posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 09:12 AM
Premise: In an era where peace talks are had by the same men that wage war without reason, one is obligated to stop and assess the true nature
of man. Since the dawn of mankind, humans have always been at war with each other, and with themselves. They have built the greatest empires on the
backbones of their opposition but they have also built equally as great civilizations through more peaceful forums and alternatives.
In the attempt to categorize human motif, many philosophers have taken critical stances and made insightful observations into the behaviour of man.
Two such philosophers, social contract theorists, and natural law theorists, are Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. This is however, where their
comparisons end. Hobbes views humanity as being “selfish, violent and predisposed to using force and fraud to get what they want” (Hobbes, 1651).
Locke however, viewed humanity in stark contrast to Hobbes, citing that they are “given to living peacefully with each other and cooperating to
assist one another” (Olivo, 2006).
There is arguably no one way to categorize or make a general observation on man, for there are many facets affecting his behaviour, both nature and
nurture related. I believe that the majority of Canadians would agree that at one point, Hobbes’s was more accurate and logical during the English
Civil War under the context of the nature of the war, when he formulated them, but in present day, Locke’s view is more dominant in logic because of
socialization factors inherent in the history and development of our civilization.
Earlier in the development of this article, I was predisposed to believe what I thought Canadians believe; that this view was indeed the right
portrait of mankind, but I found my view overly skewed for two critical reasons: (1) I, and all Canadians alike, are living in the better half of the
world, or rather quarter of the world, where people do not fight to live (or live to fight), and (2) humans have spent the longer half of their
history at war with one another, leading me to reassess this article. The collective wisdom of Hobbes and Locke may provide a more substantial and
logical step in the pursuit of knowledge on human behaviour and the reason behind the Social Contract. I have taken a large liberty in narrowing down
both theories of thought, to focus on three main issues that will conclude which philosopher was more accurate on their theory of the Social Contract.
These include man’s state of conflict and man’s state in nature, the role of the state, and the rights of man.
Nature versus Conflict: To understand Locke and Hobbes’ view on the Social Contract, we must first look at what man is naturally, without the
context of civilization. Under this context, the term conflict actually means war, so this would attempt to define man’s natural state, and his
state of war.
In Hobbes’s view, as stated in the Leviathan, man is not naturally good, Hobbes claimed, but naturally a selfish hedonist, "of the voluntary acts
of every man, the object is some good to himself". Hobbes tried to envision what society would be like in a “state of nature” before any civil
state or rule of law. He concluded that life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”, a “war of every man against every man”
(Hobbes, 1651). Hobbes therefore, advocated that man’s natural state was a state of conflict, of war, and that the concept of good and evil was
subjective to each man, therefore there can never really exist to concept of peace, because the concept of peace is merely war by other means to
another man (Hobbes, 1651). Hobbes view of the Social Contract and the forming of societies therefore was because man was in continual fear of himself
and the individuals around him. This coupled with his theory that man feared the danger of a “violent death” led him to believe that an
authoritarian style government, preferably a monarchy, was desired by the people. This ultimately socialized man into a moral and just being that is
not natural to him and without a government that sets down punishable laws, he reverts back to living a natural life of conflict.
Locke, on the other hand states in his Second Treatise that there is a difference between man in the state of nature and man in the state of conflict.
He states, unlike Hobbes, the two are not the same, and the state of nature involves “people living together, governed by reason, without a common
superior, whereas the state of war occurs when people make designs of force upon other people, without a common authority. In this case, the attacked
party has a right to war. Want of a common judge or authority is the defining characteristic of the state of nature; force without right is adequate
basis for the state of war” (Locke, 1690). Locke’s view on the Social Contract was that it relieved humans from being in a state of conflict, for
the state would be the mediator between the individual people to settle their dispute. Locke stated that man’s preferable choice of government was a
judge, and not an authoritarian style monarch like Hobbes viewed, because this would keep it impartial and at a distance into the lives of the people,
to leave them to live in the state of nature, without having the separate state of conflict.
In essence, neither Hobbes nor Locke may be right here. In fact, both may have just made observations on socializing effects that society has on man.
Man may not be good or evil, but may develop one way or another due to the different relationships he encounters throughout his life. Locke may be
more accurate on man being a social creature, unlike Hobbes who stated that man is not social at all, because in either case, he had to have
interacted with others to come up with the beginnings of the Social Contract. Locke’s view of man’s natural state being separate from his state of
war may be wrong for the soul purpose that man has been at war since the dawn of his existence, and that war gives man purpose (Macpherson, 1962).
Hobbes was right in saying that man in nature is the same is man in war because war gave man nature; it was the most primordial instinct that he
developed. With the development of society came the development self-fulfilling activities such as religion and careers, giving man an alternative
purpose that steered him away from his natural self.