Property Debate Between Locke & Rousseau

Topics: Property, John Locke, Liberty Pages: 3 (1110 words) Published: May 13, 2012
John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, two philosophers with differing opinions concerning the concept of private property. Rousseau believes that from the state of nature, private property came about, naturally transcending the human situation into a civil society and at the same time acting as the starting point of inequality amongst individuals. Locke on the other hand argues that private property acts as one of the fundamental, inalienable moral rights that all humans are entitled to. Their arguments clearly differ on this basic issue. This essay will discuss how the further differences between Locke and Rousseau lead from this basic fundamental difference focusing on the acquisition of property and human rights.

Locke argues that God provided all humans with land in common and thus initially in its natural state land is ownerless. Humans, following basic instincts of survival, are faced with an abundance of resources of which they are able to use in order to satisfy their needs. Similarly, Rousseau argues that basic desires drive men to serve for only their own needs and to compete for all else they need. For Locke, the only ownership that is present from the beginning, and which all humans possess is the ownership of their body All humans own themselves as well as the labour that their two hands are able to supply. Rousseau disagrees in the fact that men are not born with the right to property but in fact it only comes about through the development of man.

Locke believes in the moral law, and consequently in the state of nature, all men are born morally equal, with the natural and moral right to life, liberty and property. Rousseau disagreeing on this basic point argues that property is morally wrong as it causes inequality and harm. He agrees that humans are able to treat property as a right but not a natural right as only power in a forming society leads humans to do this. Rousseau however believes that in the state of nature, all...

Bibliography: Locke, J. 1690. The Second Treatise of Civil Government.
Rousseau, J.J. 1754. What is the Origin of Inequality Among Men and is it Authorized by Natural Law?
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