Comparing and Contrasting Thomas Hobbes and John Locke

Essay by coltsman03027University, Bachelor'sB+, April 2004

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Comparing and Contrasting Thomas Hobbes and John Locke

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were two of the great political theorists of their time. They both provided wonderful philosophical texts on how our government should govern us. This paper will show the largest differences and some of the similarities between Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan and John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government. Although they do have some similarities, Hobbes and Locke have different views on most of their political arguments, and I will expand on their differences on the state of nature, government, and social contract.

Hobbes' view of the state of nature and Locke's view of the state of nature offer remarkable differences. Hobbes believed people act on their own self-interest, and they would go to any extreme to help themselves. He believed we are always in competition with each other for the best food, shelter, money, and so on.

Hobbes believed the best way to protect citizens would be to have a sovereign that is intimidating and all-powerful.

The view Locke had on the state of nature is conceptually different. Locke's view of the state of nature says that humans have limits as to what we should or should not do, but he believed that humans are generally nice to one another, and we will not bother one another. Therefore, in Locke's state of nature, humans are peaceful. Hobbes, however, believes that humans live in a state of war and fight with each other constantly.

Hobbes and Locke did not have many of the same views on government. Though it is not directly stated in his text, most historians believe Hobbes was a supporter of absolute monarchy. He believed the government should have absolute authority over all the citizens. He believed if such a government did not exist,