Thomas Hobbes and John Locke
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Comparison Essay: Thomas Hobbes and John Locke
Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were two of the great biased political theorists of their time (Enlightenment Ear). Both created great philosophical texts that help to portray the role of government in a man’s life, as well as their vision of man’s state of nature. For Thomas Hobbes, it was wondering how a society would function without rules. As for John Locke, he felt the government should be working for the interest of the citizens. Hobbes and Locke were two great philosophers whose political views were influenced by their respective experiences, these influences were reflected on their philosophies on of human nature, the state of nature and social contract.
Firstly the ideologies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke on Human Nature. Human nature is the concept that there is a set of natural distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting that humans tend to have. According to Hobbes, Human beings are physical objects, sophisticated machines. He believed human beings were organisms in motion and that they need to be restrained by authority from pursuing selfish ends. Man is not by nature a social animal; society could not exist except by the power of the state. Hobbes also believed that men seek power and are controlled by their passion. We are needy and vulnerable. We are easily led off course in our attempts to know the world around us. Our ability to reason is as weak as our ability to know. Thomas Hobbes has views of how society comes into existence, in that man is purely selfish by nature. He believes that the only reason forms of social structure exist it is mans individual best interest to have one. Lord of the Flies, written by William Golden supports this idea. Hobbes theory is demonstrated in this novel through its main characters. Throughout the novel, Jack becomes the dictator. He appealed to the people by showing then what they wanted. He took leadership and appealed to the people’s blood thirsty side. Second example in relation to Hobbes is what he wrote in his book the Leviathan. Hobbes’s method in the Leviathan is to define the principles of human action, to progress consequently to an explanation of human motivation and so to a theory of how to organize human society. “ By MANNARS, I mean not here decency of behavior- as how one should salute another, or how a man should wash his mouth…-but to those qualities of mankind that concern their living together in peace and unity… nor can a man anymore live whose desires are at an end than he whose senses and imaginations are at a stand,”. For Hobbes it was wondering how a society would work without a government. He states that men are a morally selfish and hedonistic, and have a physical appetite. When On the other hand John Locke’s ideology on human nature was completely different. Locke’s political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. Man is by nature a social animal. John Locke’s philosophy saw human nature as a tabula rasa. In this view, the mind is at birth a “blank slate” without rules, so data is added, and rules for processing them are formed only by our experiences. One example related to Locke is again from the book “Lord of the Flies”. Character, Ralph was voted to be the chief, but even as they built the first fire, they abandoned their responsibilities to serve themselves. The boys start to move away from Ralph and were easily persuaded to follow Jack. One could perhaps view this as wrong and irresponsible but it actually goes hand in hand with what Locke believes, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man. Jack didn’t t like the way he was ruled and therefore started his own government. Believing that to hunt for meat was what he needed and not to be under a ruler he did not agree with. Locke believed government had more potential for being dangerous, and the individual should rebel if he felt his rights were being violated. Apparently, Jack believed his rights were being violated and by human nature he thus chose to form his own government. Locke considered the nature of governmental man s individual interests as they related to government structure. So on the island everyone had their individual rights and interests, and how they choose to act on.My second example will be the book Locke wrote; The Second Treatise. According to Locke, God created man and we are, in effect, God’s property. The chief end set us by our creator as a species and as individuals is survival. A wise and omnipotent God, having made people and sent them into this world; “by his order and about his business, they are his property whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.” For Locke, human beings are motivated by both emotions and reason, and they are both egotistic and naturally social or humane. Thus exemplifies the difference of beliefs of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes considering Human Nature.
Secondly, the ideologies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke on the state of nature. The state of nature is the form before the regulation of positive law comes into being. Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan first introduced the idea of state of nature. Hobbes wrote “during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man” (Leviathan). According to Hobbes any person has the normal right to do anything to protect his own freedom or security. Men were competing and dominated to protect property. Hobbes said “no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”(Leviathan). The execution of King Charles I on January 30th, 1649, was the defining moment of the Engligh Revolution. The King was beheaded, the institution of monarchy was abolished and the House of Lords disbanded. Hobbes compared the English Revolution to the state of nature, and his negative view of the revolution led him to conclude that society needed a strong king.Hobbes relates man wants to escape from the state of nature and war by looking towards peace, which allows man to dissolve his incessant feeling of fear. In order to obtain peace, Hobbes looks to man using reason. On the contrary Locke’s views on the state of nature were different. John Locke considers the state of nature in his Second Treatise on Civil Government written around the time of the commitment controversy in England during the 1680s. For Locke, “The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it”, and that law is Reason. Locke believes that reason teaches that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions”(Of Civil Government) he said violation of this may be punished. This view of the state of nature is partly gathered from Christian belief (unlike Hobbes, whose philosophy is not dependent upon any previous theology) the reason we may not harm another is that we are all the possessions of God and do not own ourselves. Locke’s view of the stateof nature, he states that while there were no civil societies yet formed, people were able to live in peace and all people were equal. He thought that the stateof natureinvolved people living together and using reason to govern their lives, which does happen regularly nowadays. Individuals also know instinctually, that two wrongs do not make a right, but this does not apply to Lord of the Flies. Jack got the people to want a better government and many of them gave their independence to him, but nothing stays good long.Near the end of the movie, when Jack and his group go against the others, they are more following Hobbes beliefs, because they are just trying to make sure they stay alive at any cost. Jack is not necessarily doing his best though to try to keep himself alive, because he just cares about catching the pig for food. Therefore this exemplifies the difference of beliefs of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes on the state of nature.
Finally, I will compare John Thomas Hobbes and John Locke’s philosophies on having a social contract. Social contract describes a wide set of theories that try to explain the ways in which people form states to maintain social order. Thomas Hobbes believed if you keep quiet and do as you are told, you have the right not to be killed, and you do not even have the right not to be killed, for no matter what the monarch does, it does not constitute violation of the contract. He wrote “The sovereign must control civil, military, judicial and ecclesiatial powers”(Leviathan). He believed in suppressing fear of death and to restrain out passion. For Hobbes political authority is fake; human beings lack government, which is an authority created by men. He claims that the only authority that naturally exists among human beings is that of a mother over her child, because the child is so very much weaker than the mother. Hobbes wrote “there can happen no breach of covenant on the part of the sovereign; and consequently none of his subjects, by any pretence of forfeiture, can be freed from his subjection.” The ruler’s will define good and evil for his subjects. The King can do no wrong, because lawful and unlawful, good and evil, are only commands, just the will of the ruler. As long as human beings have not successfully arranged some form of government, they live in Hobbes’s state of nature. However, John Locke ideology was we give up our right to ourselves accurate revenge for crimes in return for fair justice backed by overpowering force. We retain the right to life and liberty, and gain the right to just, impartial protection of our property. If a ruler seeks absolute power, if he acts both as judge and participant in disputes, he puts himself in a state of war with his subjects and we have the right and the duty to kill such rulers and their servants. John Locke’s idea of the social contract differed from Hobbes’ in several ways, but retained the central notion that persons in a state of nature would willingly come together to form a state. Locke believed that individuals in a state of nature would have stronger moral limits on their action than accepted by Hobbes, but recognized that people would still live in fear of one another. “Each and every individual must concur in the the original agreement to form such a government, but it would be enormously difficult to achieve unanimous consent with respect to the particular laws it promulgate” (Of Civil Government). Locke supposed that the will expressed by the majority must be accepted as determinative over the conduct of each individual citizen who consents to be governed at all. In Lord of the Flies, we are introduced to various types of power, some used and abused. Democratic power is shown when choices and decisions are shared among many people on the island. The conch represents the Democratic Power. Ralph rules using Democratic Power, also the social contract. Locke says If a ruler seeks absolute power, if he acts both as judge and participant in disputes, he puts himself in a state of war with his subjects and we have the right and the duty to kill such rulers and their servants. Therefore this exemplifies the difference of beliefs of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes on social contract.
In Conclusion Thomas Hobbes and John Locke differed many ways on their philosophies on human nature, the state of nature, and social contract. Regardless of these differences they both were great philosophers of the Enlightenment Era and that time period affected there ideologies.
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