.
Rousseau denounces the maxim might makes right and in essence, that is the idea behind the subject of slavery. If the outcome of the state of war is in the favor of the victim, and the victim, as a form of reparation, forces the transgressor into slavery, this maxim is proven true. The victim has asserted himself as the stronger of those involved in the conflict and is there by using force to keep the transgressor against his will and against the laws of nature. It is never a fair trade; ones freedom. A man s freedom is of utmost significance and is unable to be owned by none other than the person himself. When freedom is lost, humanity is lost. And when humanity is lost, we can no longer exist in a natural state and much less a society. There is no longer a difference between an animal and us.
There is line that can be drawn here between the way in which men exist when they are enslaved and the state in which man exists when a society is formed. With might being the only determinate of right, the state of slavery is almost an exact replica of the conditions found in a monarchy. As in slavery, the monarch has all of the power and the people of the state that he resides over are willingly obeying his laws as opposed to the laws of nature. They have willingly given him their freedom and are no longer free men, but slaves to the will of one man. When those living in such a society realize that they are in fact no more than sheep in herd and decide to rebel, the maxim might makes right proves itself again, and the society is once again thrown into a state of war which in turn ends in either a state of slavery once again or different state of society. In such circumstances, political authority ceases to exist and the newly founded state of society will be weaker than the one that existed before hand. It is an infinite loop.
Rousseau proposes and answer to this problem in the form of the social contract. It calls for every individual in a community to surrender themselves to the community which acts as an entity all its own. Being one entity, it is important for the society to function as one. The sovereign is indivisible and should fully express the will of those living within it. The expression of the will of those within the state is the law, which like human nature tends to move towards good as opposed to evil, and is expected to be followed by those residing in the state. There is, however, a problem that arises when we enter this society. The state is abstract and therefore needs a physical manifestation; a lawgiver . Once the laws are in place and a lawgiver is found, the state can function as a state should.
Locke, however thought the complete opposite of Rousseau. Locke thought that absolute monarchies were the best solution for one reason; within an absolute monarchy, the state of nature is preserved in the sense that natural rights would not be lost. He argued that societies exist in a form of the state of nature and within that state, reason will be preserved and conformity will only enhance it. This conformity was the way in which men would be integrated into the social contract, and this integration would be best fueled if parents were to instill into their children the importance of work at an early age. He believed that children were abstract learners and that this routes was the best. Rousseau disagreed.