Hobbes vs Rousseau

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Christina Wadelton
Intro to Philosophy
Professor Chu
14 October 2011
Hobbes v Rousseau
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Age of Enlightenment was an important cultural movement of intellectuals in Europe. Philosophers of the time interpreted many theories and concepts about man and inequality in civilization and also ideas about government and the ways in which society could be controlled. Many believed that humans were naturally good, while others believed that humans were inherently bad. The argument of nature has lasted throughout time without a definitive answer, but with centuries of philosophical arguments to aid in the understanding of our own human nature. Two important philosophers of this time period were Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacques Rousseau. Both philosophers wrote about their ideas of human nature and the state of nature, also addressing equality within the state and the role government and civilization plays in man’s actions. While Hobbes had a very cynical view of man, believing man to be brutal and violent working only towards self-interest, Rousseau had a more positive view; depicting man as essentially good and compassionate, believing that only through society and civilization does man become corrupt. Although both philosophers’ arguments are well developed and supported, Rousseau’s understanding of the natural man and the state of nature is stronger than Hobbes’ opposing views.
Rousseau’s positive view of human nature illustrates man as living in harmony with nature while Hobbes’ pessimistic view portrays man acting only for self-interest. Rousseau views the mankind as inherently good, capable of feeling compassion and pity for others around him as well as self-love. The condition of this natural man is a man without any forms of civilization, including clothes and language. Man is able to live individually, peacefully and in harmony when he is in this state of inherent goodness. However, through civilization man...
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