Comparison Of Thomas Hobbes And Jean Jacques Rousseau

1147 words - 5 pages

While Hobbes and Rousseau address many of the same issues and topics in both The Leviathan as well as The Discourses, the way that Hobbes and Rousseau look at these issues such as, human nature, the state, and inequality are extremely different from each other. In some cases Hobbes and Rousseau’s opinions on these certain ideas are completely contradicting and opposite of each other. While it is tough to say which viewpoint, Hobbes’ or Rousseau’s is correct, one or the other can be considered sounder by their logic and reasoning. The view that Hobbes takes on the matters of human nature, the state, and inequality is sounder and more logical than that of Rousseau.
Rousseau believes that humans are not naturally wicked and that in nature humans could work together for one greater good. This idea of pity is mainly supported through human’s characteristic of pity. Rousseau says that through pity humans want to help their neighbors because they know that in the future, their neighbor will be able to help them when they are in need. Because of this Rousseau also believed that a strong central authority was not necessary for human society. Rousseau believed that humans could live in harmony together and work for one greater good. However Rousseau states that because of the division of labor that occurred over time, oppression and inequality started. Rousseau said that when one person decided that they owned a particular area of land, which hypothetically started the entire division of labor and inequality that we have in today’s society. Rousseau says in The Leviathan that, “This repeated interaction of the various with himself as well as with one another must naturally have engendered in man’s mind perceptions of certain relations. The relations which we express by the words great, small, strong weak…” (162). Rousseau is basically saying that humans began to split up the labor between family members and eventually split the work up of the whole group. This then lead to some jobs being looked at as more honorable or important than others. From this people began to develop social classes and that eventually leads to oppression and inequality.
When you look at Hobbes’ idea of human nature he says that humans are born with characteristics such as greed. He believes that human are born wanting to better themselves and themselves only while in the state of nature. Because of this characteristic of power and greed, human society depends upon a strong central authority to govern, instill fear and hold together their society. One argument that against Hobbes’ viewpoint, in which he addresses in The Leviathan is that people ask if animals can live together peacefully without a central authority or within the commonwealth then why cant humans. Hobbes refutes this by saying, “…men are continually in competition for honour and dignity, which these creatures are not;” (108). This is basically saying that it is in human nature to want to be better and more...

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