Thomas Hobbes vs. John Locke

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There are various similarities and differences between Thomas Hobbes’ views on nature, purpose, and ideal form of government with John Locke’s views on the same. For instance, both writers contend that selfishness is part of human nature that defines aspects of political theory that govern citizens. It means all citizens are considered equal as espoused by the views of the two philosophers. Another similarity was the need for a robust civil society that would defend the liberties and rights of the people when establishing an effective government. Lastly, both writers concurred that separation of powers was instrumental in order to prevent conflicts that arise when purposes are not clearly outlined (Hobbes, 2015).

However, there were also other differences. First, while social contract theory was the basis of Locke’s political theory, Hobbes thought otherwise. He posited that tolerance and reason were the foundation of understanding the social interaction between citizens and not a social contract. Second, involved Hobbes’ interpretation of the universe from the perspective of interactions and motions particularly the relationship with material bodies which differed with Locke’s view. Instead, Locke contested that human actions could not be simply be interpreted through science only (Thomas, 2013). He proposed the use of emotions to aid in the mediation of hopes and fears in the formation of a stable government.

I, therefore, believe, Locke’s argument is superior to Hobbes in multiple ways. For example, unlike Hobbes, his political theory is solidly anchored on human nature as the foundation of forming a government and outlining its purpose. It implies his theory obeys various fundamental laws that are part of understanding emotions. These emotions are often manifested through the desire to champion for one’s liberties, rights, and freedoms which results to the creation of civil society. On that account, it differs from Hobbes’ materialist view that has weaknesses since it requires proof of human experiences (Hobbes, 2015). This usually becomes a mechanical problem since human nature cannot be explained and interpreted through the foundations of science that Locke rejected.

Contrastingly, while Locke is right in advancing his view founded on human experiences as opposed to the Hobbes’ materialist view, he arguments are also too subjective. It means that often they lack philosophical underpinning that is worthy of experimentation when it comes to the ideal form of government. This creates a complication when it comes to defining the proper political theory based on systems of truth that support daily human actions and interactions. Accordingly, his emphasis on morality as the only nature that mediates between human emotions and desires is also false since it does not acknowledge the scientific principles controlling the universe (Thomas, 2013). Overall, Locke’s views are untested are open to multiple interpretations.

Therefore, I feel the Locke’s weak argument could be improved by accepting different perspectives that expound on the human nature. It implies that both morality and materialist standpoints should be seen as critical mediators when citizens form an ideal government with purposes serving their interests. Similarly, the subjective interpretation adopted by Locke has room for improvement when it incorporates objective angle that realizes the function of scientific principles in understanding the universe. This is because it is within the universe that human actions, interactions, and desires converge to form a system of government that meets their goals and objectives (Hobbes, 2015). In brief, both philosophers are right in their political theory, but new models are required to develop their views.

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  1. Hobbes, T. (2015). Leviathan. New York, NY: Springer.
  2. Thomas, D. (2013). Routledge Philosophy Guide Book to Locke on Government. Mason, OH: SAGE.
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