Hobbes and Locke in the State of Nature

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The focal point of the paper is to present an argument that would analyze and evaluate whether Hobbes’s account of the state of nature and the social contract provide a convincing justification for political authority. Thomas Hobbes is regarded as the philosopher of the modern times who instrumented the theory of social contact for the first time in 1651 in his book Leviathan. However, there are other noted philosophers like John Locke but the balance and justification of social contract and state of nature based on political authority makes him a true and important predecessor of both the noted philosophers. (Mclean, 339-351)

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He formulated a relation between state of nature and social contact and stated in his canonical theory that state of nature would exist only if there is no existence of society and there each individual would live in a state of natural freedom with unlimited autonomy. This can be stated as a situation where there is an existence of the right to everything possible that includes the right of causing harm to others. Hobbes identified this situation as “Bellum omnium contra omnes” where there is an ongoing war against everything and everybody. (Hobbes, 75) To avoid such a situation there is a need of order and law where civil community or society would maintain the population with the help of a social contract where each would be provided with civil rights and would be controlled. This, in other words, is the establishment of a political institution and thus it can be stated that the transition from state of nature to social contract is based on a convincing justification for political authority.

The aspect of social contact theory based on a convincing justification for political authority can be stated as an orientation. Here it has been observed that people will respect the fact that other may have different perspective and opinions. In this stage the choices made by each individual are not judged as correct or wrong. Here the rules and regulations as well as the law are social guidelines rather than strict dictums. Here is what is called democracy. (Hobbes, 25)

Hobbes believed that man as an individual or community cannot be trusted and thus should be kept on constant vigil. He said these in relation to his Social Contract. His point in this statement is that everyone must take its steps one at a time. Everything should be done carefully with the right time and the right places so that it will be meaningful and productive. His writings made a divergence in different parts of the world. He became popular and famous with the help of these writings.

In contrast, Locke’s ideas on the natural rights of man and social contract influenced Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other founding fathers of the United States. When evaluated from historical point of view, one can conclude that Locke not only managed to propose but also was able to orchestrate a new system of civil governance as is evident in the success of the glorious revolution. He and his ideas were the focal point of discussion in those turbulent and indeed beautiful times. (Jeffreys, 105)

Locke was much a product of his times as he was a product of his own unique, revolutionary ideas. That is because he studied his times and chose to flow against the flow of existing ideologies to propose cure for the maladies afflicting his times. He was witness to events of religious intolerance, tyrannical authority and despotic governments. The ideas he proposed proved that exceptions do not break the rule but go on to prove them. He differed in his views with most of the existing philosophers or the ones prior to him. One of the focal points of Locke’s political ideologies was anti authoritarianism, both on individualistic and institutional fronts. (Heyd, 68-70)

He distinguished between legitimate and illegitimate forms of civil government and tried to use reason to understand the functioning of a legitimate government and thereby establish the fact that the basic function of a government was to ensure the protection of the natural rights of humans, that is to observe natural law and establish and maintain a natural state. Locke expressed his political views in his Two Treatises of Government. His views on religion and spirituality were expressed in his Letters Concerning Toleration and The Reasonableness of Christianity and Some Thoughts Concerning Education dealt with his views on education.

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In conclusion and as a result, it can be stated that no matter how the post-Hobbes philosophers place the idea of liberal social structure it is certain that the balance and justification of social contract and state of nature based on political authority is well formulated and accounted for. Though occasionally the philosopher revealed his liberal ideas about humanity and individual desire, the focal point always remained fixed on the ideologies of justice and social and political justifications. His basis of the use of law and authority are primal factors to social contract and transition from natural state to social formulation. Thus, it can be well established that Hobbes’s balance and justification of social contract and state of nature is firmly based on the existence of a well-organized and fundamental existence of a powerful political authority.

Works Cited

Jeffreys, Michael. John Locke: Prophet of Common Sense: Prophet of Common Sense. London: Methuen, 1967.

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan- 1651. NY: Hackett Publishing. 1994.

Heyd, Thomas. ‘John Locke: A descriptive bibliography’. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 35.1, (1999): 68 – 70.

Mclean, Iain. ‘The Social Contract In Leviathan And The Prisoner’s Dilemma Supergame’. Political Studies, 29.3, (1981): 339-351.

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