To Be or Not to Be
Philosophy and Psychology
Submitted By ikescodejay
Hobbes versus Locke: State of Nature and Legitimacy
By David Feinman
In the study of political theory and the analysis of the role of the sovereign in western society,
Thomas Hobbes and John Locke are two of the most in fluential figures. Their philosophies on the way in which man lived before forming societies have be en the backbone of the discussion of the state of nature and the legitimacy of the sovereign for ma ny centuries. Hobbes, seeing the natural world as a nasty, brutish place of perpetual war, sees the legitim acy of a sovereign as being unquestioned and that of a paternal figure that instills order in a world without law or reason. Locke, in opposition, views the state of nature as a peaceful place where man can enjoy equa lity and liberty, and he believes that a sovereign’s legitimacy comes from the consent of the people whom he serves and protects, and who can remove him from power when he ceases to do so. This essay analy zes the differing opinions on the idea of a state of nature in Hobbes’
The Second Treatise of Government
, and how those views influenced their ideas on the legitimacy of the sovereign.
In terms of the state of nature, Hobbes a nd Locke see two very different worlds. In
Hobbes sees the state of nature as a perpetual state of war “where every man is Enemy to every man.”
Without “a common Power to keep them all in awe, th ey are in the condition wh ich is called Warre,” and this state of war does not only consist of actual figh ting, “but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance of the contrary.”
The result of such a state of nature is a world where there is “no place for Industry...no Naviga tion...no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and…...