Hobbes And Locke: The State Of Nature In Political Society

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When studying social contract theory, Hobbes and Locke are must-reads. Indeed, the two philosophers are arguably the fore-founders of today’s democratic fabric. Now, despite their ideologies being somewhat in agreement on the origins of commonwealths, they certainly differ as to the reach and purpose of it. Locke’s critique of Hobbes pertains to the latter’s case for absolute monarchy. Locke notes that “absolute monarchs are but men,” as such, anyone governed by them will be subject to their “reason, mistake, or passion.” In this sense, being governed by this arbitrary and absolute power, Locke argues that they would be even worse off than in a Hobbesian State of War, where they would not be subject to any other person’s desires. If this is …show more content…
This is why we form covenants and enter social contracts, even ones of absolute monarchy. To better understand this, consider the origination and purpose of governments. So, why do people leave the state of nature to enter political society? The state of nature is the state of constant war of every man against every other man. This is due to a lack of some common power that is so great, it can keep everyone else in a state of awe and perplexity. Reason, in this state, suggests a contract to reach peace, mainly because of a fear of death. By the contract, individuals invest all the powers and rights in an absolute sovereign. The only right they hold for themselves is the right to preserve their own lives. Now from the intention to the actual formation of a Commonwealth is a question about the laws of nature: What is the law of nature according to Hobbes and why is it rational to follow it? To sum up the laws of nature: self-preservation is assumed to be naturally good and thus it is good to follow it. From this, there are multiple laws of nature: the law of nature stems from the right of nature to always preserve oneself, and thus the law of nature suggests that a man is forbidden to do anything destructive to himself. The second law states that man will relinquish rights (with a contract) in order to gain peace, thirdly, they are obliged to the contract bound unless their life is in danger. So, for the sake of self-preservation, we seek peace, and if one cannot obtain peace they can do whatever needed (even using the state of war as an advantage, violence included). It follows from this, that the only way to properly erect such a power that keep all in awe, “is to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or an assembly of men, that

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