Locke and Rousseau were two great philosophers of the Enlightenment. While both writers agreed that before civilized society man existed in a state of nature, that is, humans lacked society or structure, they disagreed on what constituted freedom. Differences in their opinion on freedom stems from their disparity on what the State of Nature consisted of. Rousseau argues that this state was and still is the perfect state for man, where he is free, autonomous and virtuous. Locke agrees with Rousseau, that man is free naturally, but also adds that people are entitled to three undeniable rights: life, liberty and property. Since the definitions contained in their respective literature are distinct from one another, this essay will explore Rousseau and Lockeâ€™s respective theories in Social Contract and Second Treatise, on the State of Nature and realizing freedom.
Rousseau and Locke begin their work on political theory with a discussion on the state of nature. When Rousseau talks about the state of nature, he is talking about what human life would be like without the shaping influence of society. According to Rousseau, society has changed us so much that humans must have been very different before it had been formed. In the State of Nature, humans are born free and can essentially do what they want; however desires and impulses are not tampered by reason because reason has not yet been formed. For Rousseau, Humans cannot reason until language is formed, and during the State of Nature language has not yet been conceived because humans were not interacting. It seems that Rousseau is suggesting humans have physical freedom but lack morality and rationality during this state. Rousseau still believed that this State of Nature was better than what state society has humans in today. .
Rousseau believed that in the State of Nature, humans had two base feelings, compassion and pity; he argued that these two feelings were most natural and that these feelings could even be found in animals.