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Comparison of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke’ Political Thinking

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Thomas Hobbes and John Locke are some of the most influential thinkers of philosophical thought. This research paper, a sample of what you get when you order from Ultius, will cover both Hobbes and Locke and address man's relation to the society around him, through they come to different conclusions regarding the nature of human government.

Comparison of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke’s political thinking

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) were both great thinkers of their time and noted for their influences on political thinking. Each philosopher has a unique viewpoint on the nature of man, man’s relationship with society, and man’s relationship with government. The elements of their viewpoints will be compared and contrasted for similarities and differences.

Williams (2003) conveyed the philosophical fundamentals of Thomas Hobbes’ works. Hobbes, Williams stated, felt that people are basically egotistical in that any man is capable of killing one another under the right circumstances, and no one is exempt from this rule. People are egotistical because when push comes to shove, people will do anything they can to secure their physical safety and ensure their own survival. Not all people are bad, or selfish, Hobbes conveyed, but when it comes to their own personal survival, all morals are circumvented and people will do what it takes to ensure their own survival. In this circumstances, when fighting for limited resources to survive, any person has the capability to kill one another, and no one is exempted from this rule. 

Chaos versus order

According to Hobbes, stated Williams (2003), people each have their own ideas of right and wrong, and there is no way to tell if any person’s version of right and wrong is universally right or wrong. Moreover, when put in a survivalist position, each person will create their own rationalization to kill another person for physical safety or securing resources. Not only does each person have one’s own sense of right and wrong in killing another person for this justification, but also each person has the right to use his or her own judgment to kill another person and has a right to kill another person when put in desperate circumstances. Also, moral judgments change, and people have a right to all things, even if it concerns another person’s body. Thus, man is not by nature moral or immoral. It’s simply the natural order of humans. 

Because any person is capable of killing another person and right and wrong truly don’t exist in nature, government is needed to maintain order to avoid the unfortunate realities that would occur without government, which would be violent and terrible as people fight to survive, regardless of their own moralities, stated Williams (2003). The process of creating government must be one in which people arrive to hold the same values in order to live together peacefully, and acquire these morals and ways of living so that each person holds these beliefs individually so they agree to follow the confines that laws and government places on individuals. People must overcome the baseness of their own nature and rationally decide to live together harmoniously.

However, this has not been the case, Hobbes conceded (Williams, 2003). The natural order of governments had not been, to that point, a mutual agreement to live harmoniously, but the people with power and influence subjugating the weaker. If people were to idealistically agree to be ruled by government, people would need to concede their rights to everything and allow government to maintain its right to everything.

Hobbes asks, then what compels people to be loyal to a form of government, and why do people not constantly revolt, even though the governments of the day did not meet ideal conditions? He stated that all in all, there must be something else that keeps us from living out the basest, worst part of humanity, which is morality and reason. Religious institutions help shape the way people behave to instill and maintain peaceful living. Also, the alternative to being governed, chaos, is far less desirable than peace. Thus, people have been and must comply with the absolute power of government.  

In divulging the philosophies of John Locke, Mosely (2005) indicated that one must take into account the historic events influencing the life and works of Locke. Locke grew up within a century of civil war in England. Around the time he wrote his two tracts on government, religious rights and freedom of religious expression were hotly debated. 

Locke felt, Mosely (2005) conveyed, that man had the responsibility of giving up his rights to religious freedom and obey the will of the ruling monarchy in order to keep peace. According to Locke, the fight over freedom of religious expression was in part responsible for the strife present in his country. He recognized that people can become so impassioned over religious beliefs that it can cause chaos and anarchy and disrupt peaceful existence. This echoes Hobbe’s suppositions that people must be subservient to the monarchy in order to keep peace.

Political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke

As Mosely (2005) stated, people have a right to their own thoughts and opinions. However, outwardly, the monarch, supposedly one person that was supposed to have wisdom and answer directly to God, had the right to dictate what religion was appropriate for everyone to practice, and everyone had the obligation to follow the lead of the monarch for the sake of the unity of the country and for peace. Without that unity and peace, anarchy ensued, which was to him as well as others evident given the tumultuous circumstances of their time, as well as history has proven, pointing to the wars fought in the name of Christianity. Therefore, people should not and could not be afforded religious freedom of expression because of the impassioned fights it creates, the battles that have been fought on behalf of religious beliefs, and the present squabbling in England.

Moreover, Locke felt that the ruler should have the right to dictate what religion people should worship, even if it changes from regime to regime, because the ruler is smarter and more enlightened than the masses, explained Mosely (2005). The peace cannot be maintained in the hands of the many, uneducated citizens, where individual, selfish wills would cause the worse case scenario, a Hobbesian scenario of chaos and anarchy.

In addition, Locke pointed out, reformists should be as suspect as the uneducated masses because the masses can be duped into thinking they are fighting for a cause, where the reformists could trick the masses into obtaining power and control for the reformist. Because they have not been appointed by God as monarchs are, and because all reformists should be suspect because they could be motivated by selfish, egotistical means, people should allow the monarch to dictate what it feels is necessary to establish unity within the country and maintain peace and the monarch must always act in the best interests of the masses and not with selfish intentions. These ideas not only stem from Hobbes, but also enrich the basic concepts Hobbes put forth.

Yet, there are differences between Hobbes’ and Locke’s philosophies requiring extensive comparative writing to unpack. Hobbes felt that man should submit to a monarchy to save people from their own terrible human nature. No one has a right to judge another person for any reason. However, people are redeemable in that they have the capacity to see the value of peace, and because they see this value, they willingly follow their monarch. Also, most people must have some sort of morality in order to see the value in peace and to submit to a higher monarchy power, otherwise people would not allow themselves to be ruled. These rationales spoke to Hobbes’ ideas of human nature, and it is because of this human nature that people need to be ruled and should submit to a monarch.

Locke had a different point of view for human nature, according to Mosely (2005). Locke felt that inherent in human nature, there are certain morals that are universal and should universally be accepted and instilled in society, such as morals that guarantee the physical safety of one’s self and of others. Just because people choose to live abhorrently or live against these morals because they have been conditioned by terrible life experiences, it doesn’t discount the existence of these universal morals.

Locke views moral laws, stated Mosely (2005), as a sort of mutual understanding man has reached in society to live together peacefully. Although, people should not follow blindly, but willingly. Also, the monarch has responsibilities to the people. The monarch has to take into account the viewpoint of the masses, earn their trust, and take every man’s reason into account so as to encourage a following rather than a forceful submission. Underlying these relationships is an implied mutual trust. Another way Locke’s views deviate from Hobbes’ views is because of the existence of universal morals, these morals do not include man versus man fighting to the death for limited resources, and the only way for peace is through a powerful monarchy.

Also, as Locke matured, so did his viewpoints, which sent him further from Hobbes’ viewpoints. In later works, Locke felt that people had the inalienable right to worship as they choose. In agreeing to accept other people’s individual right to worship God in their own way, and create a mutual agreement and understanding to this fact, people could live together peacefully. This change in view, Mosely (2005) observed, was because of the strife created by different people of differing religions trying to get their beliefs to be the widely accepted beliefs of the monarch. Since it was not realistic to have people accept the monarch’s word because people have the right to their own opinions, and have the right to have a difference of opinion, those differences should be respected by the monarch and allow people to express themselves freely when it comes to worship. This is more productive than persecution, which creates strife and martyrs and a permanent rift between government and people. Instead of ending strife, it perpetuates it. Therefore, tolerance of different religious practices is the sensible solution in order for his society to be able to live together again in peace.

It seems most of the differences between Hobbes and Locke arose from the years of strife in England. Locke seemed to arrive to certain conclusions when he realized that his original stance of supporting Hobbes’ views of compliance with the will of the monarchy did not work, and that the right to have differing viewpoints was really what people were fighting to obtain. His divergence was a result of his times and his attempt to bring England back together in mutual understanding.

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Mosely, A. (2005). Political philosophy of John Locke. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/locke-po/

Williams, G. (2003). Hobbes: Moral and political philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/hobmoral/



Ultius, Inc. "Comparison of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke’ Political Thinking." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 11 Aug. 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/comparison-of-thomas-hobbes-and-john-locke-political-thinking.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2014, August 11). Comparison of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke’ Political Thinking. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/comparison-of-thomas-hobbes-and-john-locke-political-thinking.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Comparison of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke’ Political Thinking." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. August 11, 2014 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/comparison-of-thomas-hobbes-and-john-locke-political-thinking.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Comparison of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke’ Political Thinking." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. August 11, 2014 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/comparison-of-thomas-hobbes-and-john-locke-political-thinking.html.

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