Thomas Hobbes versus John Locke

John Locke and Thomas Hobbes were the greatest political theorists of their era. Both of them presented influential philosophical texts that assist in portraying the government’s roles in human life and highlight their vision of the state of nature for a person. Thomas Hobbes believed that a society could operate with no rules. On the other hand, John Locke argued that government must operate for the citizens’ interest. Locke and Hobbes manifested different perspectives impacted by their individual experiences. This essay will investigate how the philosophies of Hobbes and Locke reflect the human nature, liberty, capitalism, revolution, and the relationship between citizens and the state.

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke had different beliefs regarding the state of human nature. Hobbes believed that when people were placed in a state of nature lacking a governing power, then they would be in a regular fight for power in an everlasting rivalry. In contrast, John Locke had a belief that everyone is bestowed with natural rights. The granted natural rights incorporate life, property, and liberty. Locke asserted that people might be denied their natural rights in a state of nature lacking the protection of the government. Locke’s foundational belief is derived from the Bible’s Genesis, where Adam was given natural rights by God. Locke emphasized the significance of property that incorporates natural rights.

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Regarding the natural law, Locke argued that humans are aware of what is appropriate and inappropriate. They can determine what is just and unjust and sufficiently find solutions to settle their conflicts. Humans have distinct capabilities to separate their belongings from what other people own. Surprisingly, most people do not subscribe to this knowledge of the law of nature, which, according to Hobbes, is a common experience. Property ownership exclusively exists by the desire of state, and men are rebuked to the endless conflict to secure the best portion of their belongings. The liberty to dispute absolute power by the pretenders of political prudence is animated by false doctrines and a half of the fundamental laws. Besides, regarding relationship between citizen and state, Locke asserts that men are more often than not fulfilled by their vows to conform to state duties, albeit insecurely. On the contrary, Hobbes believed that no organization is evil to the extent of instilling fear of harm or death to its members. These differences are sufficient enough to heed and respect the different forms of government in the contemporary. A person who attempts to get his or her fellow into an absolute power does put oneself into a state of war with the other party.

Locke’s assertions are vested in an offer to retain the right to life, while justice should be supported by overwhelming energy. Locke further asserts that when a leader obtains total power and acts as both a judge and a political leader, there is a higher possibility of getting into state conflicts. The only important duty of the state is to make sure that justice is available to everyone in society, which means that authorization has no meaning in peaceful treaties. According to Hobbes, the difference from an idea that people should remain silent in the event of the official rule of going against government directives can result in more harm. Based on these facts, it is important to understand the role of government in areas of decision-making and policy development.


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Hagos, Desta. Conceptual Analysis on the Competing View of Social Contract Theory. Addis Ababa: Addis Ababa University, 2016.

May, Larry. “Hobbes against the Jurists: Sovereignty and Artificial Reason.” Hobbes Studies 25, no.2 (2012): 223-232.

Theriault, Sawyer A. “John Locke and the Second Treatise on Government.” Inquiries Journal 1, no.10 (2009): 1.

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