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Q. No. 3. What is the concept of State of Nature as given by Thomas Hobbes? 2018-I

Make its comparison with the Social Contract as presented by John Locke and Rousseau.

1.Thomas Hobbes’s State of Nature

Thomas Hobbes’s State of Nature refers to his conceptualization of a hypothetical scenario in which individuals exist without any form of government or authority. In this state, there are no laws, institutions, or social norms to regulate human behavior. Hobbes describes the state of nature as a condition of perpetual war, conflict, and insecurity.

Hobbes argues that human beings are inherently self-interested and driven by a desire for self-preservation. Without a higher authority to enforce laws and maintain order, people would act in a manner that is destructive and chaotic. In the absence of government, individuals would constantly compete for resources, power, and dominance, leading to a “war of all against all.”

In the state of nature, there is no concept of justice or injustice, and morality is subjective. Every individual is free to pursue their own interests, even if it comes at the expense of others. Consequently, life in the state of nature is marked by fear, suspicion, and uncertainty.

Hobbes argues that the only way to escape this state of perpetual conflict is through the establishment of a social contract. In this contract, individuals voluntarily surrender some of their freedoms to a sovereign authority, creating a centralized government with the power to maintain order and security. The sovereign’s authority is absolute, and its primary function is to prevent violence and ensure the protection of its citizens. Thus, according to Hobbes, the state of nature necessitates the formation of a strong, centralized government to prevent the chaos and violence inherent in human nature.

2.John Locke’s Social Contract

John Locke’s Social Contract theory is based on the idea that individuals voluntarily come together to form a civil society and establish a government for the protection of their natural rights. Locke’s theory differs from Thomas Hobbes’s in that he has a more optimistic view of human nature and the state of nature.

According to Locke, in the state of nature, all individuals possess certain natural rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and property. However, in the absence of a common authority to protect these rights, conflicts may arise. Unlike Hobbes, Locke believes that humans are inherently rational and capable of peaceful coexistence. Nonetheless, to secure their rights more effectively, individuals agree to form a social contract and establish a government.

In Locke’s theory, the government’s legitimacy and authority derive from the consent of the governed. Individuals voluntarily surrender some of their natural rights to the government, granting it the power to enforce laws and maintain order. However, this delegation of authority is not unlimited; the government’s primary role is to protect the natural rights of its citizens. If the government fails to fulfill this obligation or violates the people’s rights, Locke argues that the social contract is breached, and citizens have the right to rebel against oppressive or tyrannical rule.

Locke’s Social Contract theory emphasizes the idea of limited government, individual rights, and popular sovereignty. It serves as a foundational principle for modern democratic governance, emphasizing the importance of government accountability and the protection of individual liberties.

3.Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Vision of the Social Contract


Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s vision of the social contract represents a significant departure from the theories of both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Rousseau’s concept is deeply rooted in his belief in the inherent goodness of human nature and the corrupting influence of society and its institutions.

Rousseau argues that in the state of nature, individuals lived in a peaceful and harmonious existence, free from the inequalities and injustices of civilization. However, with the emergence of private property and societal institutions, such as government and religion, humans became corrupted and oppressed. According to Rousseau, the establishment of private property led to the division of society into haves and have-nots, creating inequality, envy, and conflict.

In contrast to Hobbes and Locke, Rousseau does not see the social contract as a means of escaping a chaotic state of nature. Instead, he views it as a way to reclaim the natural freedom and equality that existed before the advent of civilization. Rousseau argues that the social contract should aim to establish a form of government that reflects the will of the people and promotes the common good.

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Rousseau’s ideal form of government is a direct democracy, where individuals come together to make collective decisions through consensus. In this form of government, each person participates directly in the decision-making process, ensuring that the government represents the general will of the people. Rousseau believes that this form of government is the only legitimate one because it preserves individual freedom while promoting the common good.

Overall, Rousseau’s vision of the social contract represents a radical departure from traditional theories of governance. It emphasizes the importance of reclaiming the natural goodness of humanity and creating a society based on equality, freedom, and the common good.

4.Differences in Views of Human Nature

The differences in views of human nature among Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau reflect contrasting perspectives on the inherent characteristics and behaviors of individuals in their natural state, which significantly shape their respective theories of the social contract and government.

Thomas Hobbes portrays human nature as inherently self-interested, competitive, and prone to conflict. In his state of nature, humans are driven by a relentless pursuit of self-preservation, leading to a perpetual “war of all against all.” Hobbes argues that without a strong central authority to impose order and security, society would descend into chaos and anarchy. Therefore, Hobbes advocates for the establishment of an absolute sovereign to maintain control over human impulses and enforce laws, ensuring social stability.

John Locke, in contrast, presents a more optimistic view of human nature. While acknowledging the potential for conflict, Locke believes that humans possess rational faculties and moral sensibilities that enable peaceful coexistence in the state of nature. Locke argues that individuals inherently respect each other’s natural rights to life, liberty, and property. Therefore, the purpose of government, according to Locke, is not to suppress human nature but to safeguard these rights through a social contract based on consent. Unlike Hobbes, Locke advocates for a limited government with powers delegated by the people to protect individual liberties and promote the common good.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s perspective on human nature diverges significantly from both Hobbes and Locke. Rousseau believes that humans are naturally good but become corrupted by societal institutions such as private property and inequality. In his state of nature, individuals live in harmony, free from the constraints and injustices of civilization. Rousseau argues that the development of society leads to the erosion of human goodness and the emergence of inequality and oppression. Therefore, he advocates for a social contract aimed at restoring natural freedom and equality. Rousseau proposes a form of direct democracy where individuals collectively make decisions to reflect the general will of the people, ensuring a government that serves the common good and preserves individual liberties.

In summary, while Hobbes sees humans as inherently selfish and in need of strict control, Locke views them as rational and capable of self-governance within certain limits, and Rousseau emphasizes their innate goodness corrupted by societal structures. These differing views of human nature profoundly influence the philosophers’ ideas about the role and structure of government in society.

5.Varied Approaches to Government’s Role

The varied approaches to government’s role among Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau reflect fundamental differences in their respective theories of the social contract and governance, shaped by their distinct views on human nature and the state of nature.

Thomas Hobbes advocates for a powerful and centralized government with absolute authority. In his view, human nature is inherently selfish and prone to conflict, necessitating a strong sovereign to maintain order and prevent the “war of all against all” that characterizes the state of nature. Hobbes argues that individuals voluntarily surrender their freedoms to the sovereign through a social contract, granting it the authority to enforce laws and maintain peace. The government’s primary role, according to Hobbes, is to ensure security and stability, even if it means curtailing individual liberties.

John Locke presents a contrasting perspective on government’s role, emphasizing the protection of individual rights and the promotion of the common good. Locke’s optimistic view of human nature leads him to advocate for a limited government with powers delegated by the people through a social contract based on consent. In Locke’s theory, the government’s legitimacy derives from its ability to safeguard natural rights to life, liberty, and property. Unlike Hobbes, Locke argues that the government’s primary function is not to suppress human impulses but to protect individual liberties and maintain social harmony.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau proposes a radically democratic approach to government’s role, aiming to restore natural freedom and equality. Rousseau believes that humans are inherently good but corrupted by societal institutions, such as private property and inequality. In his vision of the social contract, individuals come together to form a government that reflects the general will of the people, promoting the common good and preserving individual liberties. Rousseau advocates for a direct democracy where citizens participate directly in decision-making, ensuring that the government serves the collective interests of society.

In summary, while Hobbes emphasizes the need for a powerful sovereign to maintain order, Locke prioritizes the protection of individual rights, and Rousseau advocates for a government that reflects the will of the people and promotes equality. These varied approaches to government’s role reflect the philosophers’ differing views on human nature and their respective visions of the ideal society.

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