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Locke’s and Hobbes’ States of Nature

This paper will try to compare and evaluate both arguments made by Hobbes and Locke in their attempts to justify the government. Both philosophers, although almost lived in the same era, have different views and arguments. They both have a different state of nature, and they both argue differently on the motives to move out of the state of nature. The paper will first give a summery of the general form of the social contract argument. This will be followed by a discussion for both philosophers’ arguments. Finally the paper will attempt to evaluate both philosophers’ theories and their supporting arguments.
“State of Nature” is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition of humanity before the state's foundation and its monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force. In a broader sense of the word, a state of nature is the condition before the rule of positive law comes into being, thus being a synonym of anarchy.
Social Contract - denotes an implicit agreement within a state regarding the rights and responsibilities of the state and its citizens, or more generally a similar concord between a group and its members, or between individuals. All members within a society are assumed to agree to the terms of the social contract by their choice to stay within the society without violating the contract; such violation would signify a problematic attempt to return to the state of nature. It has been often noted, indeed, that social contract theories relied on a specific anthropological conception of man as either "good" or "evil".
This is the general concept of the hypothetical “State of Nature.” Each philosopher that believed in the Social Contract theory has a different vision of the hypothetical situation, and thus has a different way of moving out of the state of nature. Certainly, that leads to different conclusion, a different state. Hobbes has a unique state of nature that leads him to a monarchy rule. His state of nature is a state of war of all against all.
“Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition that is called war; and such a war is of every man, against every man. For war is consisteth not in battle only, or in the act of fighting; but in tract of time: wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known.” (Hobbes P119)
Hobbes argues as well that in the state of nature people are Free, rational, and knowledgeable. He first distinguishes between two different types of human acts- Acts of will and reflexive acts. Acts of well are deliberative acts, which aim at maximizing our personal gains, therefore people in the state of nature are self interested. Because we all are self interested in our personal gains, and because we all desire and aspire similar thing that are limited in the society, the state of nature will be very competitive. Because of the competition, each person poses a threat to the other. That is, one’s security is someone else’s elimination. That is why the state of nature is a state of war of all against all.
There were important events that resulted in Hobbes’ progressive views. The most important event that took place between Machiavelli and Hobbes was the Reformation of the Church. Luther rejected salvation by works but rather by faith, which meant that church is not essential, only personal relationship with God are irrelevant. Individuals rather than church hold power to influence the future. Another important reason for Hobbes’ views is the wars of his time.
1- French Ware of religion.
2. The Revolt of the Netherlands.
3. The Thirty Years Wars in HRE.
4. English civil War.
Hobbes then argues that when the people start to move out of the state of nature, they would choose Monarchy- An absolute rule that will insure the safety of the system. Although the laws of nature require that human beings seek peace, and maperson poses a threat to the other. That is, one’s security is someone else’s elimination. That is why the state of nature is a state of war of all against all.
There were important events that resulted in Hobbes’ progressive views. The most important event that took place between Machiavelli and Hobbes was the Reformation of the Church. Luther rejected salvation by works but rather by faith, which meant that church is not essential, only personal relationship with God are irrelevant. Individuals rather than church hold power to influence the future. Another important reason for Hobbes’ views is the wars of his time.
1- French Ware of religion.
2. The Revolt of the Netherlands.
3. The Thirty Years Wars in HRE.
4. English civil War.
Hobbes then argues that when the people start to move out of the state of nature, they would choose Monarchy- An absolute rule that will insure the safety of the system. Although the laws of nature require that human beings seek peace, and maintain the establioses a threat to the other. That is, one’s security is someone else’s elimination. That is why the state of nature is a state of war of all against all.
There were important events that resulted in Hobbes’ progressive views. The most important event that took place between Machiavelli and Hobbes was the Reformation of the Church. Luther rejected salvation by works but rather by faith, which meant that church is not essential, only personal relationship with God are irrelevant. Individuals rather than church hold power to influence the future. Another important reason for Hobbes’ views is the wars of his time.
1- French Ware of religion.
2. The Revolt of the Netherlands.
3. The Thirty Years Wars in HRE.
4. English civil War.
Hobbes then argues that when the people start to move out of the state of nature, they would choose Monarchy- An absolute rule that will insure the safety of the system. Although the laws of nature require that human beings seek peace, and maintain the establishment of contract. This is the best government because the natural human hunger for power always threatens the safety of the contract. Hobbes concludes that there must be some common power to force people to uphold the contract. This sovereign would be established by the people as part of the contract, endowed with the individual powers and wills of all, and authorized to punish anyone who breaks the covenant. The sovereign operates through fear; the threat of punishment reinforces the mandates of the laws of nature, thus ensuring the continued operation of the social contract. The contract is signed between the people. The sovereign has no moral responsibility towards the people.
Using the prisoner dilemma, Hobbes justified this absolute state that his book suggests. Because we are rationally self-interested we tend towards confessing. However, although people in the state of nature want to get out of it because of its brutality, their rational behavior would lead to irrational unwanted outcomes.
Thus:
1. People must cooperate to achieve peace (non-institutional contract) however, voluntary contracts are meaningless because contracts without the enforcement of the sword are void.
2. Sovereign then is a much preferable form of government. It is a contract signed by the people without obligation from the sovereign to the people
3. Moral conventionalism: moral rules are nothing more than the rules that rationally self-interested people would agree to. Thus positive laws (laws made by sovereign) are moral laws and since the sovereign is moral, without the sovereign there would be no just or unjust because the sovereign is the government
This again justifies an absolute monarchy. Revolution is immoral because it is an action against the moral laws established by the sovereign. This makes the English civil war wrong because it was a rebellion against the ruler.
Beginning from almost the same start points that Hobbes used-that people in the “State of Nature” are free, knowledgeable, rational, and have no shared morality, Locke comes with a different “State of Nature” than Hobbes’. He argues that there is a law of nature that governs the state of nature. Such a law forbids us from harming each other’ life health, liberty, and property. Those rights are plural rather than singular. He proposes three arguments for the rights in the state of nature. His arguments have a religious premise, however. He says in the first argument that we are God’s property, and because it is wrong to harm someone else’s property, it is wrong to harm each other. It is a very bizarre argument to use, specially that it does not suit Christianity. Besides it is a very circulative argument, where he establishes human right through god’s rights.
“Of men being all the workmanship of one omni potent and infinitely wise Maker; All the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not another’s pleasure…There can not be any subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy another.” (Locke P219)
Knowing that his first argument did not establish what he is asking for, Locke is using another idea. God, who succeeds in everything he attempts, gave us conscience to know the moral truth. This conscience will not allow us to harm each other. He also argues again saying that people in the “State of Nature” are free, so it is inconsistent that in the “State of Nature” people would be to control each other or to harm each other. Thus, in the “State of Nature” we people have natural rights
Those rights that we have in the state of nature include the right to property. It was easy for Locke to establish the right of owning our body, but his problem was how to justify how to hold title to something out in the world that is separate from our body. He first laid out the requirements to have property. They are
1- It has to be not owned . Originally the world is God’s property.
2- One has to Labor on it. If you go down and get water from the river, you own.
3- You have to leave what ever is good enough for others.
4- You don’t allow it to go to waste. I must not waste what I took, otherwise I shouldn’t have it.
He then justifies it through three arguments. The first is the Mixing theory, that is we mix our labor with whatever we work on, and thus we own it. The Creating Value theory, that is though our work we create value to what we are working on, thus we own it. The third is the Rewarding Value Effort, that is where there is enough good for others, and where one take is no more that what one can use does as good as taking nothing at all.
After establishing the State if Nature, at least as Locke sees it, Locke is a in a very tough situation. If the State of Nature is really too good that people’s rights are preserved and maintained, what is the motive for the people to get out of the State of Nature? Locke seems here to be an anarchist. To get out of this corner, Locke retreats from some of his previous statements. He says that some people in the state of nature may not be rational, that is why we need the government.
“If a man in the state of nature maybe so free, as has been said… Will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the State of Nature he hath a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and his equal, and the greater part no strict observer of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in the state is very unsafe, very insecure. This makes him welling to quit his condition, however free… ” (Locke P254).
Locke then identifies three major problems with the State of Nature. They are the need for a Legislative, a Judiciary, and an Executive branch. One can see the similarity between what Locke is looking for in a state and the USA. One of the many similarities is the significance of the legislative branch. It is the most detailed-describe branch.
So everybody signs-including the government as well, which forces the government to respect the will of the people. The tyranny is a government that systemically violates the rights of the people. When a government is tyrannical, it violates the rights, and thus the people have the right to revolt against it. So unlike Hobbes, Locke is justifying revolution against the government, only if it fails to preserve the liberties of its citizens.
One can identify a problem with Locke that is still present in many of today’s democracies. The government can rule based on tow main principles-the Libertarian (where the act of government is only justified when it protects our natural rights) and the Democratic (where the act of government is only justified by the majority vote). Locke has to deal with this problem, otherwise we will not get the aspired state. His solution is that when we sign the contract we are establishing that the state that will pass laws based on the majority of the people. The contract means that we consent to the laws made by the government.
In my opinion, Locke’s state is much better than Hobbes’, however; Locke fails to thoroughly argue for any of his notions. His theory is full with flaws. When he was arguing for the rights in the state of nature, he used a very bizarre argument, specially that it did not suit Christianity. Besides it is a very circulative argument, where he establishes human right through god’s rights. In addition, he contradicted himself in assuming that everybody in the State of Nature is knowledgeable and rational, and then he says that some people are not rational enough, that is why we will need the government. He could have easily argued that what rights entail and the application of the rights in the real world are different things. In addition, in dealing with the Libertarian and Democratic principles dilemma, Locke does not propose any solutions, he is only taking sides. He is just like Hobbes in preferring an absolute government or sovereign. The only difference is that the sovereign has a different nature-Democracy instead of monarchy, Tyranny of the majority instead of tyranny of the one.
I would say that Hobbes gives the best account to the state of nature. His resolutive Composite method gives a very likely scenario of how the State of Nature would be like, a state of war of all against all. No matter how moral we can be, we may transgress on someone else’s rights purposely or unintentionally. Sometimes what we believe is good can harm someone else. In another word, we are going to have interest conflicts no matter what that would need more than just our conscious to judge. I do not agree with Hobbes state- the Monarchy, however; he justifies it very well. What was Hobbes looking for in a state was just a government that will preserve that stability and uphold the contract, and that is why for him, the Monarchy is the best solution.
“The final cause, end, or design of men,… in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves is the far sight of their own preservation, and of more contend life thereby; that is to say getting themselves out of that miserable condition of war...which is necessarily consequent(as hath been shown), to, the natural passions of men…” (Hobbes P135).
The difference between Hobbes and Locke may be that human are bad for Hobbes and are good for look. They are both different in motivation. Hobbes says that in the State of Nature, you have absolute freedom, while Locke says that you are free as long you don’t violate my rights. Both believe that we are motivated by self-interest, but Locke says that the motivation wouldn’t let us violate other’s rights. Hobbes is much deeper in analyzing the human psychology. The key point that where each one puts the limit on the freedom.
Hobbes is in between being modern and not modern because he uses a very much contemporary theory to justify an old form of government. Unlike Locke, who is calling for very new ideas and a new democratic form of government, but he can’t argue correctly for his theory.



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