Compare and contrast the views of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke

Essay by kman90High School, 10th gradeA+, August 2006

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Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) greatly disagreed on many key issues of their day; issues such as human nature, political authority, and the right of people to rebel. Hobbes studied before the Enlightenment, whereas that influenced John Locke's views immensely. Hobbes's ideas are also derived from his pessimistic view of human nature. He viewed people as selfish and greedy. To the contrary, Locke viewed people as good and intelligent.

Hobbes often described people as selfish and, because of this; he believed that a strong state was necessary to keep them in line. Hobbes also stated that life is "every man, against every man". This meant that humans will always compete even when they would be better off cooperating. According to Hobbes, people are selfish, even when it would benefit them to cooperate with each other; because it is passion and not reason that governs people's action. Hobbes states in his book, Leviathan, that life is a "war of all against all" because humans are always fighting for the limited recourses on the earth.

Locke disagreed with Hobbes about virtuallyevery aspect of human nature. Locke believed that humans could be well-behaved and civilized and therefore a dictatorial or overly strong state is not needed. Locke also believed that people gain knowledge by experience; meaning that the more you live through the better decisions you will be able to make.

According to Locke, a ruler's political authority is derived from the people who give the ruler his authority. Therefore, a state is in place for only one reason, to help those people who gave the state its power. Locke also believed that people have certain basic rights that cannot be taken away and any ruler who violates those rights is out-stepping his realm of power. These beliefs translated to his...