Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, And Rousseau 's Views On The Existence Of The State Of Nature

Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, And Rousseau 's Views On The Existence Of The State Of Nature

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Throughout the Age of Enlightenment, thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean Jacques Rousseau contemplated the authority of the state over the individual: they are some of the most prominent theorists of this time period, and their studies have aided in the establishment of the Declaration of Independence as well as modern democracy. Each of these men’s historical expositions -- Hobbes’ Leviathan, Locke’s The Second Treatise, and Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality and The Social Contract -- outline how man’s authentic state of nature contributes to the necessity of a social contract which exists in order to maintain civil society. While each of these philosophers has developed their own theories on the true state of nature, they all share a similar definition of the social contract in that it is a binding agreement which outlines the responsibilities and duties of authoritative government and its respective citizens. Each theorist’s specific definition of the social contract is in direct relation to their belief of the state of nature: Thomas Hobbes defines the state of nature as an anarchic state of constant war and the social contract as a necessity in order to establish and civilize society, and somewhat oppositely, Locke is a believer of a moral, natural law which governs all and views the contract as a means of security for private property and against natural chaos. Rousseau, like Locke, defends a natural state which is generally good, and further examines the legitimacy of the social contract in a manner which criticizes the will of the individual versus the whole of society. The different definitions of the state of nature, mainly Hobbes’ state of constant war which directly opposes Locke’s free...


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...creation of man, and the necessity of the social contract in order to maintain a level of civility in society. Hobbes’ pessimistic view which categorizes men as endlessly selfish relates to Locke’s theories of natural, just, governing laws in that however this state truly exists, there is still a need for a sovereign, whether to end perpetual war or advance mankind and secure private property. Rousseau’s works further examine the role of the individual, and sets boundaries for any establishment by explaining the need for direct connection to the people as opposed to representative government. The social contract is abstract in the sense that its definition may vary according to one’s personal beliefs in what is just and the true state of nature; however, one thing that must be agreed upon is that the social contract undeniably exists, and all people must abide by it.

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