Free «Natural State vs. Civilized State» Essay Sample

Aristole, Locke and Rosseau at different times have been pressed into the service of virtually every imaginable political and intellectual cause. Rousseau’s alleged disagreements with Locke concerning whether civilized life is superior to man’s natural state and tell us something about the critical question evaded by modern thought. Locke and Rousseau can be argued to have some common preoccupations from one perspective, but they differ so greatly in their view of history, and human nature.

Rousseau expounded the view that science, art, and social institutions have corrupted mankind and said that the savage, natural state of primitive man was superior to the civilized state of modern man. Over the time, theorists’ real virtues are a product of nature, not society; Rousseau said that it is too artificial and pompous.

Lull & Micó (2011) noted that Rousseau’s political notion radicalizes the goodness of human beings in the natural state. He further suggests that the political state should return human beings to their original good natured and virtuous state as man is not only equal to his fellow creatures, but he is born free. Research shows that problems arise with the coexistence and cooperation that occur in society.

The nature of the social contract proposed by Rousseau never leaves the reins of the society in the hands of the government. Unlike what occurs in the state of nature, in the civil state, justice takes place of instinct, duty the place of physical appetite, and reasons the place of inclinations. Through the rule of social contract it has been noted that what man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting, furthermore, what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possess.

For Rousseau, the increasing degeneration runs parallel with the development of social life and the empire of reason over the senses. On the other hand, Locke’s civilized state produces different effect on human beings. Lull & Micó (2011), in this context, say that “in the civilized state man’s effeminate way of life totally enervates his strength and courage” (p. 68).

Locke and Aristotle believed that without people banding together in sophisticated communities life would be almost impossible. The civilized state is, therefore, not merely as laissez-faire as political theorists from John Locke would claim. Aristotle believed that in its political manifestations, the civilized society is responsible for the health of the whole community and this justifies the exercise of a lot of authoritarianism. Therefore, there is no question of Locke’s basing his theory on an Aristotelian concept of two classes’ masters and slaves whose relative positions were justified by a supposed inherent difference in rationality. With Locke, the difference in rationality was not inherent in men but it was socially acquired by virtue of different economic conditions.

According to Rousseau, the civilized state brought about the origin of property and the emergence of inequalities in wealth. Rousseau establishes four main kinds of inequalities that are present in all societies depending on riches, nobility or rank, power and personal merit. In addition, Rousseau indicated that a time comes when living in the state of nature becomes no longer viable. Under these conditions, men can only unite and use the strengths they possess by common agreement which requires the cooperation of many.

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John Locke was one of the several seventeenth century philosophers who postulated a state of nature, the situation before human’s devised government. Theorists such as Rousseau argue that in the state of nature, individuals had equal rights to life, liberty, and property. In Rousseau natural state, people are governed by natural law that being reasonable, which they can discover and apply. Rousseau advocated that government should exist only by agreement between the people who are involved, through a social contract. While the contract gave the state power to govern, it reserved for all individual their natural rights.

Locke favored a separation of powers between legislative and executive branches to protect these natural rights against governmental excess. Winks (1993) indicated that “citizens enjoyed a right to revolution if a government violated their natural rights” (p. 272). Studies further indicate that Rousseau and Locke posited a state of nature from which human society developed, but they did so without taking into account effects of society on human character and development. Specifically, Rousseau was critical of the naturalization, and hypostatization of possessive individualism. For Rousseau, vanity which causes the desire for differentiation of social status, and which leads to social inequality, is a result of the particular trajectory of human social development and is not something found in nature of man.

In the context of Rousseau, it is not simply a matter of contrasting life in the state of nature with social existence in general. In the moral society it should be noted that Rousseau’s romantic critiques of modernity are quite different from the contemporary ecocentric critiques of modernity. Aristotle, in contrast, is one of the greatest defenders of the naturalist of inequality. The fact that human beings in society are fundamentally different from humans in the state of nature and that the difference between the savage man and the domesticated man should be still greater that that between the savage animal and the domesticated animal.

According to Rousseau, Aristotle is very similar to Locke, because he defends inequality based on an insufficiently historical understanding of human nature. Rousseau mentions Aristotle’s defense of slavery and states that Aristotle was right, but he took the effect for the cause. In addition, Biro (2005) noted that “the man’s depraved or unnatural existence extends back to the beginnings of society when we left solitary existence in the state of nature” (p. 96).

Aristotle and Locke argue that the civilized state of man is man’s existence outside the state of nature is tied with myriad other aspects of our alienated existence. In contrast, Rousseau suggests that the civilized state arose gradually, but ineluctably as a result of inequality, because political authority flows from the notion of property rights. Aristotle noted that we cannot discover natural characteristics in beings that are in a depraved condition and then returns to just these terms to remind us that the man who mediates is a depraved animal.

The social contract is Rousseau’s attempt to provide a political solution to inequality and alienation. The natural state of man is an attempt to render legitimate the bonds of social obligation, which impinge on the freedom human beings enjoyed in their natural state. Rousseau’s natural man, noble and free provides the perfect counterpoint to a degenerative civilization which enslaves individuals and creates inequalities. Locke used the descriptions in the travelogues to create a first reason for entering civil society.

John Locke maintained that human beings are rational by nature and are moved by a sense of moral obligation. This implies that man is capable of transcending a narrow selfishness and respecting the inherent dignity of others. In inline with the moral obligation of the society, Locke maintains that human beings are born with natural rights of life, liberty and property and they are establish the state to protect these rights.

Rousseau’s idealism again resort to ethics: an individual will under the form of moderation of one and another will make it possible to reach an approximate middle way hence it is thought that this form is least prone to social divergence. For Aristotle, civilized state is equivalent to the civilized city states in Greece and stood on contrast to the barbaric states in other areas. To John Locke, civilized state was a society governed by a state which upheld certain civil rights, primarily private property and which stood in contrast to both anarchy natural state and despotism.

The main difference between Rousseau and other theoreticians of natural right such as Aristotle and Locke lies in the understanding that sovereignty should always remain in the hands of people and it should be impossible to delegate it to representatives. Rousseau stresses the solidarity of ethical values against a world of monarchic privileges and the avidity for wealth of the nascent capitalism.

In conclusion, it should be noted that together with Locke and Aristotle, Rousseau shared the certainty that legitimate government among the people who are morally equal to one another was established by consent rather acquired naturally. Locke conceived abstract society as consisting of two classes with different rationality. The two classes include freedom and rights. The basic variance between them was the difference in their ability to live by the bourgeois moral code. This conception of society gave to Locke the picture of the state of nature in the society as unsafe and insecure. In this view, he perceived that most men are incapable of guiding their lives by the law of reason. It was the comprehension of an emerging moral society, reflecting the ambivalence of a society which demanded formal equality but required substantive inequality of rights within the society.


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