Locke Vs.Hobbes Essay, Research Paper
Locke versus Hobbes
Locke and Hobbes were both social contract theorists, and both natural law theorists, but there the resemblance ends. All other natural law theorists assumed that man was by nature a social animal. Hobbes assumed otherwise, thus his conclusions are strikingly different from those of other natural law theorists.
What would life and human relations be like in the absence of government? Thomas Hobbes was the first to attempt to illustrate this condition using an intellectual device- a “thought experiment”, known as the “State of Nature”. For Hobbes, the state of nature was not an actual period in history, but rather a way of rationalizing how people would act in their most basic state. He believed that everything in the universe was simply atoms in motion, and that geometry and math could be used to explain human behavior.
According to his theories, there were two types of motion in the universe: Vital (involuntary motion such as heart rate), and Voluntary (things that we choose to do). Voluntary motion was then broken into two categories that Hobbes believed were mathematical equations-Desires and Aversions. Desires were things one was moved to or that were valued by the individual, while aversions were fears or things to be avoided by the individual. Hobbes further believed that an individual’s appetite constantly kept him or her in motion, and that in order to remain in motion, everyone needs a certain degree of power. Thus the pursuit of power is the natural state of humans. Hobbes then says that nature ahs made men basically equal. He also says that people were constantly in a struggle for power and above all else, they wanted to avoid a violent death.
In the state of nature, people were always at war with one another, a war of all against all. Every person had the right to do anything they pleased. Hobbes thought that this would go on until people discovered that they could prevent their demise by avoiding doing things that would purposely endanger their lives.
Hobbes also thought that an authoritarian government would come to power in order to enforce the social contract by whatever means necessary. He called this Leviathan. Individuals exchanged their rights in return for peace, security, and protection from one another.
John Locke embraced many of the ideas presented by Hobbes in his theories on the state of nature and the rise of government. They differed however, in that Locke believed that God was the prime factor in politics. He believed that individuals were born with certain rights given not by government or society, but by God. This he said, is what gives all people equality.
Locke said in the state of nature men mostly kept their promises and honored their obligations, and, though insecure, it was mostly peaceful, good, and pleasant. He says that humans know what is right and wrong, and are capable of knowing what is lawful and unlawful well enough to resolve conflicts. In particular, and most importantly, they are capable of telling the difference between what is theirs and what belongs to someone else.
Hobbes says that our knowledge of objective, true answers on such questions is so feeble, so slight and imperfect as to be mostly worthless in resolving practical arguments. In a state of nature people cannot know what is theirs and what is someone else’s. Property exists solely by the will of the state, so in a state of nature men are condemned to endless violent conflict.
On the social contract, Locke says we give up our right to ourselves. We retain the right to life and liberty, and gain the protection of our property. Hobbes basically says, if you shut up and do as you are told, you have the right not to be killed.
On the Violation of the social contract, Locke says that 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. Then he says we have the right to kill such a ruler. Hobbes says that we have no right to rebel, because a king can do no wrong.