Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were two of the great political theorists of the 17th century; they both provided the world with relevant philosophical texts on how our government should function and govern and their works have both had profound impacts on modern political science. Although Hobbes and Locke share similarities, Hobbes and Locke have contrasting perceptions on most of their political arguments, particularly on the state of nature.
Hobbes and Locke are often paired; both are 17th-century English philosophers and both are state-of-nature theorists who articulate teachings of natural equality and natural liberty, and both describe civil society and government as artifacts of human invention (Kosten, 2015). Although they have an array of differences, Hobbes and Locke did share some similarities; for instance, both Hobbes and Locke were passionate about politics and they both yearned to promote the common good (Celine, 2017). Both theorists believed in the state and laws of nature, they just appeared to have different interpretations of it; additionally, they both believed that the primary purpose of the government is to protect people, both were in favor of a popular contract or constitution where the people give the power to govern their government (Josset, 2017). Conclusively, the most significant similarity between the renown theorists is how influential their works were in shaping people, society, and ultimately the government.
Moreover, the two are also extremely contrasted, for example, both Hobbes and Locke give an account in regards to the state of nature, a concept utilized in political philosophy by most Enlightenment philosophers; the state of nature is a reflection of human existence before society understood it in a more modern light (Josephson, 2017). Thus, Hobbes and Locke both attempted to comprehend how man has socialized while leaving behind him the animal state (Lloyd, 2018). Thomas Hobbes held a negative conception of the state of nature; in his interpretation, it signifies a state of recurring war, a threat to the existence of man (Josephson, 2017). Firstly, Hobbes reinforces that all human beings are equal, any man can dominate others regardless of the means used, he believes that people act out of desire and greed, a need to fulfill a craving, and men are in constant competition to satisfy these needs and thus, each being tries to dominate the other (Josephson, 2017). Contrastingly, according to John Locke, the state of nature does not mean a state of constant war as Hobbes depicts in his works; instead, Locke describes the state of nature is one of equality, as everyone has equal powers as their neighbors (Josset, 2017). Locke depicts that this is a state of freedom, as the individual cannot depend on anyone, men are free, equal and independent; however, humans have the right to punish an offender who violated the principle of peace and preservation of mankind, requiring the power to judge and punish and in turn the power for the exemption of passion and sentence must ultimately fit the crime, while deterring others from committing a similar crime in the future (Josephson, 2017).
Conclusively, although Hobbes and Locke had various opposing perceptions throughout their lifetime, both philosophers indubitably had a profound influence on modern politics, political thought, human rights, and particularly in the formation of the United States of America (Celine, 2017). Both Hobbes and Locke played a crucial role in the formation of the United States Constitution and aided in the development of the vibrant political debates that surround modern politics.