The political thinking of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau decisively shaped the western intellectual tradition

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Intellectual History of the western civilization.

Essay on the topic:

4.The political thinking of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau decisively shaped
the western intellectual tradition. An essay specifying what I consider
the essential contribution of each of these thinkers to political
philosophy. I must explain how do they differ from each other.


First course.

Kamil Kaibyshev.

Group 5.


The political philosophy is the very important part of the philosophy.
Perhaps, it has brought the most noticeable results to out everyday
life, the most famous explanations and basic ideas were introduced by
Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They developed
theories on human’s evolution and how men should govern themselves .
Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau were closely connected with developing
differing versions of the social contract. Each philosopher agrees that
before men came to govern themselves, they all existed in a state of
nature. They created a revolutionary idea of the state of nature, the
rejection of the idea that the government is coming from the heavens,
they divide the church from the authorities.

Anyway, the theme is seemed interesting to me because almost each of us
is used to the politic. It is not possible do divide oneself from the
politic. These philosophers “worked out principles on which the modern
democracy is based”, they affected our life. This cause is only enough
to examine a question in details.

*I was basically using the Russian language material, my translation may
cause some inaccuracies. I apologize for caused discomforts.

John Locke.

Each man, on a nature is free, and nothing can put him in
submission of any terrestrial authority, except of his own consent.

John Locke “Second treatise on government”

John Lock described his political issues in his book “Second Treatise on
Government”. According to Locke before the appearance of the government
people were living in a natural state. There wasn’t war “everybody
versus everybody”, like Hobbes was representing in his works. The
individuals, were not asking somebody permission and not depending on
anybody will, they freely dispose their property. The equality
dominates, ” at which any authority and any right are mutual, nobody has
more another “. The natural state for Locke is a state where people are
free to work and they are mutual independent between each other.

In contrast to Hobbs, Locke thought that community was constructing or
constructed before the state, the state doesn’t come to limit social
freedom or equality, but to guarantee them. Not the government rules the
nation, the nation rules itself through the government.

To force the laws to work in a natural state, the nature has given
everyone an opportunity to judge violated laws and to impose a penalty
on trespassers . However in a natural state there are no institutions,
which could impartially solve disputes between the people ,to prove and
carry out appropriate punishment for an aggressor .All this derivates
uncertainty. To overcome this , to provide execution of the natural
laws, equality and freedom, protection of the person and property ,
people decided to form the political community, to find out the state.
But, the tricky question derives then , if there isn’t agreement between
people to obey the laws how people can come to a state? There are always
people like the anarchists who wouldn’t like to follow even the
majority of the mankind. Locke emphasizes the moment of the agreement :
” Any peaceful formation of the state has in the basis the agreement of
the people “. According to Locke only the majority of the community can
do this. “The obligation to obey to the decision of the majority and to
consider it final “. I think such conclusions describe Locke as a very
contemporary and democratic thinker at his time. A time when arguing
with king’s word was mortally. A total refusal by the individuals of all
natural rights, belonging to them, and freedom for the benefit of the
state (that took place, for example, in the doctrine of Hobbes) Locke
considers unacceptable. The right on life and possession of property,
freedom and equality the man does not alienate to anybody and at any
circumstances These not alienated values – final borders of authority
and action of the state which are prohibited to violate.

I especially would like to specify that Locke more than 300 years ago
carried out democratic principles which live so far. Live, liberty and
estate – this is the constitutional basis of the today’s countries.
Locke denied slavery, he was against the feudal lords. He speaks about
clear competition which is based on mutual acknowledgement. I think he
was trying to explain that business is based on the mutual trust which
is very valuable thing now. An Equality and a freedom are the main
things in a free market. Anyone, even poor or a man with intellectual
or physical lacks can not to be excluded from a competition, from a free
exchange of the goods and services. These things he offered to bring to
life by constructing a political system and issuing the laws.

John Locke suggested to divide a political power in the branches. Every
branch was supposed to obey the laws. Therefore we get the jural state
with doctrine of law, an ideal which countries are aiming towards even

The question on the state form traditional for the European political
idea from Aristotle interested Locke as well. As I can understood
Locke could accept any form of the state which has grown from the
public contract and voluntary agreement of the people, that it has an
appropriate ” structure of government “, protecting the natural rights
and freedom of the individuals and caring the general weal. Locke was
inclined to consider a constitutional monarchy as the most close a
political system to be ideal. Locke denied the Hobbs’s conception of
absolutism as opposite to his views.

In conclusion with Locke I would like to emphasize that his ideas
haven’t been leaved in papers. He wrote a constitution for a North
Carolina in 1669, which was approved and carried into effect. I think it
is the most full confession that a philosopher might receive.

Thomas Hobbes

“The man is a wolf for man.” Thomas Hobbes

Political and legal doctrine of the Hobbes are contained in his works:
“The Philosophical beginning of the doctrine about the citizen ” (1642),
” Leviathan , or Matter, form and authority of the state church and
civil ” (1651). “ . In a basis of the theory of the state and right Т.
Hobbes puts a certain notion about a nature of the individual. He
considers that initially all people are created equal concerning
physical and intellectual abilities and each of them has identical with
others ” the right on all”. However man also an essence is deep
egoistic, influenced by greed, fear and ambition. The contenders, the
enemies surround him only. “In conditions of such war – means actually
do not have any right on anything. This distress Т. Hobbes names ” a
original condition of a sort human “. Hobbes understands an original
state as what would exist if there were no common power to execute and
enforce the laws to restrain individuals. In this case, the laws of the
jungle would prevail where the war “all versus all” is. People’s desires
are greedy. Since resources are scarce, humankind is naturally
competitive, all this lead to the inevitable war. This constant state of
war is what Hobbes’ believes to be man’s original state of nature.
According to Hobbes, man cannot be trusted in the state of nature.
Limits and bounds are put to the rights of the people.

Locke underlines an opportunity of human beans to divide good and bad
and certainly, the sense of a property is inside everyone, the
difference between what is theirs and what belongs to someone else.
Hobbes has been thinking another way. In contrary, in a state of nature
nobody knows what is theirs and what is belongs to someone else,
according to Hobbes. Property exists solely by the will of the state. He
proceeds constantly from the nonpeaceful ideas. Men is not able to
divide good and evil like Locke thinks. Therefore can only live in peace
together by subjection to the absolute power of a common master, hence
there can be no peace between kings. Peace between states is merely war
by other means.

To end the era of uncertainty and of the funk being killed by your
rivals Hobbes set up a state.

A state can be found either by the agreement of the society of by the
force of the ruler. The idea of dividing powers of the state is
completely denied by Hobbes. The absolute power – the only possible way
of ruling. The prerogatives sovereigns are indivisible and are not
transmitted to anybody. To divide authority of the state, means, to
destroy it, as the divided authorities mutually destroy each other “.
The authority of the sovereign is actually his monopoly to life and
death of his people; ” everything, what the Supreme representative has
made in relation to the citizen under any pretext, can not be considered
as injustice or lawlessness in own sense “.

I would like to point out his idea, it was proved that this way is
totally wrong to rule. Fascism, Stalinism and the decade of Mousallini
bring so many evil, suffering and millions of victims of its regimes.
Moreover, Hobbes understands that this approach would be terribly face
by people, however he continue to persuade. ” In absolute authority
there is nothing burdensome, that the human establishments can not exist
without some inconveniences. These inconveniences depend on the
citizens, instead of from authority. ”Encouragement of any sort crafts,
as navigation, agriculture, fishery, and all industries showing demand
for working hands .” Yes, this are the positive intents, but we know to
what extent it comes 50-60 years ago. The arms race, directed society,
not only lack of freedom but the fear to be executed if you are opposite
the regime. It is very like the feudal times. So, I consider this ideas
unacceptable not only nowadays but the appliance of it in past was the
one of the greatest mistake of the humankind.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“As soon as the service to a society ceases to be the main
business of the citizens and they prefer to serve to it by their
purses, instead by their-self , – the State is already close to

“About the social contract.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

His social and political sights are stated in such works as: ” The
Reasoning on a question: whether the revival of sciences and arts
clearing of customs promoted? ” (1750), ” The Reasoning on an origin and
bases of an inequality between the people ” (1754), ” About political
economy ” (1755), ” The Judgement about the eternal world “. However,
his major work is “About the social contract” – “Rousseau proves with
briefly and strongly language that the just state and the morality
themselves arise by effort of our rational abilities”.

The problems of a society, state and right are covered in the Rousseau
doctrine from the positions of a substantiation both protection of a
principle and ideas of the national sovereignty. In a natural condition,
according to Rousseau , there is no private property, all are free and
equal. An inequality here in the beginning only physical, caused by
natural distinctions of the people. However with occurrence of a private
property and social inequality, the struggle between poor and rich
begins. After destruction of equality follows, according to Rousseau
“the terrible distempers – unjust captures of the rich, robberies of the
poor” . Characterizing it the nature condition, Jean-Jacques writes: ”
the Arising society has come in a condition of the most terrible war:
the human sort, got stuck in defects and despaired, could not already
neither return back nor refuse from unfortunate purchases made by them

The exit from such situation is in the agreement on creation of state
authority and laws, to which will submit all. “There is only one law,
which itself demands for the unanimous consent”.

Rousseau didn’t deny the private property but at the same time acts for
relative alignment of a property rule and criticizes luxury and
surpluses, polarization of riches and poverty. The general will lays in
a basis of the public contract and competences of the formed
sovereignty. He acknowledges the laws are made only by the general will.
The general will, according to Rousseau is expressed throw the nowadays
system. Liberalism is the one of the main base. However, this system is
not perfect. “….people think that they are free: they are hard mistaken.
They are free only during the election of the Parliament: as Parliament
has been elected – they are slaves , no more”.

On the contrary , Rousseau express the ideas which we are know like
anarchism. “There is not and there can not be no basic law, obligatory
for the people, for them even the public contract is not obligatory”.
Such controversial points of views I think arose from the willing for
the logical explanation of the transfer from the nature condition to a
state. The mutual utility is the basic principle of the system. ” If it
is necessary for the State, that you have died , you should die, because
only that you lived till now in safety and consequently that the life
is not only the benefit of a nature, but also gift received by you on
certain conditions from the State “.

By the doctrine about the law as expression of general will and about
legislative authority as a prerogative of the not alienated national
sovereignty, concept of the public contract and principles of
organization of the state Rousseau has rendered huge influence on the
subsequent development of a state legal idea and social – political
practice. His doctrine became one of the basic ideological sources
during preparation and realization of the French Bourgeois Revolution.


Locke, Rousseau and Hobbes represent their views of nature state, the
government system and the issue on the humankind’s development. In some
cases the have similar issues on the problems, in some they have
completely opposite points of view. Let’s revise as I think the main
contributions of this great people.

After the social contract we retain the right to life and liberty,
and gain the right to just, impartial protection of our property,
according to Locke. There is an strong opportunity to control the power,
the government could be easily overthrow. Hobbes think that the power
can not do something wrong, because lawful and unlawful, good and evil,
are merely commands, merely the will of the ruler. The liberal movements
are hardly available. Roughly saying Hobbes’s theory has far more in
common with fascism, than it does with Locke’s theory . In the treatise
Rousseau has described the ideal state, in which the people, having
given back the forces, freedom and property in a name of a society,
receive in exchange civil freedom, equality, legislative authority and
protection. Any ideal is unattainable. May be , one the of the main
similarities in theirs theories is that they don’t believe that
government organized thought the Church can rule successfully. They
abandoned that the king’s power is come directly from the god. The king
was no more a divine power.

However, the thoughts of Rousseau, Locke and Hobbes influenced somehow
or other the development of the humankind. History knows a lot things
closely connected with their theories. Some experiences were successful
some were not. But, I am sure that this philosophers would be studied
many centuries further, because their key issues are the base of the
political philosophy. After all, I can confidently say that they have
shaped the western intellectual tradition.

Used material:

1)”About philosophy”. Wolff R.P

2)”The appearance of the state” .The work for a degree. Danilov A.N

3) “The History of Law and Political study” . V.S.Nerse’iansa.

4)The parts of the Locke’s, Hobbes’ and Rousseau’s works from the

5)Different websites with works of above mentioned philosophers.

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