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Punishment Is Central To The State Of Nature Philosophy Essay

While there is no such thing as punishment in the law of nature for Hobbes, punishment is central to Locke in the state of nature. For Hobbes one should turn the other cheek in the face of confrontation, while Locke believes that an eye for an eye neutralizes the conflict.

Locke and Hobbes have very different outlooks on people and politics. Locke is of the belief that humans were born free and are peaceful beings. He also thinks that they are capable of functioning as a group to uphold their natural right to life, liberty and property. Hobbes on the opposite thinks that humans are vindictive and always at war with each other, and therefore needs the guidance of a sovereign to maintain their natural rights, mostly the right to life.

Hobbes believes the state of nature mirrors the state of war, while Locke strongly believes that that they share a lack of power, for Locke the state of nature and the state of war is not the same. Whereas, Locke believes everyone should be judges when it’s time to punish someone, for example, in the state of nature if some steals from you; everyone has the right to kill or punish that person, just as they would kill a fox if it killed one of their animals. For Locke stealing from one person is the same as stealing from the world. Basically what Locke is doing is justifying killing an individual in self-defence if that person poses a threat to ones freedoms. While Hobbes believes that it’s an inconvenience for all of us to be judges as chaos will rise. For Hobbes, that is why a commonwealth is important, because the sovereign would be the impartial judge, for man cannot be their own judge as unfairness will rise. That is the reason why Hobbes believes that in the law of nature there shouldn’t be any punishment. Hobbes define punishment as “A punishment is an evil inflicted by public authority on him that hath done or omitted that which is judged by the same authority to be a transgression of the law, to the end that the will of men may thereby the better be disposed to obedience” (Hobbes p.203). Whereas Locke definition of punishment is the complete opposite and he stated that “in the state of Nature, one man comes by a power over another, but yet no absolute or arbitrary power to use a criminal, when he has got him in his hands, according to the passionate heats or boundless extravagancy of his own will, but only to retribute to him so far as calm reason and conscience dictate, what is proportionate to his transgression, which is so much as may serve for reparation and restraint. For these two are the only reasons why one man may lawfully do harm to another, which is that we call punishment” (Locke p.10).

Hobbes believed that by creating that by creating a social contract, covenants and laws of nature to build a commonwealth based on sovereignty it will bring about this utopia that he strongly believes could have happened. Hobbes is of the belief that human are capable of being both evil and good, while Locke thinks that humans are actually very peaceful creatures, capable of the of being kind and peaceful to each other in the state of nature.

Hobbes and Locke on punishment

In chapter 28, Hobbes answered a question of great importance and that question was “by what door the right or authority of punishing, in any case, came in. For by that which has been said before, no man is supposed bound by covenant not to resist violence; and consequently it cannot be intended that he gave any right to another to lay violent hands upon his person. In the making of a Commonwealth every man giveth away the right of defending another, but not of defending himself. Also he obligeth himself to assist him that hath the sovereignty in the punishing of another, but of himself not. But to covenant to assist the sovereign in doing hurt to another, unless he that so covenanteth have a right to do it himself, is not to give him a right to punish. It is manifest therefore that the right which the Commonwealth (that is, he or they that represent it) hath to punish is not grounded on any concession or gift of the subjects” (Hobbes p.203-204).

Also Hobbes gave detailed description on what is not considered punishment and is considered punishment (Hobbes p.204-208).

Locke, in his defence of his model lashed out against the sovereign in commonwealth model and wrote “I doubt not but this will seem a very strange doctrine to some men; but before they condemn it, I desire them to resolve me by what right any prince or state can put to death or punish an alien for any crime he commits in their country? It is certain their laws, by virtue of any sanction they receive from the promulgated will of the legislature, reach not a stranger. They speak not to him, nor, if they did, is he bound to hearken to them. The legislative authority by which they are in force over the subjects of that commonwealth hath no power over him” (Locke p.10-11). Locke then mentions that in the state of nature since everyone is equal, the alien will be like everyone and won’t be judged. (p. 10-11).

In the case of firearms, Hobbes would never agree with society lobbing for laws to give firearms, since he believes that the sovereign is the body that makes the laws to monitor such an issue. He would decide who could obtain a firearm. He believed that community would go into total chaos if the sovereign did not have total control. Locke would be totally against Hobbes’ view as Locke would see the ability to own firearm as an asset to the community and a form of protection. Hobbes on the other hand would have identify the ownership of firearms as a treat to others and society as a whole. Hobbes would have most likely been against the idea of introducing firearms into society as it would pose a threat to the sovereign. In the modern day scheme of things based on my assumptions, there is a lot of Lockian and Machiavellianism in the American Constitution and general way of life, as compare to the Canadian Constitution and public, which would be more Hobbesian as to the possession of firearms.

Locke begins the book with the state of nature in order to define political power. For Locke the state of nature is about equality and nobody control anyone as they were all free to do as they wish. In chapter sixteen, Locke demonstrated his theory as to what would happen when there is unjust conquering and he wrote “That the aggressor, who puts himself into the state of war with another, and unjustly invades another man's right, can, by such an unjust war, never come to have a right over the conquered, will be easily agreed by all men, who will not think that robbers and pyrates have a right of empire over whomsoever they have force enough to master; or that men are bound by promises which unlawful force extorts from them. Should a robber break into my house, and, with a dagger at my throat, make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title?” (Locke p.91). The question that Locke posed is a simple no because in the state of nature there will be a punishment equal to the crime.

Hobbes theory is built around the belief that men should know when and where to draw lines between good and evil, right and wrong, even if we have a commonwealth or we don’t, we should always be following the sovereign’s judgment. He also said that “ For there is no such thing as perpetual tranquillity of mind, while we live here; because life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear, no more than without sense” (Hobbes p.34-35). This is one of the biggest reasons why Hobbes, unlike Locke doesn’t believe in the idea of an eye for eye. In the state of nature and war there shouldn’t be any punishment, and this is why Hobbes is implement the model of a sovereign either with a commonwealth or without a commonwealth. Locke on the other hand would see this as complete rubbish because he would ask why there is no punishment. You would just allow someone to take you as a slave or conquer your city because you need approval from your sovereign and if the sovereign is incapable, then what? This is Locke response to that “For the law of Nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world, be in vain if there were nobody that in the state of Nature had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain offenders; and if any one in the state of Nature may punish another for any evil he has done, everyone may do so” (Locke p.9-10).

Locke in his defence of his model lashed out against the sovereign in commonwealth model and wrote “I doubt not but this will seem a very strange doctrine to some men; but before they condemn it, I desire them to resolve me by what right any prince or state can put to death or punish an alien for any crime he commits in their country? It is certain their laws, by virtue of any sanction they receive from the promulgated will of the legislature, reach not a stranger. They speak not to him, nor, if they did, is he bound to hearken to them. The legislative authority by which they are in force over the subjects of that commonwealth hath no power over him.

Locke further had his opposite views of the commonwealth by mentioning that “By the same reason may a man in the state of Nature punish the lesser breaches of that law, it will, perhaps, be demanded, with death? I answer: Each transgression may be punished to that degree, and with so much severity, as will suffice to make it an ill bargain to the offender, give him cause to repent, and terrify others from doing the like. Every offence that can be committed in the state of Nature may, in the state of Nature, be also punished equally, and as far forth, as it may, in a commonwealth. (Locke p.12).

“ That in the state of Nature every one has the executive power of the law of Nature- I doubt not but it will be objected that it is unreasonable for men to be judges in their own cases, that self-love will make men partial to themselves and their friends; and, on the other side, ill-nature, passion, and revenge will carry them too far in punishing others, and hence nothing but confusion and disorder will follow, and that therefore God hath certainly appointed government to restrain the partiality and violence of men. I easily grant that civil government is the proper remedy for the inconveniences of the state of Nature, which must certainly be great where men may be judges in their own case, since it is easy to be imagined that he who was so unjust as to do his brother an injury will scarce be so just as to condemn himself for it” (Locke p.12). Hobbes and Locke both claimed that there should be no punishment against the innocent. Hobbes claim that “All punishments of innocent subjects, be they great or little, are against the law of nature: for punishment is only for transgression of the law, and therefore there can be no punishment of the innocent” (Hobbes p.208). And likewise Locke stated “Every offence that can be committed in the state of Nature may, in the state of Nature, be also punished equally” (Locke p.208). Meaning if someone is innocent they should not be punished based on assumptions.

Conclusion

Hobbes places emphasis on laws of nature, to seek peace, justice, protect human lives and to “lay down this right to all things, and be contended with so much liberty against other men, as would allow other men against himself,”(Hobbes p.80). For a state to be peaceful and maintain peace to their must be sovereign power to monitor us. In Hobbes view humans are very selfish, competitive and brutal by nature, so if there is no sovereign or institution to maintain peace and order there will be chaos in the state of nature. This is the reason why human needs to resist the urge of desires. If there is a sovereign to make laws and implements punishment that would install fears in us, in turn, we won’t want to break the laws.

In this key quote form Locke in chapter 11 he stated “ it is that every man in the state of Nature has a power to kill a murderer, both to deter others from doing the like injury (which no reparation can compensate) by the example of the punishment that attends it from everybody, and also to secure men from the attempts of a criminal who, having renounced reason, the common rule and measure God hath given to mankind, hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or a tiger, one of those wild savage beasts with whom men can have no society nor security. And upon this is grounded that great law of nature, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Locke p.11-12).

After writing this paper I must admit that both Hobbes and Locke had really excellent arguments for their doctrine, but I am still left at the point at which I began and that is whether to turn the other cheek or make it an eye for an eye.

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