Locke vs Hobbes

Topics: Social contract, Political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes Pages: 10 (4270 words) Published: April 26, 2013
Political Philosophy
Hobbes, Locke, and the Social Contract

The concept of human security, which has had a crucial place in human's societal history, has been argued over by many great philosophers throughout mankind’s existence. Two pioneer thinkers of political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, theorized state of nature typologies, which are the core of social contract theory, and created a concept of modern security, even in the 17th century. Hobbes created a contract entrusting absolute power to the sovereign, which thrived off of the individual's duty and responsibilities to the government. Contrary to Hobbes, Locke recognized the secure relationship between individuals' rights and liberties and the role of the sovereign. These two philosophers revolutionized liberal thinking in the height of the enlightenment age in which many philosophers questioned and argued over the relationship between the state and the individual. Hobbes and Locke, two brilliant thinkers, are notorious for being the founders of social contract liberalism. Before one can look at each philosopher’s social contract, we must first define what separated their thinking from the standard at that time, and what actually made them liberal thinkers. There had been one way of thinking in governmental rule for thousands of years which had been formed around the tyrannical ideals of hereditary privilege, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. These governmental ideals, which extremely lacked rights for the individual, had been spread all over the world for thousands of years and throughout many empires. What made Locke and Hobbes such liberal thinkers, was their ideas of a mutual relationship between the individual and the state. This was a mutual contract in which both parties had an agreement where they could coincide, benefit, and enforce the liberal ideals of liberty, equality, and justice. Now one must dive into both philosophers proposed social contract, to get a better grasp on the aspects of the contract where both men agree, and where both men have conflicting ideals. The place to begin in both contracts, would be at mans most simple form, when he is untainted by the aspects of society, and is simply, in the state of nature.

John Locke describes the state of nature as the most basic fundamental condition in which a human persons lack an authoritative, common, or human superior. Locke feels that man can successfully exist without the structure of a society, and that, “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent” (Locke Second Treatise of Government pg 191). This natural law is formed through God, who created all men naturally equal. Reason is the driving force of cooperation of man in the state of nature, Locke argues that this driving force of reason makes men realize, “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker” (Locke Second Treatise of Government pg 192) The reason makes men understand that working together and cooperating will ultimately benefit themselves and the natural state they inhabit. Locke then makes it clear that even though men inhabit a state of nature, and they are not limited by any obligatory laws of society, each individual in the state of nature has the power to execute the natural laws. Man still cannot “invade others right” and anyone who does so, man has the right to “Punish the transgressors of that law” (Locke Second Treatise of Government pg 192). Locke then proves this by using the example of a foreign “alien” committing a crime in a country not of his origin, but still being held accountable and punished for it. Locke believes that the state of nature and the state of war are two separate entities as well, and one is only in a state of...
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