The Ideas of Religion On the Concept of Citizen In Locke and Rousseau

This was because Catholicism was linked with absolutist monarchies which resulted in slavery and popery. Furthermore there was a link between absolutism and insecurity of property and Catholicism. In Locke’s view citizens had the right in exceptional circumstances to resist a ruler who had ceased to act constitutionally. He was responding (1st Treaty) to Filmer who argued that God had given Adam dominion over the world and therefore only his lineage till this modern day had the right to establish private property.

As far as he was concerned, the monarchy has good theological and natural credentials that it is inappropriate and ungodly to demand constraints on it! According to Flimer, the idea that “mankind is naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection, and at liberty to chose what form of government it pleases, and that the power which any one man hath over others was at the first by human right bestowed according to the discretion of the multitude”1 is destructive.

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Such a ludicrous idea comes from Catholicism and is in direct conflict with the true origins of government as described in the Holy Scriptures – Bible. Locke however did not reject religious foundation but rejected the Biblical account of the origin of political power. Rather Monk considers Locke’s politics as one based on the moral relationship between God and man. The book of Ephesians (2:10) says we are God’s workmanship and in Locke’s view his property. Furthermore, we are all equal in the eyes of God and there ought not to be any discrimination and subordination amongst us.

For Locke, the basic moral law of nature is “to preserve ourselves” and as long as that prevention is not in competition we have no need to harm or take away goods, liberty and life from one another unless it be to do justice on an offender. The society created “according to the discretion of the multitude” in Rousseau’s view is not ‘natural’ but the work of human artifice. This sophistication as the mother of immorality, the natural way did not harbour this immorality. Civilisation is a corrupting force and if we were living simple lives we would be at one with nature – ‘noble savages’.

He believes that that the very cultural forms through which we live our lives crush and distort our natures. As far as he is concerned “civilised man is born and dies a slave. The infant is rapped up in swaddling clothes, the corpse is nailed down in his coffin. All his life man is imprisoned by our institutions”. 2 In other words, “the life of the citizen in a well-founded state seems to be based not on conformity with nature but on the acceptance of an essentially artificial form of community inspired by the predominance of the General Will”.

According to Monk, Rousseau viewed with despair the growing belief in the adaptability of the human mind as proposed by Locke. There was a sense of fear that Locke’s position might support faithless tendencies, in denying the role of God in at least establishing and enforcing moral belief. Simultaneously, there was a sense of optimism that the mind could be educated, cultivated and formed to a considerate disposition. Basically, Locke views all men as equal before God and ordinarily there is should be no need for any domination.

We are charged by God to be each other’s keeper and it is our responsibility to preserve our life and the lives of those around us. Similarly, Rousseau’s view is that the concept of inequality has no meaning in the ‘state of nature’. Both philosophers see private property is the watershed after which inequalities begin to bloom. In the ‘state of nature’ according to Locke, men are all members of a common species and the concept of inequality amongst citizens does not operate since all are “promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature”.

The “prophetic kingdoms” described in the Old Testament where God is described as laying down particular forms of government and sometimes-appointing individual rulers no longer exist. We are all granted free will, which explains why Adam and Eve could willingly choose to eat of the forbidden fruit or not as described in the Old Testament. Locke’s argument therefore states that we have God given will to reason and establish government in the interest of all. The conflict however, is that leaders who should be acting in the interest of the people are served by the people when the Bible clearly states that to lead is to serve.

Leaders are hence the servants of the people. This societal structure that leads to civilisation is what Rousseau blames for the inequalities and infringements on the rights and freedoms of citizens. Our individual freedom is our property and modern forms of socialisation render citizens un-free. This is why ‘the social contract’ explores “a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate and in which each, whilst uniting him with all, may still obey himself alone and be as free as before. 4

As citizens our lives are not ours in Locke’s view. We have no right to “quit our situation wilfully” or to destroy, injure, enslave or rob other beings that are equal to us before God. Similarly we are entitled to the earth but not to waste. Over all, political authority must rest on our religious obligations, the source of all morality. So although we are free there are limits to prevent the danger the ‘state of nature’ presents in Rousseau’s view. This danger is however not evil, it is simply a state of freedom that makes men self concerned and free to protect their own individual interest.

Locke on the other hand believes that we are obliged to protect not just ourselves but the lives of out ‘brothers’. As the Bible puts it, be your ‘brothers keeper’. So Locke’s fundamental assumption is a natural duty of preservation which we owe to God since he created us. Our duty is to preserve the rest of mankind who all belong to God and ourselves. We all need to be devoted to one another as stated in the book of Romans. While Rousseau seems to propose a survival of the fittest in the ‘state of nature’ as Darwin proved or all other living things.

We are all children of God and He punished his loved ones. So punishing offending citizens has its roots in the Bible. God punished those who offended him by sending the floods (Noah’s ark) and the plague. According to Locke, punishing offenders against us derives from our duty and right to self-preservation. Punishing offender will lead to reform and preserve their lives too. To preserve mankind we need to care for matters concerning him. Contributions we make through tax as people did in the Bible are for maintaining mankind in ‘public areas’ that do not belong to anyone in particular.

According to Locke we also have the right to demand reparations. This goes as far as to countenance the killing of men who commit murder or show contempt for the law of nature. This is conflicting since the New Testament clearly states that we should not repay evil with evil in Romans (12:17), basically two wrongs don’t make a right. Locke himself stated that the old rules don’t apply. Verse 21 goes on to states that we should “overcome evil with good”.

This is precisely what Rousseau fears, becoming part of civilisation makes us vulnerable and deprives us of our freedom i. e. ubject to any structure that may take our life. Locke agrees that in the state of nature men live be rules they are morally obliged to obey when they are not contracted or promised to modify their behaviour in any way. This is quite a contrast to Rousseau’s view of the state of nature. Both Locke and Rousseau believe that the attempt to subject anyone to absolute power is to be understood as an attempt on that person’s life since they lose their freedom – Rousseau’s biggest fear for mankind. “Freedom is the foundation for all the rest”. Once liberty is taken away, it has the power to take everything else.

Any threat to freedom is a threat to life and we are obligated to preserve our lives and resist the threat. God gave us will to do as we please. Any power that takes away that will, opposes God’s will for us and can therefore b considered ‘evil’. God asks us to resist evil and hopefully it will flee from us (James 4: 7-8). This supports Locke’s arguments about resistance. The status of the citizen and the arising inequalities are clearly for both philosophers down to the establishment of private property. Filmer considered years before that property could be seen as God’s grant to Adam or a communal grant to all mankind.

Based on these assumptions, two conclusions can be drawn. If God gave Adam dominion over all the earth, it would make sense that only his descendants, that is, the monarchy hold the rights to own private property and only with their consent can citizens’ own property. On the other hand, if God was for communism, then how can we justify private property? Locke’s argument follows that through Adam and Noah, God gave mankind the world on common. According to the bible we are all decadents of Adam and Eve and hence are all entitled to the land.

Our right to private property is a right that limits political power, and allows citizens freedom to do, as they will on their own property. It preserves our liberty and hence out lives. In a world where each of us holds our land, our own goods, our own private property, we have free will to do with our lives and should as we wish. We can choose to long for salvation or be content to burn eternally as stated in the book of ‘Revelations’. “Everyone has a property in his own person” according to Locke. In Rousseau’s view, the birth of enclosure was likewise the birth of inequalities amongst fellow citizens.

He says; Before the hideous words yours and mine was invented; before there existed that cruel and brutal sort of men which we call masters, and that other sort, Knavish and deceitful, called slave; before there were men so loathsome as to dare possess more whilst others died of hunger; before mutual dependence forced all to become deceitful, jealous and treacherous; I wish someone would explain to me in what it was that these vices and crimes with which [primitive man] is charged could have consisted”. 5 Since man has the gift of free will and choice, why will he choose to be in his present situation – a citizen with unlimited limits?

The capacity of choice according to Rousseau was man’s own undoing. Man broke out of the state of nature by the need t overcome struggles and the consequences of multiplying. Out inequalities are rooted in out similarities. We have the same needs and wants, and this formed a sense of belonging and community and eventually villages, towns, cities, states, nations etc. self love and preservation becomes substituted for pride; “Self-love is a natural feeling, which leads each animal to care for its own preservation (the basic rule according to Locke), and which in mankind, guided by reason and modified by pity, produces humanness and virtue.

Pride, or vanity is an artificial and relative feeling, born of society, which leads each individual to make more of himself than of anyone else, which inspires men to all the harm they do one another, and it is the real source of social distinction”. 6 We develop feeling of pride and envy, passion and love – sparking quarrels and bloodshed. All these are only possible in a social context and would be irrelevant outside community. There is therefore a need to form institutions to control this violence that threaten all our preservation and these are what clip our wings as citizens and have ever since limited our freedom as citizens.