Natural Rights Philosophy John Locke’s impact on American Government
Declaration of Independence • “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal & that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that are among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness-that to secure these rights; governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever an form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute new government…”
Declaration of Independence • Includes some of the most important philosophical ideas underlying our form of government. • Everyone is familiar with the natural rights philosophy…”life, liberty & pursuit in happiness…”.
John Locke • 1632-1704 • He was the most important influence of founding fathers. • Created the natural rights philosophy.
Natural Rights Philosophy… • In a nutshell… • Based on what life would be like with NO government. (state of nature) • Example: international relations between countries. There is no superior power that can act effectively as a government over individual countries. • In a state of nature there is NO government, because government cannot exist until it has been created. • In a state of nature, no one would have the right to interfere with your life & freedom; but if someone did try to violate your life/freedom no one would defend you.
Natural Rights Philosophy questions… • Human nature: are humans ultimately good or evil? • What is the purpose of government? • How should government be organized? • Where does government get its power? • What kinds of government are respected & supported? Resisted & fought?
Your turn… • Imagine that everyone in this class were transported to an island with enough natural resources for you to live well, but where no one has ever lived before. • When you arrive, you have no means of communicating with people in other parts of the world.
Discussion • Upon arrival, would there be any government or laws that control how you lived, what rights/freedoms you exercised or what property you had? • Would anyone have the right to govern you? You the right to govern someone else? • What might people who were stronger or smarter than others try to do? • What might life for everyone be like?
How does your answers compare? • Locke believed: • In the law of nature: “rules of natural law which obliges everyone” • Such as life, liberty, health and possessions • If there were no government, there would be no one to interpret or enforce laws. • MOST humans are good and reasonable, but some are not. • Those that are not, is why government is needed. • Example: Lord of the Flies.
Lord of the Flies • The main theme of Lord of the Flies is that man is inherently evil. Golding believed that within each one of us there exists a "dark-side" that one needs to control. Golding seems to feel that society is evil because human beings are fundamentally evil. The boys are put on a beautiful island paradise with everything provided for their needs and nothing to harm them, but they manage to transform it into a hell. Their attempts to form a civilized, orderly society are futile. No matter how many regulations and virtuous goals are established, Golding thinks people will always ignore them in favor of irresponsible pleasures and indulgence of the worst instincts within them. Whether it be on a world-wide scale (REMEMBER THERE WAS A WAR GOING ON DURING THE NOVEL) or on a tiny island, man's attempts at creating a civilized, responsible society are doomed.
LOTF Movie Clips • Jack as rule of law • Jack as state of nature
Locke’s impact on our Founders • His philosophy was used by Founders to justify their decision to revolt. • His philosophy was also used in the writing of our constitution.
What makes government legitimate? • The people’s (citizen’s) consent to be ruled. • “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” Declaration of Independence.
Natural Rights? • Also known as unalienable rights. • “The things that all people always need and seek, no matter what they believe, no matter where they live” • Life: live as free as possible from threats to their safety. • Liberty: free from the control of others, and ability to live as they please. • Property: freedom to work and gain economic needs necessary for survival.
Significance of Locke’s definition of natural rights... • Belief that people’s opportunities should not be limited by they situation or group in which they are born. • Upholds the INDIVIDUAL, not the class or social group, as the most important social unit. • Society is the collection of individuals, all which share the same right to pursue his or her own dreams.
Natural Rights Guaranteed by Constitution • Civil Rights: protection from unfair discrimination by government or others; securing freedom of privacy. • Political Rights: right to vote & run for office, which gives you CONTROL over your government.
What is a “Social Contract”? • Locke believed the best way to solve the problem of human nature is for individuals to agree with others to create & live under a government. • People need to give government the power to make & enforce laws • Social Contract: Agreement of individuals to create and live under government control, giving up some individual freedoms to the greater protection of the community.
The ultimate purpose of government: • To protect our natural rights that the individual cannot effectively secure in a state of nature.