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Compare and contrast the political theories

The three great theorists of the state of nature, a conjectured condition in which men would not yet have been associated with each other by a governmental system and the laws attached to it, were Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), John Locke (1632-1704) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Thomas Hobbes expounded his theory on the state of nature in Leviathan (1651). According to the English philosopher, the law has a natural origin for every living being. In the state of nature, men have the same rights over everything, thus fighting a war that pits them against each other. 

Rousseauist critique of the Hobbesian conception of political philosophy

Rousseau, while affirming on numerous occasions his admiration for the wisdom of Plato, considers that this one lost "his honor and his time at the court of a Tyrant," because "the Philosopher can give to the 'Universe some salutary instructions. But his lessons will never correct neither the great who despise them nor the people who do not hear them. These lines of the Discourse on the virtue of the hero summarize the criticism of the Platonic political project, but we must also hear the echo of criticism of the Hobbesian conception of political philosophy, and more broadly of the founding project of modern natural law.

If Hobbesian political science claims to possess universality analogous to that of the exact sciences, it is on the basis of a double postulate. On the one hand, the construction of its object, namely the political order, proceeds from a hypothetico-deductive process, comparable to the design of a machine according to the use intended for it, or even to the a priori. On the other hand, this rational construction is itself based on universal premises, namely the simplest and most fundamental passions to which human beings obey. The universality of Hobbesian political science is in this not only logical but anthropological. It is based on what is common to all men and, therefore, immediately obvious to any individual, if we make the exception of children and fools. This second condition of universality is what radically separates Hobbesian political science from Platonic political science. Hobbesian political science eliminates any reference to a transcendence, which is the conception of justice, which would exceed the right for each one to stay alive and to seek the maximum of enjoyment in the sphere of his private freedom. 

This is why Hobbesian political science, unlike that of Plato, is not, strictly speaking, intelligible to the wise alone. Certainly, according to Hobbes, philosophers are needed to enlighten the members of the city on what could be called the techniques necessary to satisfy the requirements which are common to them. The schema of the “social contract” constitutes a relatively complex conceptual construction of which the majority is not spontaneously capable. On the other hand, when this scheme is drawn up, it can and must be the subject of a wide disclosure, disclosure of which the effect is political since it makes it possible to establish, in everyone's mind, the reasons for obedience to positive law.  

Modern political science is seen here that the political science Hobbesian conception is founder road, to the theorists of political liberalism, the foremost among Locke. The constitutional thinking only prolongs the scheme as it was contractualist elaborated by Hobbes, completing and adjusting, according to Locke's indications, the plans of the political machine. The reciprocity of the obligations between the sovereign power and the members of the social body, the rigorous definition, in the form of constitutional texts, of the clauses of the legal assembly which gives its form and its coherence to the political mechanism, are as many parts perfecting the invention of Hobbes. And this theoretical elaboration remains, in the minds of the founders of modern representative democracy, intelligible to the greater part of the social body.  

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke: State of nature

For Hobbes, man is not a political animal. It only associates out of need one of the main foundations of Hobbesian political thought rests on the clear rejection of the Aristotelian assumption that man is a " political animal. “ The English philosopher denies the existence of a natural feeling of friendship between men, for to which at the base of the tendency of human beings to associate there would be only the mere need. For his part, Hobbes identifies two axioms from which the whole political science derives: natural craving and natural reason.  

The most certain postulates of human nature

In the state of Nature, everyone is at war with everyone. In a pre-social and natural condition, natural craving is what drives men to ensure survival by acting selfishly, each doing everything to ensure the goods necessary for survival.  

State of nature: the difference between Hobbes and Locke

Like Hobbes, John Locke develops his own conception of the state of nature, which he believes never to have existed, the idea being only to base his theory on foundations. But this vision is quite different: unlike a permanent state of war, the state of nature is happy and prosperous. If no formal organization yet exists, this simple collection of individuals rests only on the family structure.

We pass from the state of nature to civil society due to a contract. The passage from the state of nature to the civil state is the transfer of the unlimited power that every human being enjoys in the state of nature to a single person, understood both in a physical and juridical sense, capable of obliging all men to respect the laws. The transformation of the state of nature into civil society takes place in compliance with the second law of nature, that is, through a contract in which all men consensually renounce their unlimited right to transfer it to a single subject. The transfer is essential for the contract to be an advantage for everyone, without fear that any of the contracting parties may be damaged: in this sense, civil society, or the State, can also be called a "civil person" because, precisely, by incorporating the will to all can be considered the manifestation of the will of one person.  

Contract of Locke and Rousseau political theories

Unlike Rousseau, Locke believes in the natural sociability of men, man being that "social animal" of which Aristotle was already speaking. By his very nature, man is sociable.

Men are endowed with reason and enjoy relative freedom. This freedom comes from the existence, in the state of nature, of natural laws. These laws must allow the man to ensure his safety; they are based on the desire to conserve self and others. Man must thus preserve himself (Locke thus refuses any idea of ​​suicide) and preserve others. Thus, even in the absence of positive, artificial lawPolitical theories, there are laws that allow the state of nature to be a state in which morality is not non-existent. These natural laws are so important that people can do anything to maintain them; we will see that they make it possible to justify the right of resistance to the oppression advocated by Locke.

Author: Vicki Lezama


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