Jean-Jacques Rousseau

John Locke

John Locke and Jean-Jaques Rousseau had very different opinions on what the state of nature is for mankind. Locke believed war was inevitable in the state of natural, while Rousseau believed that life is good without civilization and that dependence on others leads to corruption. In today’s world, there are many examples of the different states of nature in which Locke and Rousseau described in their Social Contracts.

United States Supreme Court

Locke did not believe in a world where people could rome freely and not have any problems. His theory revolved around the idea that war was bound to happen in the state of nature and if nobody is in charge then the conflict would never be resolved. When there is no appointed judge, every man has an opinion and it is impossible to reach a decision on how to solve the problem. This leads to endless war and destruction instead of peace and harmony. His solution to this problem is to appoint an unbiased judge to oversee all conflict in the community and to determine the guilty party. In this scenario, the judge is able to make a decision to better the community during a crisis and then the community can go back to peace. This ideology is used today, but in a much more advanced way. In the United States, we have the Supreme Court which is just a complex version of Locke’s idea of an unbiased judge. We used the Supreme Court to settle disputes that cannot be settled between two groups of people. One current example of this in the sports world is the Ed O’Bannon case against the NCAA for using student athletes to make money without compensating the players themselves. This case has gone back in forth for a while now, but the NCAA has just recently appealed because they believe a federal judge made a mistake in his ruling. Eventually, the judicial system will help these two sides come to an impartial agreement.

Rousseau had a different view, one where people were irrational and happy. They were not smart enough to form communities and government, but that didn’t matter because life was good. He believed they everyone was solitary and out for themselves. His theory was that once people started to come together to form civilization, people become dependent on others opinions and society becomes corrupt. This is what he was referring to when he stated “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” People are free when they are alone, but when put with other people they begin to judge each other and it affects their actions. Rousseau’s ideology can be used to explain a recent scandal involving a major Brazilian oil company and its country’s President. Very powerful people in Brazil became greedy and decided they wanted to get involved with bribery and illegal money laundering. In the state of nature, these people would be content with their lives and not need anything more, but because of the society we live in, they saw how rich and powerful other people are so they wanted it for themselves. They decided to implement an “any means necessary” strategy, which happened to be against the law. This corruption would not have occurred in Rousseau’s state of nature.

I really enjoy reading about events going on in our world today and relating them back to theorists from the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s amazing how their ideas are still relevant today.

~Andrew Fink