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Hobbes Human Nature

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Essay Question

Compare Hobbes’ and Rousseau’s assumptions about human nature. In each case what follows from these assumptions? Who do you agree with, and why?

Throughout history, many philosophers have discussed the term ‘state of nature’ which is used to describe the natural condition of mankind either in the absence of a common authority or the lack of laws. In the book The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes one of most important political philosopher, examines the state of nature in detail and makes hypothetical arguments, which do not base itself on any historical evidence of such a state having ever been formed by humanity. Another significant political philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau who also discussed the natural state of mankind, disputed the arguments of Hobbes about human nature. This essays aims to examine the differences between the views of both Hobbes and Rousseau and their assumptions about the human nature.

In Leviathan, firstly, Hobbes analyses the natural condition of mankind when there isn’t a common power to keep them in awe or to tie them by fear of punishment. In a such circumstance as it is called state of nature, Hobbes argues that in the nature of man, there are three matters which drag them into a quarrel, firstly; competition, secondly; distrust towards each other and thirdly; glory (The Leviathan, ch.13, p.2, Ð'§ 5). Because as Hobbes explains, people in the state of nature, mostly have the same ends and aims, and if two men desire the same thing, which they could not share or enjoy together, inevitably, they will compete and try to destroy or surpass each other for the sake of their ends. Consequently as Hobbes underlines anybody attacks to anybody to seize not only their possessions but also their life or liberty sometime to stay alive, for conservation, sometime to be satisfied, for pleasure. (The Leviathan, ch.13, p.1, Ð'§ 3).

Not surprisingly, Hobbes highlights in such conditions people continuously distrust towards each other and defend themselves to ensure their safety, against the invaders who use violence to be masters of others and who seek glory for reputation which are all of a part of human nature (The Leviathan, ch.13, p.2, Ð'§6). Briefly Hobbes claims that in the state of nature “men are continually in competition for honor and dignity, ... and consequently amongst men there arise on the ground, envy, and hatred and finally war;” (The Leviathan, ch.17, p.3, Ð'§ 5) which indicates that the state of nature is same as the state of war where there is a continual fear of death among people and obviously an endless quarrel. Hobbes gives a name to this anarchic condition that ‘war of every man against every man’ which we definitely call civil war today. Then he concludes his assumption with emphasizing that in such condition where there is continual fear and danger of violent death, the life of the man will be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. (The Leviathan, ch.13, p.2, Ð'§ 7).

According to Hobbes, in order to quit from the state of war, firstly, people who naturally love freedom and authority over others should restraint upon themselves. This does not mean that their nature changes, the impulses are still in them and they has the will to keep them, however to procure social safety and peace, mankind should self – restraint and control their impulses. Secondly, as it is Hobbes’ s main and definite solution, he introduces the social contract, which forms a kind of powerful authority to stop people fighting each other and to tie them by fear of punishment. This common power leads people into a civil society, providing a political structure and a law system and cures the diseases of the state of nature. (The Leviathan, ch. 17, p.1, Ð'§ 1&2). Briefly, For Hobbes, the only way to protect mankind from his destructive nature, is to create a civil society by help of a covenant where people need to obey some sort of rules and need to be compliant to a common authority.

Rousseau chronologically analyses the natural condition of mankind in four stages and step-by-step, from the earliest primitive life of mankind, he comes to the life in the developed society. Rousseau’s view on the ‘state of nature’ differed from that of Hobbes, with his belief that state of nature is in fact a peaceful stance. Contrary to Hobbes as concluded that man is naturally cruel, Rousseau claims that in the state of nature there is “nothing is more gentle than man in his primitive state, as he is placed by nature at an equal distance from stupidity of brutes, and the fatal ingenuity of civilized man.” (Discourse on Inequality, p.9, Ð'§ 17). Rousseau believes that once when people lived in rustic huts, so long as they were gratified with clothes made of skins of animals, had simple weapons and shelters, briefly he says as long as they were satisfied only what a single person could succeeds, exactly like in the stone age, people inhabited freely, peacefully, healthy, honest and



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