Locke & Rousseau on Freedom

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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 Locke'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... Continue Reading