Hobbes vs. Rousseau

Essay by BruceeeUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 2008

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The philosophies of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes represent two opposing views about the moral nature of human beings. The goal of each philosopher was to describe human beings in the "state of nature," or rather, they attempted to strip human beings of all the attributes they took to be the results of civil conventions or customs. By achieving this, the philosophers hoped to uncover certain characteristics about human nature that are innate and permanent. If these characteristics could be unearthed, they could then determine which type of government would be most beneficial for society. The methods introduced by each philosopher are contrasting in their ideological content and stand at opposite ends of the spectrum, forming a never-ending debate.

The main differences between each philosopher deal with the question of human beings being innately good or evil, and whether humans are corrupted by society or need society and sovereignty in order to coexist.

According to Thomas Hobbes, human beings are evil by nature, innately corrupt, unless tamed by society. Hobbes claims that human beings are innately selfish beings, and the natural condition of mankind, without government, is a state of violence, insecurity, and constant threat in an "All vs. All" state of war. Hobbes states that humans in their natural state lack government, which is an authority created by men, so in this natural state anarchy, the chaos ensues. According to Hobbes, the only natural authority which exists is that of a mother over her child. The reason being that the child is so much weaker than the mother and is dependant and indebted to her for its survival. In the adult world, without government to keep the peace, we would be in an all out state of war. Hobbes gives three reasons to support his argument: The...