Social contract theorists: Hobbes vs. Rousseau This paper compares and contrasts Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and then I discuss who I think has the stronger position and why.

Essay by Islandfairy27College, UndergraduateA+, November 2004

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Thomas Hobbes believes that all people are naturally evil, hostile, and self-seeking whereas Jean Jacques Rousseau claims that all people are naturally good people and generally happy. I plan to prove that Rousseau has the stronger position of the two contract theorists.

Thomas Hobbes claims all people are hostile and naturally self-seeking. Hobbes's claims when two people have a desire for the same resource the natural result is war. The state of nature, as deemed by Hobbes, is the "natural condition of mankind" that what would exist if there were no government, no civilization, no laws, and no common power to restrain human nature. The state of nature is a "war of all against all," in which human beings constantly seek to destroy each other in a never-ending pursuit for power. Life in the state of nature is "poor, nasty, brutish and short." In the state of nature, no security is possible and life is full of horror, because of this they want to leave the state of nature.

Hobbes defines a "natural man" as an inhabitant of the state of nature who escape from their natural condition by making a contract with each other to create the Leviathan.

Two natural passions enable people to escapes the state of nature: fear and reason. Fear makes the natural man want to escape the state of nature; reason shows him how to escape. Reason provides the natural laws that Hobbes develops; "A natural law" is defined as a general rule discovered by reason that forbids a person from doing anything destructive to her own life and gives her the right of self-preservation. A few of the laws of nature are as follows. 1) the natural man, in order to preserve life, must seek peace. 2) We must mutually give...