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Force, Morality And Rights In Thomas Hobbes And John Locke's Social Contract Theories

1635 words - 7 pages

Force, Morality and Rights in Thomas Hobbes and John Locke's Social Contract Theories

Throughout history, the effects of the unequal distribution of power and justice within societies have become apparent through the failure of governments, resulting in the creation of theories regarding ways to balance the amount of power given and the way in which justice is enforced. Due to this need for change, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke created two separate theories in which the concept of a social contract is used to determine the ways in which a government can govern without forfeiting justice. In this essay, the relationship between force, morality, and rights within both theories will be investigated in order to determine the most beneficial format for society based on the ideas of the natural condition of mankind, the rights of the government, and the rights of the governed. Through this examination of ideas, a conclusion may be made concerning the ideal form of government to preside over society today.

In his famous writing, “The Leviathan”, Thomas Hobbes explains that the natural condition of mankind is when a society lives together without the rule of a common authority or power; this creates a “dog-eat-dog” world in which the citizens live in a perpetual state of utter chaos and fear. The fears experienced by the citizens are not only of the unequal distribution of the power of others, but also fear of the loss of their own power. In Hobbes’ state of nature there is complete liberty for society in the idea that each member may do whatever he or she pleases without having to worry about infringing upon the rights of the rest of society; in other words, one is allowed to do whatever necessary to pursue their own happiness. However, there is no guarantee of safety and protection from that same power which is granted to every other member of society. “Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war, as is of every man, against every man.” (Hobbes 403). Hobbes conveys the idea that without the common power of a universal authority to regulate society, mankind will self-destruct due to the weaknesses of our own human nature (Hobbes 403).

According to Hobbes, men are greatly influenced by external forces which are constantly pressing upon them which create wants and needs, which Hobbes defines as “appetites and aversions.” (Hobbes 393). These desires and dislikes create what Hobbes deems, “the Passions”, which contribute to the overall choices men make in their daily lives, thus creating the basis of human nature. The prominent downfall of mankind is the desire for ultimate power that supersedes the power of anybody else. This craving for power is precisely why Hobbes has such a desolate view on human nature. “For such is the nature of men, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent, or...

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