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A comparative exploration investigating the theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau on the foundation of society.

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Introduction

A Comparative Exploration investigating the Theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau on the Foundation of Society. CHAPTER ONE Introduction In making a comparative exploration between the "social contract philosophers": Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, we are forced to initiate our enquiry with regard to the question of what the shared motivation is of demonstrating the foundation of society, between these three philosophers. All three philosophers illustrated differing, and in some ways similar theories, as to what the origin and continued existence of society is. In this essay an exploration into the similarities and differences between the three theories comparatively, provokes in the reader the self-reflective question of, "What would life be like in a 'natural' state, a world without government?" (Wolff 1996:6). Thus, in this essay, an exposition of the reasons advanced by each philosopher respectively for the movement from a state of nature to a form of civil society shall be made, and further advanced by making a concentrated focus on the similarities and differences among all three arguments in this regard. Furthermore, demonstration shall be made with regard as to why Locke's Theory seems to embrace and accommodate the most "relevant" or convincing view of the reason for the origin and continued existence of society as we experience it in our time. Does the naturalness of living in an existing state humanise us? Have we perhaps been dehumanised or been our own downfall by virtue of constraint by "leaving" what we formerly "knew" as the natural state? ...read more.

Middle

(Wolff 1996:19). Locke initiates his theory by stating that the state of nature exists in "perfect freedom". "The natural liberty of man is to be free..." (Locke 1993:272). Locke shares Hobbes' view about a state of equality, however, in the case that Hobbes' claim is a "physical" one, Locke bases his on morality and rights. Locke shares with Hobbes the creation of a Law of Nature, however, the two philosophers' interpretations of the meaning attached to such a law differ greatly. Locke's Law has a theological aspect, stating that no one "...ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty and possessions." (Wolff 1996:20). Locke describes mankind as the possessions of God and thus we are bound to preserve God's possessions. Locke and Hobbes also differ greatly in their perceptions of the meaning attached to "natural liberty". Natural Liberty is given a moral context by Locke in maintaining that we are given the freedom to do only what is morally permitted. Locke is however vague in his formulation of how people will be motivated to act according to the Law of Nature in a state of nature, in opposition to Hobbes' pessimistic view of felicity and the spiral of violence perpetuated. Locke ascribes the term, "the strange doctrine" as the right to punish those who transgress the Laws of Nature by spectators of these transgressions. Locke bases the security of other rights and most importantly the right to private property on the hypothetical premise of the possibility of securing the Law of Nature by making it enforceable. ...read more.

Conclusion

Rousseau's view of savage man), nor does he use force and domination in asserting his theory of the foundation of society, but instead through reasoning, and a knowledge of humanity's strengths and weaknesses in the form of morality, people wilfully submit natural freedoms to the common laws of the society in which they receive government protection in return. CONCLUSION Through the comparative exploration of the "social contract philosophers", a broader understanding is gained of both the existence of the state, as well as the liberties and luxuries we take fore granted as human beings in connection with the advantages we claim from experiencing life in a formal, organised state. We also gain an insight into the complex alternatives that the existence of a choice would render in deciding whether to live in a state of nature or in a formal state. Constantly as human beings, we encounter and experience the distribution and administration of institutions through political power, as well as the innate responsibility toward ethical and moral principles we are equipped with. In conclusion, and answer to the introductory question whether the naturalness of living in an existing state humanises us or whether perhaps we have been dehumanised by virtue of constraint by "leaving" what we formerly "knew" as the natural state, I am forced to answer neither. I believe that we have enhanced our humanness by doing justice to our moral, ethical, social and intellectual responsibilities of discovering the state, even though the state and institutions we find ourselves under the influence of, are far from utopian. ...read more.

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