Hobbes vs Locke: State of Nature

April 23, 2012

john locke

The state of nature was a formula used in political philosophy by most of the Enlightenment philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. This state of nature  is a representation of the human being prior to the society or in a more contemporary state.Locke and Hobbes  have tried, each influenced by their socio-political background, to expose the man as he was before the advent of the social life. In this sense, these authors also attempted to trace how the transition to the state has shown, or in other words, how human has been socialized while leaving behind him the animal state.

The state of nature in Hobbes and Locke’s philosophy

Thomas Hobbes was a negative conception of the state of nature, as it represents a state of permanent war, a continuing risk to the individual. First, the human being is drawn equal to the next. The body, can dominate all the other regardless of the means used by the vital force or pettiness. Strength and cunning are two essential qualities in the state of nature. In the spirit, “there is no better sign of an even distribution [...] the fact that everyone is satisfied with his hand.” Finally, all want the same things. Given this state of desire is prescribed by the greed of what the other has to fill a craving, they can be two to hold. Then everyone tries to dominate the other, hence the maxim man is a wolf to man. Competition for profit, the suspicion for their security and pride in regard to their reputation; feed this state of war. Three consequences are connected to the state of nature: the absence of law, notions of justice and property. Without laws, so in absolute freedom, the law of the jungle that governed human relations. All have a natural right, which is to protect its existence, at the risk of death. Where there is no law that determines the individual, there is no injustice, because each is in its natural right to arrange for his own safety, and no common power is in place to administer the justice. Finally, the property is absent, so there is more industry, as the state of nature does not allow ownership, it just does not make a distinction possible. In short, this state of nature is a war, complete anarchy, which can be stopped only by the natural law derived from reason, premise for the transition to the state.

According to John Locke, the state of nature does not necessarily mean a state of war as in Hobbes, but displays a certain skepticism about the natural state because it is full of impartial justice. This is one of equality, because everyone has the same powers as its neighbor, which implies a state of non-subjection. It is also one of perfect freedom, because the individual has of himself without depending on anyone. But this freedom is not absolute, since it is bounded by two precepts of the law of nature, the latter arising from the nature and human reason. This is not to do wrong or to himself or to others. But, “Whoever sheds the blood of a man, his blood will also be spread by a man.” The man can kill, and all this power, but one purpose: to punish an offender who violated the principle of “peace and preservation of mankind.” There are two rights, the right to punish the crime by a person authorized to do so and the other to require repairs to ensure its preservation. It requires power to judge of the judge and punish: the exemption of passion and the sentence must be proportionate to the crime, while deterring others from committing a similar crime. All is judge and party, there is the problem. For the self-esteem of men makes them biased and unfair. In contrast to Hobbes, the natural laws have their place in the state of nature, because it goes against the freedom of individuals, they are just qualities of human nature. However, they are among the authors, human reason, the result of a thinking being and prudent . The state of nature is not the equivalent of a state of war. This state of conflict is reflected in an action that threatens to destroy an individual are different. It is the violation of freedom of each other which depicts the state of war because the state of nature is characterized by independence shared by all. Not being two similar states, they are unlike two absolute opposites. “The denial of a common judge, invested with authority, puts all men in the state of nature: injustice and violence and sudden [...] produces a state of war. “visions of Hobbes and Locke are indeed opposed to the meaning of state of nature. Finally, the transition to the state is characterized by the pursuit of impartial justice and the disappearance of the state of war.

The transition to state according to Locke and Hobbes

For Thomas Hobbes, the first step to the state derives from reason. It turns into two laws of nature which prevent men from being destroyed by agreeing to divest itself of its share of natural law and strive for peace. The laws of nature, restrict the freedom of the individual as they determine not to follow his natural passions such as pride, revenge, etc.. They prevent and to enjoy their right to do what he pleases and thereby return to a state of war. The transition to the State seeks to uproot the state of war arising from the state of nature. So there is an unavoidable necessity of the State, which grounds the protection of men. This is a partial transfer of its inherent right to a state with absolute power and indivisible, that it provides protection to men in their lives in return. This awesome power that carries the state, reduces the population to inner peace. Power must be in the hands of one man or assembly “which can reduce all wills, by majority rule in a single will.” This majority, however, implies the subjection of individuals channeled into a common will. In short, for Hobbes, the transition to the state is a necessity to get out of a state of destruction and anarchy. Man must, therefore, to ensure a peaceful life within the State to carry its natural right and follow the two laws of nature.

The transition to the state for John Locke, occurs when justice is impartial. This is a general will, before a consent between people, there is transmission, in a state of their natural rights to get justice. It works, as in Hobbes, the rule of the majority, because nothing would be possible if the dissolution of society. This rule implies that the consent of everyone to make sure they submit to the will of the people. If they act against this, they are in a state of nature. The man, relegating its rights on the basis of a shared agreement, gives rise to a legitimate civilian government, which imposes a hardship then individuals under it. The man relegates its rights because in the state of nature, “the enjoyment of a clean [...] is uncertain, and can hardly be alone.” For the gaps in the state of nature are: the absence of established laws, impartial judges and power to carry out the sentences given. These three gaps that lead men to leave the state of nature to protect and maintain their properties. The power set is a need as Hobbes. But unlike the latter, it is not to end a state of war, but a state of injustice. From this perspective, the new government is impartial justice that was missing men in their natural state. Therefore, the state is not ultimately absolute, since it was established to address the three shortcomings of the state of nature and not to extend beyond the public sphere.

Rousseau tells us that this is private property that ends the state of nature. But the transition to a state is not an immediate increase. It is when man has learned to overcome the obstacles of nature, becoming higher animals, he brought a first look at the person, assuming a first sign of pride. It is the spirit that lit up the industry to improve. For example, men have settled, losing “something of their ferocity and vigor, but became less so each separately own to fight the beasts, however it was easier to assemble together to resist them.” This irreversible assembly of men, the community was born. They strove to use new facilities and “deprivation became much more cruel than the possession was sweet.” Inequalities begin on the possession of property – the property – the comparisons are born and jealousy ensues, creating discord. Self-love to debase the self-esteem: the credit account that each jealously guarded. The important thing for the civilized man is not to be, but released. Thus, the injury creates an injured self-esteem of the individual – it is worse than the disease itself – leaving room in defiance of each other for revenge, ending at the mercy of natural men. Two major arts are the source of the loss of the human race: agriculture and metallurgy. This is the culture of the land and sharing, was born the property and the notion of justice. The right to property has forced individuals to move from a state of autarky to a dependency. Thus, the natural inequalities, minor change into institutional inequalities, fatal to mankind. This property “inspires all men a penchant for black undermine each other, a secret jealousy [... which] often takes the mask of benevolence in a word, competition and rivalry on the one hand, the other opposition of interest, and always the hidden desire to profit at the expense of others, all these evils are the first effect of property and the procession inseparable from rising inequality. ” Of this inequality are born domination and servitude, following any kind of disorder to the man again, immediate consequence of property arising from the emerging society. The transition to the state is the idea of ​​the rich. Faced with the disorder as a result of its dominance, the rich offered to himself and to the poor, the institutions that govern them by wise laws. For a fraud, he managed to “do his supporters of his opponents.” In short, property law, argue the same time inequalities created by these same properties.

Conclusion : The political philosophy of Locke and Hobbes

Ultimately, each author has his own conception of the state of nature and the passage to the state. Neither one nor the other agrees at any point on a definition. Although several concepts over and over so, but it did not unanimously ideas. Recalling the cardinal facts of this comparative analysis, the state of nature is criticized by Hobbes and Locke as the first, it means war, and the second, this state can not take the place of impartial justice. Thus, the transition to the state is perceived favorably by these two authors, because it is the dressing for the man who suffers the disorder or bias in the state of nature. Rousseau takes a single that stands out from every point of view, it is therefore contrary to the other two protagonists, because according to him, they transpose civil rights in the state of nature. In short, it enhances the state of nature rather than civil society. Man is free and good in the state of nature and servile and poor in civil society. The transition to the state, born of the property and inequality, it is strongly criticized.