Differences Between the Arguements of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke in Leviathan and Second Treatise of Government

1322 WordsJul 8, 20186 Pages
When initially looking at the arguments of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke in Leviathan and Second Treatise of Government, they seem to agree on many things. Both philosophers believe that human reasoning is based on appetites and aversions, that humans have a fundamental right to self-preservation, and, above all, that a strong central government is the way to remedy the problems with the state of nature. However, after looking closely, many important differences become apparent. All differences between the arguments of Hobbes and Locke, in regards to human nature and the formation of a social contract, stem from two crucial points: the authors’ value of individualism and sociality, both in the state of nature and in civil society, and…show more content…
Both Hobbes and Locke observe the overwhelming presence of fear in the state of nature. Even though a person has the right to self-defense and the punishment of evildoers, that does not eliminate the constant fear of being attacked in the state of nature. This is a reason why, according to both philosophers, people are willing to be governed (Hobbes, 1968: 188; Locke, 1980: 16). However, in Hobbes’ form of government, that fear is not eliminated, only changed. Instead of fearing death or attack, now the people fear the sovereign itself (Hobbes, 1968: 198). In fact, the entire power of the sovereign comes directly from the fear it instills in those it governs. In exchange for this perpetual fear, the governed can live in peace, so long as they follow the sovereign’s rules and do not speak out against him (377). Locke’s government, however, is based much more heavily on trust. This is evident because firstly, citizens retain their individual property; secondly, the citizens have the right to change the government if they are dissatisfied; and lastly, that each citizen must, either tacitly or explicitly, consent to being a part of that government (Locke, 1980: 65). In Locke’s civil society, everyone has the right to their life, liberty, and estate. If the government threatens to violate any of a person’s rights to property, that person has the right to renounce consent and move to a different society, or to rebel against the current one and effect change.

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