The Political Writings of John Locke

Content Supersedes Origin of Law College

While both political philosophers John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau contend that every individual should be free and no one should be forced to give his or her rights to a king, they propose radically different conceptions on how laws promulgated should be adhered to under the social contract. On Locke’s account of the external legitimization of laws, he argues that legitimacy is contingent on respecting natural rights. Natural rights are rights to life, liberty, and property and these must be the foundation of law. In this sense, there are extra-legal norms that set boundaries for legitimate law, specifically, the content of the law itself. On the other hand, Rousseau contends that internal aspects of the law, explicitly its origin and nature, make it legitimate and believes laws must be adhered to without exception. Rousseau claims the origin of law is created by the “General Will”, and since people have seeded their individual wills into this “General Will”, there can be no reason to deflect from the laws that have been created. Ultimately, the legitimization of law should be primarily based on protecting human rights and such strict adherence to law is not necessary when these rights are violated, no matter their origin....

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