Locke v Hobbes the Political Thesis

  • Length: 9 pages
  • Sources: 5
  • Subject: Government
  • Type: Thesis
  • Paper: #92992612

Excerpt from Thesis :



Basically, Hobbes takes a long historical view of human society, and sees the continuation of civil societies -- i.e. those organized under governments -- as the prime necessity for any progress. Left in the state of nature, mankind could not be guaranteed the continued success of any long-term projects, and therefore would not desire to undertake them. Also, without the rule of law, many men would not feel any need for government. The statement of Hobbes' quoted above indicates that he believes the state of nature is a state of rule by force, where the strong are able to take what they want from the weak with utter impunity.

Such a horrific view of humanity could cause many intellectual hackles to rise -- indeed, Hobbes' description of the state of nature has been dismissed as unduly pessimistic by many critics -- but Hobbes was not hasty in drawing such conclusions.

Instead, he based his evaluation of individual human beings on careful considerations. He assumed that in he state of nature, without a civil or social hierarchy, all men would be equal in their ability to kill, as well as being equal in their desires to protect their lives, the lives of their families, and the possessions that would ensure them security in the future.

This would lead to an immense degree of interpersonal conflicts, which would only be exacerbated by the scarcity of any desired commodity.

The state of nature, Hobbes concludes, is nothing more than a state of constant war, in which Hobbes concludes mankind has only the natural right of protecting themselves against anyone that threatens their lives or possessions.

This is the background that Hobbes' concept of the social contract grew out of -- any form of government, Hobbes believed, was preferable to this state of nature. And the strongest form of government -- the one that would best be able to provide the security mankind needs to not have to resort to killing in the name of survival and protection -- was, Hobbes believed, one with a central authority wielding supreme and unquestioned power.

It is not surprising that John Locke's view of humanity is somewhat rosier than Hobbes'. Locke also uses the idea of the state of nature to elucidate what he believes to be the proper formation and role of government, and his description of this state of nature bears many resemblances to Hobbes'. It is distinctly lacking in the brutality that Hobbes presupposes to be inherent to all of mankind equally.

Instead, Locke believes that it is a small minority of mankind that carries such brutal and greedy thoughts, and that it is rather the "inconveniences" of living in a state of nature that are to be avoided through government.

On the whole, this vision of the state of nature is far more benevolent than Hobbes', and therefore less demanding of a totalitarian government to fix it.

Locke's reason for establishing a government, however, is much the same as Hobbes' -- the "inconveniences" caused by the lack of a civil structure, in addition to the need for an impartial body to determine fault and reparations when disputes arise, all make a government preferable to the state of nature.

Because the state of nature according to Locke is much easier to live in than Hobbes' vision of it, government is not nearly as necessary to improve upon this state. The social contract that Locke believes allows governments to exist, therefore, is much more easily broken. Whenever the government ceases to serve the purpose it was contracted for -- i.e. To improve the state of man from the state of nature it existed in beforehand -- the contract is nullified, and the people have an obligation to revolt and establish a new government that will better live up to the contract.

Locke firmly believed that any over-strong authroty was far worse than the state of nature.

Furthermore, Locke believed that the type of government Hobbes argued for placed man into the very state of nature that Hobbes described, where the government or ruler represented the strong and unchecked forces of physical strength and the rest of the population was left at this government's mercy.

Although Locke did not believe that all mankind was as inherently suspicious and insecure as Hobbes did, he did seem tt believe in the corruptive nature of power. For that reason, the power of the government was something he felt should be constantly limited and redefined by the people as the needs and desires of society changed.

The social contract, that is, was not immutable, and the conception of the government as a separate and permanent entity was already mistaken, but rather government should be viewed as the primary tool used by people to ensure the rights to life, liberty, health, and property -- all of which Locke believed were inherent and inborn rights for all mankind.

Hobbes also believed in certain unalienable rights, but they only applied in the most extreme of situations. In general, he and Locke's concepts of humanity and government were diametrically opposed, with Hobbes believing that people need protection from themselves, and Locke believing they need protection from the government. We can all be thankful that Locke's theories have won out, yet one must wonder when -- if ever -- such protection will evr be complete.

References

Anonymous. "John Locke." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006. Accessed 17 April 2009. http://www.iep.utm.edu/l/locke.htm

Finn, Stephen. "Thomas Hobbes: Methodology." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2008. Accessed 17 April 2009. http://www.iep.utm.edu/h/hobmeth.htm

Lloyd, Sharon A. And Sreedhar, Susanne. "Hobbes's Moral and Political Philosophy." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2008. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/#MajPolWri

Moseley, Alexander. "The Political Philosophy of John Locke." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2007. Accessed 17 April 2009. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-political/

Uzgalis, W. "John Locke." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007. Accessed 17 April 2009. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/

Stephen Finn. "Thomas Hobbes: Methodology." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2008.

William Uzgalis. "John Locke." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007.

Finn.

Sharon A. Lloyd and Susanne Sreedhar. "Hobbes's Moral and Political Philosophy." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2008.

Ibid.

Finn.

Ibid.

Ibid.

Lloyd & Sreedhar.

Uzgalis.

Lloyd & Sreedhar.

Anonymous. "John Locke." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Ibid.

Lloyd & Sreedhar.

Alexander Moseley. "The Political Philosophy of John Locke." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Ibid.

Lloyd & Sreedhar.

Moseley.

Ibid.

Lloyd & Sreedhar.

Ibid.

Anonymous.

Lloyd & Sreedhar.

Ibid.

Ibid.

Ibid.

Finn.

Lloyd & Sreedhar.

Finn.

Ibid.

Moseley.

Ibid.

Uzgalis.

Moseley.

Ibid.

Ibid.

Ibid.

Uzgalis.

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