Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau Essay

Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau Essay

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Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau have very different views on the social contract largely based on their fundamental views of the state of nature in humanity. These basic views of natural human nature cause Hobbes and Rousseau to have views on opposite sides of the spectrum, based on two controversial speculations, that human is inherently good or that human is inherently inclined towards egotism and perpetual insecurity. Due to his belief that they are of this nature, Hobbes viewed an all-powerful sovereign of a rather totalarianistic nature to be necessary. Rousseau on the other hand, viewed that the sovereign should represent the common will of the people, the sovereign being agreed upon by all constituents. It is my assertion that Rousseau’s argument, although flawed in its own ways, is superior to Hobbes in that it has an answer for the inequalities that may arise in a society by Hobbes’ princples.
Hobbes’ basic view of nature can be described as cynicism towards how a human is naturally composed. The very nature of his argument is that humans in the state of nature live in a constant state of fear and unhealthy competition. Hobbes goes as far as to use the word anarchic to describe the state of nature, implying that human beings were naturally worried about themselves, so there was no state of order to check this natural desire. A driving reason behind the nature of Hobbes’ contract is because he believed that humans naturally had a “perpetual and restless desire for power after power, that ceaseth only in death”. He claims that part of this perpetual desire is “love of Contention from Competition”, the nature of humans to compare powers and then war over this competitive nature. Another reason he believes his social contract is ideal is that he believes that due to human beings natural want to live the easiest life possible, civil obedience would come naturally. Aside from that reason he believes that the natural and continual insecurity of each man from harm of another man would be a strong enough motive for man to buy into the contract. He states that the egotism from competition leads man in the state of a nature into a war of all men against all men. He called those lives in the state of nature short and barbaric and consisted of little else other than self-sustaining. He then postulated that this state was so horrible and that man y...


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...ust agree to his contract as opposed to being forced into it (as Hobbes felt necessary). It is in this way that I feel that Rousseau’s social contract is more plausible as it takes into account personal freedom that in most areas of the world are fundamental to society. Hobbes on the other hand doesn’t think man should be trusted with all of these freedoms, due to basic human nature. These two philosopher’s ideas diverge right from the start and form into two types of contracts, one that places trust and importance in the individual (a more modern concept) and the other in the sovereign to keep individuals in check. Overall, I think it is clear that Rousseau’s plan is more plausible as we see more elements of his ideas in modern political arrangements than Hobbes’ ideas. I feel that for a society to thrive, it must let the individual flourish thus causing other areas (such as arts) to flourish, something Hobbes’ contract simply doesn’t allow a lot of place for.
Works Cited
[1] Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Company, 1987. Print.
[2] Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Company, 1994. Print.

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