Hobbes vs. Locke

Topics: Thomas Hobbes, Political philosophy, Social contract Pages: 5 (2028 words) Published: December 12, 2012
Ashlyn Brunk
POS 352
October, 2012
Exam 1: Hobbes/Locke
1. Compare and contrast Hobbes and Locke on political power? In answering this question explain Locke’s argument against Hobbes’s understanding of “paternal” and despotical power. On the discussion of power and social structure, both John Locke and Thomas Hobbes introduce their theories on paternal and despotical power in Second Treatise of Government and Leviathan respectively. Both men believe that social order is constructed artificially and not by a divine being. In Leviathan, Hobbes’s discusses the differences between paternal and despotical power. Even though he recognizes these differences he explains that power claimed by institution and power claimed by force incorporate the same rights and requirements of the contract. Contractual power is similar to parent over child in which there are two parents but only one can have absolute authority. The natural power is maternal but just as people give up their rights to a sovereign for security so do mother and child to the father for security. Religion and nature do not dictate paternal authority it is an accident of nature. Hobbes explains despotical power or acquired power is like the relation between master and servant. A despotical power is that of a “dominion acquired by conquest” that the people who are defeated have now entered into a contract as to avoid death (Hobbes 255). “The Master of the Servant, is Master also of all he hath; and may exact the use therof; that is to say, all goods of his labour, of his servants, and of his children, as often as he shall see fit” (Hobbes 256) Locke discusses in Second Treatise of Government, that paternal power is that of parents over a child. Both parents have a natural government over their child but not extending to political circumstances. Also this power does not extend to the property of the child. Despotical power is power of one tyrant over all to take away life whenever he pleases. This type of power, to Locke, does not have legitimacy and should be overthrown. This type of power is not a society but a continuance of the state of war ;“…despotical power, which, as it arises not from compact so neither is it capable of any, but is the state of war continued; for what compact can be made with a man that is not a master of his own life?” (Locke 90). This is especially a problem for Locke because it strips man of all property that is a natural right and most important right according to his Second Treatise of Government. Hobbes and Locke agree that enslavement is not entering into a contract and cannot be enforced. Hobbes states on the subject of captives “for such men have no obligation at all; but may break their bonds, or the prison; and kill, or carry away captive their Master, justly” but a compact is created when the beaten submit to the victor (Hobbes 255). Locke agrees but believes any people ruled by conquest are captives and have not entered into a contract until the rule gives up his despotical power. Just as Hobbes believes there can be only one absolute authority or sovereign and favors a monarchy and Locke argues for a democracy their status on paternal and despotical power reflect as such. In conclusion, Hobbes believes paternal power is a father over mother and child and despotical power is legitimate. Locke argues paternal power is both parents over child and despotical power should be overthrown.

2. Compare and contrast Hobbes and Locke on the State of Nature. What is the root of their disagreement? What is the impact of their differing accounts of the state of nature? In what ways does their disagreement lead to difference in their conception of the “ideal” state? The idea of a State of Nature is a way for philosophers to explain human nature and justify the creation of government. This is the state not touched by civilization or a primitive state. Several philosophers have views on this condition but two prominent competing...

Bibliography: Hobbes, Thomas, and C. B. Macpherson. Leviathan. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968. N. pag. Print.
Locke, John, and C. B. Macpherson. Second Treatise of Government. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 1980. N. pag. Print.
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