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Comparison Ideas of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes


Human beings should act and behave in accordance with the established legal systems and ethical principles. Different theorists present various views and arguments regarding the validity of natural law and its interpretation. Many modern philosophers and scholars of politics and governance reference Thomas Hobbes and John Locke for their timeless contributions to the topics. This discussion gives a comparative analysis of the ideas and differences between the viewpoints of these theorists. It goes further to evaluate and identify the most acceptable or sensible political system.

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Comparison of Ideas

The selected thinkers held divergent views on a number of topics and issues. First, John Locke believed that human beings were naturally social creatures capable of relating with each other effectively and professionally (Cahn 9). Thomas Hobbes, on the other hand, argued that men would find it hard to live harmoniously in a natural environment without established control systems and mechanisms. They would maim and kill each other and even threaten the existence of their own societies.

Second, the state of nature was a critical concern that these philosophers examined from different perspectives. Locke hypothesized that individuals could pursue their obligations and responsibilities without any form of intimidation. He went further to give the examples of Soldania and the famous American frontier to support his key arguments. Such people displayed peace and harmony while at the same time owning property without challenges (Cahn 12). Humans living in the natural state would, therefore, be willing to resolve their emerging challenges and disagreements amicably. Using the same scenario, Hobbes observed that such an environment would be inconceivable since men were naturally incapable of living without challenges. In such a state, people would be in constant danger and fear. Violence would be recorded continuously in the natural state due to the absence of enough control and support systems. According to him, individuals living in such a setting would remain brutal, nasty, and even poor.

Third, the social contract forms the third basis of the differences between the works of Hobbes and Locke. For Locke, human beings had the right to a fair, just, and contented life. Impartial or just protection was also necessary for all individuals to feel secure and remain empowered to pursue their goals (Cahn 18). On the other hand, Hobbes went further to indicate that citizens had to be coerced in order to follow instructions and do what was deemed right. Those who followed such regulations would not have any trouble with the government.

With the above notions, Locke offered a strong case for a legitimate system of governance whereby the people could control the manner in which they were led. He viewed legislative power as a superior form of leadership because it could allow or deliver the concept of power separation. A good example of such an argument is the modern political system whereby executive, judicial, and legislative power remained divided (Cahn 27). Such ideas would influence a wide range of ideas regarding the composition and formulation of future governments in the western world. Thomas Hobbes viewed an absolute monarch system of leadership or government as the best since the king would be able to compel all followers to do what was acceptable. Such a ruler would not have his power balanced or checked in order to ensure that the society functioned effectively (Cahn 287). Followers would not be allowed to rebel or protest against such kind of domination. This pessimistic view of the natural society encouraged the philosopher to support the social contract theory.


From the above analysis, it is quite clear that these two thinkers managed to present powerful views that continued to reshape human thoughts and governance practices. However, John Locke’s ideas appear to be more liberal, practical, and sensible in accordance with my personal thinking. The first reason why such an opinion is worth supporting is because Hobbes’ arguments appear pessimistic and unfeasible. The notion tries to paint a negative picture of human beings as violent and irrational creatures (Cahn 42). He believes that they cannot live harmoniously in the state of nature without some form of coercion. Locke challenges this assumption by describing how different historical groups and societies thrived without much trouble. They could solve every emerging dispute in a professional manner. This assertion stands out and seems to support the ethical and moral principles that man has accrued for many centuries.

The second argument in favor of Locke’s ideas is founded on his view of governance. He suggests a democratic system of leadership whereby human beings have the autonomy to select the right people to lead them. They can do so by separating power in an attempt to create appropriate checks and balances (Cahn 64). This concept seems plausible since it echoes most of the political systems established in democratic actions today. For Hobbes, such a model would be wrong and incapable of meeting individual’s needs. Instead, he presented a pure monarch system of governance as the most appropriate for human beings. He believed that such leadership strategy would compel them to do what is right without questioning. The reason for presenting such an idea was because he viewed people as arrogant, violent, and incapable of following instructions. He argued that they could not thrive in the natural state without some form of control and guidance.

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It is evident that Hobbes ideas supported most of the governance systems that existed in Europe and across the globe before the modern era. Unfortunately, such forms of leadership became questionable after the end of the French Revolution. A new wave of thinking emerged whereby people started to pursue democracy as the best form of governance. Consequently, those in top positions would find numerous reasons to treat all citizens equally and empower them to pursue their social and economic goals. The appropriateness and exactness of Locke’s views and arguments explain why they have become the primary principles for establishing governments in different parts of the world today (Cahn 34). On the contrary, Hobbes views have become questionable since monarchs tend to curtail people’s freedoms and make it impossible for them to lead high-quality or contented lives.


The above discussion has identified Hobbes and Locke as great natural theorists whose ideas influenced different systems of governance. Hobbes asserted that human beings were cruel and incapable of living harmoniously in the state of nature while Locke identified them as peaceful and orderly. These notions guided them to propose the monarch and a liberal governance system respectively. Locke’s views would, therefore, be deemed superior since they are practical and resonate with the political systems supported in many democracies across the world.

Work Cited

Cahn, Steven M., editor. Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts. 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2014.

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