Hobbes Locke And Rousseau And The Social Contract

Hobbes Locke And Rousseau And The Social Contract

All the above three quotes are from three of the most influential and glorified philosophers. All three of them, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau are famous for their works in the field of political philosophy. These three philosophers dominated the political thoughts of the 17th and 18th century.

Thomas Hobbes – Born on 5 April 1588 in Malmesbury , Wiltshire , England , formed the base for western political thought through his various books, one of which was highly influential in the field of political philosophy was the book Leviathan .Apart from political philosophy he also contributed in the field of history , geometry , ethics and political science.

John Locke – Born on 29 august 1632 in Wrington , Somerset, England, mostly known as the father of Liberalism. His work had a large impact upon the establishment of the concept of epistemology and political philosophy.one of his most famous writings is the Two treaties of government .

Jean Jacques Rousseau – Born on 28 June 1712 in Geneva, Republic of Geneva.his work influenced the French and the American revolution. His major works were in the field of political philosophy , literature ,education and his famous books are Emile and the social contract and discourses.

To begin with I would like to inform that the social contract from the eyes of these three philosophers is based on one fundamental philosophy that is the state of nature, which is different for each one of them as all three have different dimensions and dynamics to it

Hobbes considers the state of nature an horrific one .he simply calls the state of nature a s a state of war that is constant war. This state of war or state of nature is derived from human nature , human beings tendency to desire and to fulfill these desires in order to remain happy and satisfied in life . Hobbes expresses that the state of nature provides full freedom , everyone has the freedom to do what they want . thus there is complete equality too as each one is capable of desiring what they want and to do anything to achieve the desires always trying to gain more than the other person resulting in conflict and hence a state of war. No person can be inferior to another by the virtue of nature. Hobbes wrote that “during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man” .due to the constant dispute and battle between human beings there is constant fear. According to Hobbes people in the state of nature are free to do anything they feel like doing in order to protect their interests hence there is no injustice as there no law .

According to Locke state of nature is “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions , and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of law of nature.it is a state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another”.

He defines the state of nature as that state that is present before the the society develops. It’s a state of complete freedom and equality and everyone is equally free. there is this concept of law of nature which both Hobbes and Locke follow . the law of nature governs the state of nature , it is the law derived from human reasoning. But according to Locke the law of reason suggests to avoid harm to self and others well being , property and liberty. This is where Locke opposes Hobbes as he say if the law of nature is followed then there will be complete peace and harmony which prevents the state of nature from entering a state of war .Locke mainly speaks of political equality , he says that one person can not be a victim of authority and oppression of another.

Rousseau too disagreed with Hobbes with regard to the state of nature .he too felt that the state of nature was not a state of war. He presents the state of nature as a primitive one . Where human beings live like savages, whose desires are very basic and simple. There interaction with others is done for no social cause but to fulfill their own basic desires like sex , food and sleep. He said that in a state of nature human beings have only a few natural sentiments of “self-love” and “pity”. Humans live on basic instincts and can make use of nature hence giving them way more choices than other animals even though they seem like brute animals but they are not. This state is a very peaceful one as there is no vice, and no sentiments like greed, jealousy, envy as there is no civilized society.

How and why should the state exit the State of Nature and enter into a social contract?

Hobbes says; “In a state of War, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation,….no commodious Building; no Knowledge of the face of the earth; no Account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”

Hobbes says that the only way that the state of war in the state of nature can end is with the entering of the social contract. It can prevent chaos which is prevailing in the state of war. Hobbes says that there are laws present in the state of nature but no one to implement them, hence to have an authority or a body which can enforce these laws we need to enter into a contract.

Hobbesian social contract demands the human beings in the state of nature to give up all their rights to the supreme authority apart from their right to life, which in the case of Hobbes is the sovereign, according to Hobbes the sovereign is absolute authority. The contract is void one the aim of the contract is not fulfilled that is the citizens of the state are not secure.

According to Locke the reason behind leaving the state of nature are three inconveniences in the law of nature “that there wants an established known law, there wants a known and impartial judge, and there wants the power to back and support the sentence when right and to give it due execution” he says that humans have to transfer from the state of nature to the social contract in order to create a political society.

According to Locke the social contract is entered only once there is consent of the people. This social contract forms a civil society with a government; the purpose of this was the protection of life, property and liberty.

Rousseau claims moving out from the state of nature because as the population increased the resources were strained as a result of which humans started living in groups,there were personal comparisons, which led to pride and vanity, with time passing there there were innovations resulting in leisure hence causing greed, all this created division between the rich and the poor.the social unrest caused by all this showed a need of a government hence Rousseau explains the need for exit from the state of nature.

He states that the government should be formed on the basis of a general will. “For the general will to be truly general, it must be general in its origin, in its form and when there is economic equality” he says that there must be a say of each and every person of the society, that a group should not represent the mass but each person should have the ability to vote and chose their sovereign.

From the above text we realize that all three of them agreed to having a contract for the greater good of society. Hobbes and Rousseau want a absolute sovereign whereas Locke places various limitations to the sovereign. I feel all even though the three theorists differ in a few fundamental points their aims and purposes are mostly similar.
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