essay number 3 3

Political Theory Denizens

Assignment Instructions

  • Compare and contrast Hobbes’s and Locke’s rationale for Man’s willingness to leave the state of nature and enter into the kind of social contract each presents.Please be specific. A few key concepts you may choose from: human nature, state of nature, reason, natural law, natural rights, freedom, inconveniences, property, civil society, consent, security, and sovereignty.
  • You are expected to demonstrate an understanding of the theorists and concepts we have studied.
  • Your essay should be at least the equivalent of one double-spaced page and no more than two double-spaces pages.
  • Your essay must contain parenthetical citations from the lessons, primary sources, and web resources.

This week you have the third essay due Sunday this week. It is another comparison and contrast, so here is a reminder of my suggestions for this type of paper:

  • Avoid an introduction. Start the first section with a good opening statement.
  • Use about 350-400 words to describe each author’s main views on politics, reason, and virtue (split evenly between the two authors). You should have one section on Hobbes and another on Locke; do not use headers, just good transitional sentences.
  • For the compare and contrast section (about 200 pages), use each author’s arguments to critique the other. For example, use Hobbes to show how Locke lacks depth in his views or is wrong in specific assumptions. Then, use Locke to critique Hobbes.
  • The conclusion is the least important part of your paper. Keep this to about 50 words and simply recap the main ideas discussed in your paper. Avoid first-person conclusions here (and first/second person throughout the paper). Keep it short and simple.

Please note the above suggestions assumes your paper will be approximately 600-680 words, which is the normal length for a two-page paper. This format should also help you quickly formulate a quality paper that focuses on major elements/themes in broad works.


The State of Nature


– The state of nature begins with scientific (physics, mechanistic) observation and theory of human behavior.

– Theory of human nature as self-interested rational, asocial, and amoral, generates a state of nature that is naturally a state of war.

– Men are naturally and equally free, but equal freedom leads to destruction.


– Although an empiricist, Locke’s state of nature is fundamentally analytical, ahistorical and without empirical evidence. It is a story. And, there is no real theory of human behavior prior to his theory of the contract.

– Locke’s understanding of human beings as moral-rational agents, who are social and interdependent, generates a state of nature that is naturally a state of peace – even if there are ‘inconveniences’. These inconveniences may but not necessarily lead to a state of war.

– The state of nature is also a state of “perfect freedom and equality” – this means all men are naturally free and equal, and equal freedom does not lead to destruction.

– As naturally social and cooperative, man naturally seeks: one main impetus for leaving the s of n and the first cause of the first political societies.

– Finally, in the state of nature, the world cannot be maximally developed to become maximally productive. God gave us the world for our benefit and convenience and would not have wanted it to remain in common uncultivated.

He believed that man was meant for civil society and that the latter must impose limitations on citizens if individual rights are to be protected. However, there are some stark contrasts between Hobbes and Locke.

The Law of Nature & Reason


– Reason is self-interest.

– Reason directs us to preserve mankind only.

– Hobbes does not really subscribe to a law of nature; he merges this understanding with natural rights.


– The law of nature is “reason.” Reason is moral knowledge. Reason is what makes us naturally oriented to goodness and peace.

– Reason directs us to preserve mankind and to protect property in person and thing.

– The Law of Nature (moral reason) commands we ought not “to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

Freedom and Equality


– Human beings are born equally free.

– Absolute liberty abounds in the state of nature, leading to death and destruction.


– Human beings are born free and equal moral agents.

– There is no absolute liberty to do whatever one wants. Man has natural, built-in moral restraints.

– Equality: people have: (a) equal possession of reason, (b) equal right to things necessary to their existence and preservation, (c) equal possession of earth, (d) equal right to execute the law of nature, (e) equal exclusive property in their own persons.

The Social Contract


– One stage

– Reasons for the contract: To escape the state of war and lay down rights to one another in agreement to a common authority in One Sovereign for self-preservation.


– Two stages: social and a political contract.

– Reason for the contract(s): To escape inconveniences (no law, no impartial judge, no executive power) and to protect property by establishing a common authority. It might seem this is an admission of human-beings as self-interested, like Locke. But, it is not. It is an admission that we need law for self-preservation and property protection in the event restraint must be imposed on those who veer from their natural moral inclinations and enact harm (war) or violation of freedoms, namely freedom of property.

– In civil societies, men give up their natural freedom to each other to gain protection of the laws. Civil society exists only where men give up the natural executive power they possess in the state of nature. There can be no social compact unless men are bound by it beyond what they are in the state of nature.



– We need a Sovereign.

– The sovereign is common in One: a monarch (sort of Plato)

– A monarch is necessary to keep us out of the state of nature.

– The Sovereign is outside of the contract between subjects.

– The Sovereign serves only to maintain security.

– The Sovereign/government has limited power – negative state (negative freedom).

– No popular consent to a continuous contract or political society.


– We need a Sovereign.

– The Sovereign is common in all and manifests in “law”. The Sovereign is “the law,” which is fair and equally applied to all equally. (sort of Aristotle)

– A monarch is a return to the state of nature.

– The Sovereign and citizens have a reciprocal relationship.

– The Sovereign serves to maintain security and protection of property.

– Government has limited power – negative state (negative freedom).

– The state arises from the consent of the people to be ruled by the majority – a majority constrained to respect the rights of all.

– Popular consent not only creates but produces the continued existence of a political society – popular sovereignty. Sovereignty, therefore, is with the people.

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