Three Important Philosophers

This paper analyzes three important philosophers during the Age of Enlightenment, which occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries. Philosophers John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and John-Jacques Rousseau all had different views on the natural state of man and how he is mannered socially. Locke believed that men were free to do what they want outside of government and had inalienable rights. Hobbes claimed that the state of nature is bad, and people, who are “primitive and brutal,” need a king to rule them. Rousseau suggested that man was naturally innocent but easily corrupted by civilization. Each philosopher’s version of man vs. government, or the social contract, is also unique.

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Locke’s and Rousseau’s thought was that government provides protection of rights while the people stay loyal to the leadership. Hobbes asserted that government opposes a strict rule. Based on two key events that occurred in the 1700s, the storming of the Bastille and King Louis XVI’s decapitation, Locke’s views most accurately represent how man interacts with governments and civilization. However, without proper civilization, such as in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, there is support for each of the philosophers’ arguments on man and the state of nature.
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How should man act? Are there any boundaries that he should follow? During the Age of Enlightenment, a philosophical era in the 17th and 18th century, these were the questions for which philosophers John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and John-Jacques Rousseau sought answers. While Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau all had different views on the natural state of man, historical events prove that Locke’s was most accurate. Locke believed that men were free to do what they want outside of government and had inalienable rights. He further thought that government provides protection of rights as long as people stay loyal to the leadership. Should the government break this contract, the people have the right to revolt. Based on two key events that occurred in the 1700s, the storming of the Bastille and King Louis XVI’s decapitation, Locke’s views most accurately represent how man interacts with governments and civilization.

The storming of the Bastille, on July 14, 1789, resulted from the government’s poor leadership decisions and very tight political atmosphere. The government, which was being greatly influenced by the upper class of France, decided to heavily tax the poor and minimally tax the rich. This arrangement infuriated the poor, and they decided to conquer the Bastille, a medieval prison, as a sign that they were not content with this new mandate (Lu?sebrink et al., 1997, p. 38).

In accordance with John Locke’s social contract, the government’s job is to keep order, safety, and equality among the people, as long as they are loyal. However, if the government does not uphold the contract, the people are permitted to overthrow it, since “human laws are merely crude social devices for controlling the exercise of governmental power…” (Dunn, 1969, p. 162). Thus, when the government did not impose taxes equally, the population had the right to revolt.

Man has the right to take action befitting to the crime against him, even so far as beheading. Locke (1689) states, “So man has by nature a power not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and possessions, against harm from other men, but to judge and punish breaches of the law of nature by others, punishing in the manner he thinks the offence deserves, even punishing with death crimes that he thinks are so dreadful as to deserve it” (p. 28). Thus, after King Louis XVI was kicked out of Versailles, he began to plot with foreign powers to attack the people of France and restore the monarchy.

When the people heard about this, they brought the king to Paris and decapitated him. This is further evidence that Locke was correct in what the people will do should the government abuse the social contract and law of nature. By conspiring with other governments, King Louis was putting his people’s life and liberty at risk, and according to Locke, the people had the right to punish him with whatever means they felt necessary.

According to one of John Locke’s most famous works, The Second Treatise on Civil Government, and his statements within, two examples from the past display that Locke’s views of natural law and how man acts versus government is correct. The storming of the Bastille and King Louis XVI’s decapitation both presented a government that did not uphold its part of the social contract, which is to ensure the people have inalienable rights and keep them safe under the reign. The population took note of this and did exactly what John Locke predicted: punish the leader and find a new government that would stay devoted to them. 

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Three Important Philosophers. (2019, Nov 18). Retrieved May 17, 2022 , from
https://studydriver.com/three-important-philosophers/

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