In this essay I will be discussing Thomas Hobbes’ and John Locke’s interpretation of the social contract theory. I will then be evaluating Locke’s argument that his conclusions differ from Hobbes’ as he claims. My thesis is the following: John Locke’s argument that his conclusions are different from Thomas Hobbes’ conclusions is not valid. He makes no claim as to why people are motivated to enter into a social contract; he also does not establish where the understanding of personal property comes from. Thomas Hobbes suggests numerous things about the state of nature and the nature of man under no governing authority. In the state of nature everything is fair game. Everyone has the right to everything present in the world and is not violating any laws when they seek these things. For example, one can steal someone else’s house if they are capable of doing so without violating any laws as there are none in the state of nature. “It is consequent also to the same condition, that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct…” (Leviathan. Chapter 14.) In the state of nature everyone has the right to self defense; this is the right of self preservation which is the only right present under no governing authority. Everyone is also always in competition for what goods are available in the state of nature. Because of scarcity people constantly battle with one another and this becomes the “war of all against all.” The only motive is that of the individualistic nature and in that people are only driven by their desires. This constant battle of self interest makes life in the state of nature “nasty, brutish, and short.”
There are universal desires that govern over human nature. “So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.” (Leviathan. Chapter 13) Firstly all humans have a fear of violent death. Hobbes claims that we are all essentially equal despite differences in physical strength and we are all aware that we can all harm each other in some way. We also, in the state of nature, desire superiority over one another. Since we are all aware that we each posses these two desires (free of violent death and superiority over one another) we have the ability to hold it over each other. This, in turn, causes civil war to break out in the state of nature with no governing authority. We are all so naturally fearful of one another that this makes us aggressive towards one another and in turn causes civil war. “To prudence, if you add the use of unjust or dishonest means, such as usually are prompted to men by fear or want, you have that crooked wisdom which is called craft; which is a sign of pusillanimity.” (Leviathan. Chapter 10). Hobbes’ theory about the state of nature also claims that there is no rule of property in the state of nature. All laws come from the sovereign (once established) and therefore no one can claim the right of ownership over anything. If one has the ability to take something from someone then they can do so in the state of nature. The person can then defend themselves as the right to self preservation is the only right present in the state of nature. Once a sovereign is established then the laws regarding property and life in general are established.
The fear that individuals have in the state of nature drives them to seek a better alternative. This alternative, Hobbes believes, is the rule of the sovereign. The ultimate authority of the sovereign is the conclusion that Hobbes draws from his arguments that life in the state of nature is “nasty, brutish, and short.” People naturally gravitate towards an established government because the state of nature is essentially so horrible. There is no sense of what is right or wrong in the state of nature except the right to self preservation. Hobbes claims that law does not transform us yet the law of a sovereign helps regulate the way in which we interact with one...
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