Comparing Hobbes and Locke

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bDerek Taylor
POSC 402-01
14 Feb. 2013
Paper No. 1
Social contract theorists Thomas Hobbes and John Locke agree that legitimate government comes only from the mutual consent of those governed. Although both were empiricists, the ways by which they came to their conclusions differed wildly, and perhaps as a result their views on the means by which society should be governed also conflicted. This paper will briefly address the different conclusions as well as the reasoning that led to them.

Written during the English Civil War of 1642-51, Hobbes’ Leviathan is presented as a rigid construction of reason. Building from base examinations of human senses, Hobbes defines a State of Nature in which man lives where there is no over-arching authority to regulate behavior. To Hobbes, man is fundamentally warlike and self-serving, leaving him to conclude that life without government is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” There is no sense that man might work together to avoid conflict because, to Hobbes, conflict is a given. Therefore, his first Natural Law is that man should seek peace when possible, but to seek self-preservation – the only natural right – when it is not. His second Natural Law states that in order to achieve peace, man should be willing to sacrifice his freedoms if others are willing to do the same. The result of this compact is a government created by those who are governed, or, a commonwealth.

Hobbes reaches the conclusion that an absolute monarchy is the best method by which to govern. In fact, to Hobbes, it is the only reasonable option. In his view, the monarch is an embodiment of the people. He is a collective conscience, of sorts, manifested in the form of a man. Hobbes does not explain how this person should be chosen, nor does he explain how a peaceful transition of power can be best achieved once the life of this specific human expires. Therefore, it can be questioned whether Hobbes was thinking in terms of...
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