Thomas Hobbes And Jonh Locke Essay, Research Paper
Thomas Hobbes and John Locke are two philosophers who have thought extensively on the subject human nature and conflict in human society. The question that arises from a discussion of these two men is who is more logical? The best way to answer this question is to compare their arguments and to juxtapose their views. There are three main topics that would help understand the philosophers’ points of view: the natural condition of mankind, causes of conflict among men, and the ideal form of government.
The views of the natural inclinations of man differ between the two philosophers. Hobbes is very negative in his view of man in nature. Man would be in a constant state of war, says Hobbes, with everyone trying to conquer each other for their property and belongings. There would be no friends, only enemies because everyone would be under suspicion as a potential opponent. Hobbes has described his model of man in nature as a “war of all against all.” Another famous remark made by Hobbes on the subject is the life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” In this constant war there would be no time or opportunity to advance, states Hobbes. There would be no industry because the results of any progress would be stolen immediately. Because there would be no industry, everyone would live the same and there would be no cultures and no diversity around the world. Locke, on the other hand, does not have the same ill inclination of mankind as Hobbes. Locke believes that man in nature would live in a state of equality where everyone has control and power over their own actions and their own property. Each member of society would be on an equal social level with each other member. Locke does not believe in the life of constant war that Hobbes describes.
The two men do, however, agree on some points. They both concur that all men are created equally and that no man has any divine right over any other man. Hobbes states that some men are smarter or stronger than other men, but even the weakest can overtake the strongest, either through “secret machinations, or by confederacy with others.” Locke discusses his views that all men are created equally, that they all retain the same rights, and that all men’s possessions should be in equality.
Another common belief between the two thinkers is of the laws of nature. Hobbes and Locke both feel that a man is forbidden to do anything that may prove fatal or destructive to his life. The slight difference between them is that Locke’s version of natural law also indicates that you cannot “harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions,” while Hobbes constant warfare model of mankind disregards that part. In Hobbes model, it is basically a free for all, with whomever wins the battle gets the possessions. At this point, Locke appears to be more logical in his views of human nature. While Hobbes does have his points, he comes out overly negative and pessimistically about that state of mankind in nature.
Hobbes and Locke have different ideas about the cause of conflict. Hobbes finds three distinct causes of conflict. The first is for competition and gain, the second is to defend oneself and/or one’s family, and the third is for glory and enhancement of one’s reputation. Locke is not as analytical in his debate about the cause of conflict. He is of the mind that conflict arises out of desire to protect your own, or to acquire some else’s property. For Locke, the commonwealth was primarily for protection of ones’ property, while Hobbes thought of the commonwealth as protection for people’s lives. As far as conflict is concerned, Hobbes appears to have gone more in depth than Locke. His causes of conflict can apply to events even today, while Locke’s reasons for conflict make sense but are not as well thought out.
The two philosophers agree and disagree on various aspects of an ideal form of government. They both refuted the Divine Right of Kings, historical tradition, feudal contracts and brute force in favor of an “atomistic” conception of society. The individual was of main concern for the men, where as the group was the main focus of other forms of government. The differences between them lie in the rights of the individual. Hobbes believes that political absolutism is the key to an ideal government. Under this government individuals yield all their and all their political power to the ruler. However, these rights and political powers are to be given up irrevocably. This was done by signing a social contract which allows you entrance into civil society. While Locke also favored the “atomistic” conception of society, he felt that relinquishing your rights was not the way to go. Locke felt that people should yield only the minimum amount of power and rights to establish and effective government, while reserving certain rights and freedoms that the new government can not infringe upon.
Again, in this case, Locke’s suggestions appear superior to those of Hobbes. Locke’s model of an ideal government seems to have a higher satisfaction rate. The government would get formed, and the constituents would still retain some of their rights and control. Hobbes model would, indeed, form an effective government, but the people it serves would have no say, and no rights of their own. Once again, Locke’s arguments are favored.
These two philosophers have done extensive thinking about human nature, conflict and ideal government. While Thomas Hobbes makes some good points he is overly pessimistic and negative on the subject of human nature. John Locke has a much more realistic view of mankind in nature, that is of equality and control. Hobbes, however, took the upper hand in the discussion of conflict. He described three distinct reasons for conflict, all of which were practical and well thought out. Locke believes that property is the main cause of conflict. Both of the philosophers are in favor of an atomistic conception of society, but disagree as to the degree of control the government should receive. Hobbes feels that people should give up virtually all of their rights and political power to the government. Locke, more logically, states that the government should be given enough power and rights to make them a government, but people should also retain rights that can not be impinged by those in control.
All in all, John Locke put forth arguments that were well thought out, more realistic and more logical than the arguments of Thomas Hobbes.