Difference Between Hobbes and Locke and Relationship to the Emergence of Rights

Topics: Political philosophy, Social contract, Thomas Hobbes Pages: 11 (3997 words) Published: April 18, 2011
Writings from the works of the authors in question immediately display a distinct difference in their trains of thought. Hobbes and Locke take different paths but come to a similar conclusion, that of the necessity for the creation of civil government as authority over men, this is the basic bond that connects them. Their reasoning behind such a conclusion, though, begins with their differing and separate foundations. This discrepancy is notable in their discussions and separate ideologies of various aspects of the state of nature. As a result, their political orders diverge accordingly. Both men look toward the creation of civil order in order to protect not only the security of the individual, but also the security of the state.

The Hobbesian state of nature is described as a very bleak and dreary place. Hobbes believed that people in this state were not guided by reason, but instead were guided by innate primal, animalistic instincts. Concepts such as the ideas of good and evil did not exist in the state of nature, and man could use any force necessary in order to protect his life and goods around him. Hobbes called this condition the “war of all against all” - displaying that no morality existed and people lived in a constant state of fear. Hobbes identified three causes of strife in the state of nature as being that of competition, which causes the invasion of others for gain; diffidence, which causes invasion for safety; and glory, which causes invasion for the maintenance of reputation. In the Hobbesian state of nature there existed no benefits or enjoyments people take for granted in modern society. He likened life to being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” In the state of nature described by Hobbes there is no notion of right and wrong, as there is no common power or law. Men in this state live with an overbearing sense of fear and grief, continuously on the defence in order to protect themselves, and their possessions. Thus he stated that under these conditions a state was needed to protect people from other people. For Hobbes, there exists no law of nature because, “every man has a ‘right’ to everything’. This is how he coins the idea behind people being in a state of constant war, because there is no natural law to restrict them. There is no natural law to support the notion of ownership or the concept of possession. A ‘right’ to everything only exists because there is no natural law to govern actions in the first instance. Locke on the other hand however suggests that natural law exists which individuals can access and understand. This allows us to differentiate between right and wrong as the state of nature has the law of nature to govern it. The only major inadequacy of the state of nature for Locke was that of property not being properly protected. Thus Locke’s vision of the state of nature, unlike Hobbes description is more optimistic and civilised. Despite no civil societies existing, he states people were able to live in peace according to the laws of nature primarily due to the belief that God created man equal. Only when an individual violated the natural law could they be punished. Thus it can be seen that in contrast to Hobbes belief that the state of “war” was a natural part of the state of nature, Locke stated that the two were not the same. In the Lockean state of nature it is stated that people could exist without an established government or social contract, but that people would eventually enter into such a contract to better protect their rights and promote a more organized society. He observed that many people willingly lived in political societies where they were told what to do by a “superior” person or group. People left the state of nature whereby man was his own authority, as despite being in a state of liberty it was also a state of inconvenience. Locke expressed that this was because without a common judge or any publicly established law, people could violate the...
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