Understanding Natural Rights Philosophy

Understanding Natural Rights
The Work and Influence
Of John Locke
• Introduce students to the basic ideas of
natural rights philosophy and the theories
of government that influenced the
development of the US government
• At the end of the lesson students should
be able to:
– Explain the basic ideas of natural rights
– Explain the purpose of government according
to the natural rights theory
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 among these are Life, Liberty, and the
Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights;
governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just
Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any
form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the
Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new
•The ideas in the Declaration of Independence had been familiar to almost
everyone in the American colonies long before the Revolutionary War
•Had been preached in churches, written in pamphlets, and debated in
public and private
Natural Rights Philosophy
• Based in imagining what life
would be like if there was no
• Questions to be addressed:
– What is human nature?
Are people selfish, or do they tend to care
for the good of others?
– What should be the purpose of a
– How do the people running a
government get the right to
– How should a government be
– What kinds of government
should be respected and
supported, and which kinds
should be resisted and fought?
1) “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it”
2) A legitimate government can not exist until the people
have given their consent to be ruled by it
3) Natural (unalienable) rights are so much a part of human
nature that they cannot be taken away or given up.
However, they can become very insecure without a
government to enforce and protect them.
People are basically reasonable and sociable, but they are
also self-interested. Stronger and smarter people would
often try to take away the rights of others
4) The best way to solve the problems from above is
through A “Social Contract”
People give up their absolute right to do anything they
could in a state of nature. In exchange, everyone receives
the security provided by a government
Natural (Unalienable) Rights
• Life
– People want to survive and they want their lives to be
as free as possible from threats to their security
• Liberty
– People want to be as free as possible from the
domination of others, to be able to make their own
decisions, and to live as they please
• Property
– People want the freedom to work, and gain economic
goods such as land, houses, and money which are
necessary to survival
Securing Natural Rights
• The “social contract” b/w
individuals and the
government is expressed
in a constitution
• Hence, constitutional
governments are also
known as limited
• If the social contract is
broken, and the
government fails to
protect the people’s
rights,they have the right
to revolt
Securing Natural Rights
Constitutional governments assure the rights of citizens by:
1. Providing legal protection. Constitutions establish
limits on the power of the government to prevent it
from violating natural rights.
2. Providing organizational protection. Constitutions
should organize the government in a manner in
which power is distributed.
Caution !!
A constitution alone does not ensure that
the rights of citizens will be protected.
Historically, some of the worst
governments have had constitutions that
list the rights of citizens.
The former Soviet Union had one of the
longest and most elaborate constitutions
in history, but in reality its citizens enjoyed
few of the rights guaranteed by it.
Related flashcards

Wiki communities

69 cards

Space program of Italy

13 cards

Virtual communities

11 cards

Create Flashcards