Enlightenment Political Philosophy

1283 Words6 Pages
Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were some of the first political thinkers during the Enlightenment era. “The Enlightenment is most identified with its political accomplishments.” (Stanford) All three of these men are known today as “social contract” thinkers. They each describe their own view of the “state of nature” and discuss how a proper government should be made and run. Although they have their own individual ideas, their philosophies do suggest similarities. The state of nature may be interpreted in many different ways, however in order to test its practicality, one must justify and explain its values.
Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau all interpreted the state of nature individually, which made them some of the most famous political thinkers in history. “However, for all the enduring accomplishments of Enlightenment political philosophy, it is not clear that human reason proves powerful enough to put a concrete, positive authoritative ideal in place of the ideals negated by rational criticism.” (Stanford)
Thomas Hobbes had the most negative view of human nature. He felt that all people were bad; however he also felt that politics should be separate from God. Since he was an Enlightenment thinker, he believed in using reason and science to obtain knowledge, although he was also concerned with morals. “Hobbes thinks the state of nature is something we ought to avoid, at any cost except our own self-preservation.” (need citation IEP*) Hobbes’ thesis during this time stated “that the problems of political life mean that a society should accept an unaccountable sovereign as its sole political authority.”(need citation *IEP) His view of human nature was very bleak, and he believed that faith should not be th...

... middle of paper ...

...sues. All three believed in the separation of Church and State and agreed upon two of the three basic rights, Life and Liberty. Each had an opposing view on the issue of the pursuit of property, but all of them had an influence on modern democracy.
If not for these social contract thinkers of Enlightenment, it would be arguable that political systems around the world today would be of various structures. What if Thomas Jefferson had not been inspired by John Locke when he was constructing the Declaration of Independence? The basic rights in America would surely be limited. Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau may have disagreed on issues concerning protest to the King and the specific definition of the state of nature in which people lived, however global politics would not be what they are today, and democracy may not have been as successful.

More about Enlightenment Political Philosophy

Open Document