Compare and Contrast the Views of the State of Nature Held by Hobbes and Locke

I shall start off by first defining the meaning of A State of Nature. As the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Locke wrote about it, it means man when he was natural in his state of nature, uninfluenced by society, and the temptations of today. There are no rights in a state of nature, only freedom to do as one wishes. It is a term used to illustrate the theoretical condition of civilization before the states foundation in Social Contract Theories. In the dictionary it is described as “a wild primitive state untouched by civilization.

” Both Hobbes and Locke discuss the state of nature with the positives and negatives in mind. Thomas Hobbs wonders what life would be like without a government to keep ruling over all of us, and John Locke believed the government should be working for the citizens and protecting them. Throughout my essay I am going to be comparing and contrasting their differences and similarities. I begin my essay by first taking a look at John Locke and his opinions and beliefs. John Locke lived from 1632 till 1704; during his life he founded the School of Empiricism.

He studied at the Westminster School in London; he gained a Bachelor of Medicine in 1674 after having studied at Oxford. He had never married, nor had he children; he died in 1704 after a long demur in his health. Locke published his Second Treatise of Government in 1689 anonymously as it an extremely strong minded piece of Political Philosophy. It outlines a theory based on contract theory and natural rights. In The Second Treatise of Government Locke asks, What State all men are in? What is a State of Nature?

From everything I have read, in my opinion, I believe Locke’s idea of state of nature to be a state of paradise, it sounds quite idyllic, no currency worries, no prejudice, no one man is better than the other. What State are all Men in? First of all Locke believed all men were born as equals, with a good and independent nature. It was in 1960 that Locke wrote his Two Treatises of Government, and within this he attacked the theory of Divine right of Kings and the nature of the State, as conceived by Hobbes.

I read in detail his Second Treatise of Government and found it an extremely interesting read. Locke has a different view on the State of Nature in contrast to Hobbs; he supposed human nature was characterized by tolerance and reason. Locke believed human nature was what possessed men to act selfish, this is seen with the introduction of currency. Without currency and in a natural state, everyone was equal, “should also be equal amount another without subordination or subjection… ” (Second Treatise of Government, Page 8). No one had more or less than the other.

Therefore everyone was independent, and reliant on only their selves. Locke wrote: “For all men it’s a state of perfect freedom to order their actions/as they think fit, within the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending on the will of any other man” Man had the right to do as his wished and that in true nature we are all reasonable beings, and therefore we should use our rationality to live together, not needing a social contract to bind us all, but using reason and instinct to guide us to living peacefully together.

“What State are all men naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom, to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons. ” (Second Treatise of Government, Page 8. ) Locke claimed that a Political Society only came about because people gave up their natural power to protect their property, and gave into the hands of the community. Locke believed it to be the community that punished offences and handled disputes, for he feared a State of Nature didn’t have everyone’s rights protected, and therefore a Government was needed to protect their three absolute rights. These being Life, Liberty and Property.

In summarise, Locke believed a State of Nature was a placed where man makes his own natural laws, no one man has power over the other, this does not, though, give man right to abuse his fellow, and thus leads to there being Natural Law within this State of Nature. He says all men are in a State of Nature until they make a special agreement which in turn makes them a component of a political society. “But I moreover affirm that all men are naturally in that state, and remain so, till by their own consents they make themselves members of some politic society, and I doubt not in the sequel of this discourse, to make it very clear.

” (Second Treatise of Government, Page 13/14). Hobbs views A State of Nature in a different way, he views it as a State of War, in which everyman has to fight for himself, meaning that selfishness and self preservation would chair over morality and dignity. “… the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself. ” (Leviathan). To Hobbs life without a Government would lead to this State of Nature or this State of War as he preferred. In order for man to live beside one another they would need to agree to a Social Contract.

His book ‘Leviathan’ was written during the English Civil War and tells us of his doctrine for the groundwork of legitimate governments and societies. Hobbs was born April 1588 and went on the graduate from Oxford, as did Locke. From 1637 he considered himself a philosopher. Hobbs questions what life would be like without a Government, everyone having a right, in Hobbs view would lead to there being a break out of conflict, each man fighting against his fellow. He believes our lives would be solitary, and so to escape this solitary life man must agree to a Social Contract.

In Hobbs’s view, we, as a society, are a population underneath a key authority to which all individuals must surrender their natural rights for their own protection. One downfall I see is that any abuse of this power by whoever holds this authority is to be accepted as the price of piece. Which seems somewhat contradictory to me, for surly if the person who held this authority was to abuse this power he posses there were surly be an outcry of war and conflict between him and those that are lower than him. Whereas in A State of Nature, everyone is equal and is to do as they please.

Both a State of Nature and having a main authority figure have their consequences and sacrifices. Hobbs main idea was that the Government has been given this colossal responsibility to keep peace at whichever cost, for it was our right, as humans, to life. Oppression and tyranny was tolerable to Hobbs, so long as people’s lives were guarded. With Hobbs, as soon as a Civil Government is formed, this State of Nature, of equality is executed and no longer exists amid individuals, because of the civil power which is around to put into effect contracts.

But, between nations, there is no power like this which exists and this leads to war, the nations right to protect and preserve their selves, just as man in a State of Nature possessed. Where Locke differs is that he believes a State of Nature was already a State of War, and in order to defer this from happening a main authority figure was needed to keep the peace and overrule all that was happening. Locke has a somewhat more positive view on a State of Nature; he has faith in man and the individual, believing that naturally we are good natured.

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. ” (Second Treatise of Government, Page 9). He believes we can all live peacefully together because that is naturally how we want to be. He has a lot of faith in reason, and feels that’s what governs us as men, is our ability to reason, and therefore he thinks we will not harm another, or touch another’s possessions because our reason and natural state tells us otherwise.

Hobbs had a darker view, believe that man would act in a more selfish way and would go to many lengths to gain what he wanted. “… and therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies, and in the way to their End (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only) endeavour to destroy or subdue another. ” (Leviathan). Jealousy, war, the need to have become over powering , man would go as far as to kill to get what he wants in a State of Nature, for there is no overall power to give law as to what is right and wrong.

He believed to stop this there would have to be a Government that kept the peace. He believed we would continually be in competition for natural needs like shelter, food etc, and a Government could control the taking of these things. To me this doesn’t sound like a society that anyone would be content in, and Hobbs wrote “men have no pleasure (but on the contrary a great deal of grief) in keeping company where there is no power able to overawe them all. ” (Leviathan).

Locke doesn’t feel we need a Government ruling over us because we should have a contracted relationship between ourselves, man, and chosen government authorities. To bring this topic into our current time I shall make an example explaining Locke’s idea. If, for example, Gordon Brown was the suddenly declare that all those of a certain faith were evil and not to be trusted, and ordered for their arrest right away, without any proof they had done wrong or broken the law, then Locke believed people would replace and overthrow Gordon Brown with another Authority figure that would not violate the Social Contract that was agreed

on between man and the Government individuals. As I had said before, Hobbs believed man one right was to life, and it was therefore the Governments responsibility to keep the peace and protect us. He felt killing someone in a State of Nature was the same as letting someone live, because to Hobbs in a State of Nature anything is allowed. With no Government setting laws and telling people how to act man can do as he wishes. “Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice.

” (Leviathan). But this is where we see Locke having more faith in man, he believed the people within this State of Nature would have their limits on what they believed was right or wrong, what they could or could not do. One example of this is that people within the State of Nature would be allowed to live by whatever life rules they believed in, so long as they did not inflict harm on other people. But I believe this is not how people would live, without one all ruling leader there will always be conflict.

Look at our society today, there are many different Governments, with different laws, living by different religions and beliefs, and there is still harm being inflicted upon one another. With one over bearing ruler, one main figure of authority surly all rules and laws would be the same, and therefore we would all have to live as an equal society? In Hobbs view, today we would need one main figure to keep the peace and control what happened, society having to make certain sacrifices. To Locke, I believe he would be shocked at mans, what now seems, instinctive emotion to hurt one another, to protect their selves no matter what.

Looking at 9/11, it blows Locke’s theory out of the water, that man may believe in any religion they wish so long as they do not inflict harm on another human, and it somewhat highlights Hobbs theory, that without one authority figure, it is our natural instinct to protect ourselves, this shown with America invading Iraq. A lot of people say that Locke’s State of nature is much nicer than Hobbs, and yes, Hobbs’s idea of a State of Nature isn’t what we would like it to be, but I see Locke’s idea of a State of Nature as a kind of idyllic dream.

That isn’t how man is; Hobbs is a lot more realistic in the sense of Society today. Obliviously it is a lot more complicated than just inserting a main Authority figure, but it doesn’t appear the Government and Societies are working to keep peace very well today. I favour very much Hobbs idea of a State of Nature, which he believes to be more a State of War. “Hereby is it manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war. ” (Leviathan). Life would be a constant battle to protect oneself and one’s possessions.

With no laws, no one to dictate what is right or wrong, whether we believe it morally to be true or not, there are men who will do what it takes to gain what they want. Self preservation would out rule morals and it would almost certainly be a ‘dog eat dog’ world. However, I would very much like to live in a world, a state, which Locke describes and believes in, but from the way society is today, personal experiences, it’s not hard to see that mans natural ability to not harm another is shadowed somewhat by his desire to take care of his own interests.

Thomas Hobbs and John Locke are two of the most significant influences of modern Government. One has complete confidence in man, the other does not. One believes we need one figure that holds all responsibility to keep man at peace with another, one believes a social contract between man and an elected figure is needed to keep peace. Either way you can’t really argue that these two men have had a massive influence on society, it was even said that Locke’s Second Treatise of Government to a great extent influenced the American Declaration of Independence.

Though both have a lot of difference in how they view a State of Nature, I also see similarities, the main one being, although different types, they both feel some kind of Government is needed within a State of Nature so there can be boundaries. A world without any kind of Government to set laws and inflict justice would be a world with constant riot, war, and over run with selfishness and man’s one need to keep him alive.

To Hobbs, one authority figure would keep the people from a State of Nature and a State of War, but Locke felt this figure was already within this State of Nature, and because of his absolute authority, had put himself in a State of War with the individuals of this civilization. Also, they both believe in mans one right to preserve himself, though Locke has more faith in man in that he will reason with himself and not harm another, whereas Hobbs believes man would go to any lengths to protect himself, even the murder of his fellow man.

To Hobbs, in a State of Nature, man determines right and wrong but what he needs and wants, whereas Locke takes on more the view of reason, and right and wrong is determined by mans morals and reasons. But differences aside, without Hobbs influence on Locke’s work political society would be very different today. Hobbs first highlighted Social Contract Theory, and Locke was the first to argue it. The world of politics owes a lot to them.