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Hobbes & Locke: State of Nature and Determining Political Views

Uploaded by escarryn22 on Mar 10, 2013

Hobbes and Locke: State of Nature and Determining Political Views


The State of Nature is a classic example that allowed John Locke and Thomas Hobbes to present their understanding of human nature and offer a reasoning for the formation of government. Locke and Hobbes both presented contesting accounts of such a state in Second Treatise of Government and Leviathan respectively, and they arrive at very different conclusions. An evaluation of their conception of pre-societal man accounts in large part for the divergence in their views on what form a Commonwealth should assume and what powers it should be endowed with. This essay will analyze Locke’s man in the state of nature and subsequently juxtapose it with Hobbes’ in an effort to shed light on the differences between two of the great political philosophers.
Locke uses the state of nature as the starting point for his second, and most salient, Treatise. This is a condition where there is for men “a State of perfect Freedom to order their Actions and dispose of their Possessions, and Persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the Law of Nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the Will of any other man.”(1) From this very first sentence, it is evident that Locke follows in the Natural Law tradition that states that men inherently have a moral sense that restricts them from engaging in certain acts. By virtue of being children of God, we know what is right and wrong and by extension what is lawful, and we can therefore resolve conflicts fairly consistently. As a result, for Locke, the state of nature is not a state of License because man “has not Liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any Creature in his Possession, but where some nobler use, than its bare Preservation calls for it.”(2) Reason teaches us that we ought not to harm one another in life, health, liberty or possessions, and that in fact we have an active obligation to others. At the same time, we all have “a right to punish the transgressors of [the Law of Nature]”(3) and as such we are all executioners of natural law. However, man is disposed to be partial in his own case and therefore act as a biased judge. This is indeed one of the great shortcomings in Locke’s state of nature. The other two failings are the absence of protection of property...

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Uploaded by:   escarryn22

Date:   03/10/2013

Category:   Politics

Length:   8 pages (1,797 words)

Views:   3455

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