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The Difference Between Rights And Laws

1813 words - 8 pages

John Locke

With John Locke we start to see an idea that the rights of man are limitless unless they are freely given up. Locke states, “Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature…” (Locke - Second Treaties of Government - 46). According to Locke the rights of man are limited only by the laws of nature. This statement leads us to the realization that, in Locke’s beliefs, man has the allowance to do anything. We see that Locke believes that personal protection also follows as a right when he states, “…hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men…” (Locke – 46). With this understanding a person has unlimited rights, even as they pertain to preserving his or her self or family.
This begs the question; how can a law be enacted if it goes against the natural rights of man? Locke’s answer can be found when he states,

But because no political society can be, nor subsist, without having in itself the power to preserve the property, and in order thereunto, punish the offences of all those of that society; there, and there only is political society, where every one of the members hath quitted this natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the community in all cases that exclude hi not from appealing for protection to the law established by it. (Locke - 46)

If a population is to exist then all of those that participate in the functioning of the society must be willing to give up some of their natural rights in order to follow the laws created to allow the society as a whole to greater protect the people, and the property of the people. Should a person decide that they do not want to give up their rights in order to gain protection from a society, then that person has the right to not participate in that society, and that person must also give up all protections from that society. A person that does not participate in a society must also understand that the society has the natural right to protect itself, and its property, and therefore must not endanger the society, or the people of a society, in anyway, or they must expect recourse.
Locke is very driven in the idea that natural law provides to limitation to rights except those limitations given by nature. Locke also believes that the only way a right can be impeded upon is by giving up those rights in exchange for being a part of a society. Therefore Locke believes that a law is limitation to the rights of man. This is opposite the view of Aristotle who believes that being in a society is the natural place for a man.


Similar to Locke and Hobbes Aristotle writes about state of nature. Aristotle believes that man is at his happiest in a state of nature,

What is appropriate by nature to each being is best and most pleasant for each, and so, for a human being, this...

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