Hobbes and Locke, Men of Influenceby Rit Nosotro
Compare the political ideas of two philosophers: Hobbes and Locke. How did individual thought change national behavior?
Two men, mere philosophers, wrote their ideas for the world to see and have influenced world leaders and the modern world. Thomas Hobbes came into the world on April 5, 1588 and quickly became a well-educated young man who eventually became a well-known philosopher. John Locke arrived midway through Hobbes’ life, on August 29, 1632. Both men lived the majority of their lives in their home country, England. Though they began life in much the same way, they grew up to agree and disagree with each other’s ideas of philosophy and politics.
John Locke and Thomas Hobbes both agreed that a ruler of some sort appeared absolutely necessary for a country to thrive and flourish. Without a leader, the country would fall away into nothing. In the political sense, the two philosophers agreed only on this subject. However, they each believed that a different type of power should reside as supreme. Hobbes thought that only one man, a king, should have the right to govern the people. One king should make the decisions, write the laws, and control the masses. Locke, on the other hand, felt that the people should somewhat run the government. He believed that the people should have a say in everything the government decided, including who ruled over the country. This philosopher also believed that if the government did not uphold its end of the bargain, then the people had the right and responsibility to overthrow the government.
Though both of these two men became known as philosophers, they had their own ideas of how a human worked and lived. Hobbes supposed that every human being needed to have a master—by Hobbes’ point of view, the king—and he likened humans to animals, both fearful and predatory. To survive, humans must obey the commands of a ruler in religious and government matters. People, Hobbes thought, had an inner motivation revolving around pleasure and hurt. In contrast, Locke assumed that people could not come up with new ideas out of nothing—each human could only understand things which he or she had experienced. Locke also believed that all humans come into the world as good, independent, and equal. Both of the two men’s philosophies included religion—Hobbes and Locke both acknowledged the existence of God. Beyond this, both agreed that God played only a small part in the foundation of their philosophies.
Each of these men had an impact on the world around them, and the people to come later on in the world. Hobbes influenced the people of his own time by refuting England’s parliament and France’s papal system. In the same way, Locke affected the revolutionists of the United States. Locke’s idea of a people-run government held a great influence over the United States Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, and Constitution. Both philosophers impacted others, but the way in which they impacted them varied.
Although these two philosophers disagreed upon certain subjects, they did occasionally agree with one another. Locke believed that government should base itself on the people, while Hobbes said that only a king should reign; yet they agreed that someone should rule over a country. Philosophically, Hobbes suggested that people needed controlling like animals in order to survive, while Locke thought that people had to experience something in order to understand it; yet again, they both believed in God, but they had little use for Him. Hobbes influenced the people in and around his time period, while Locke influenced people a few decades later—but both men did influence the political and philosophical notions of their time.
Multiple Choice Questions:
1. Which leader did Hobbes believe should rule?
a. A president
b. The British Parliament
c. A king
2. Locke believed that each person came into the world as:
a. Gullible, careless, and happy
b. Good, independent, and equal
c. Bad, dependent, and unequal
d. Lying, cheating, stealing scum
3. Both Hobbes and Locke believed in God, but they:
a. Hated Him
b. Loved Him
c. Had little use for Him
d. Ignored Him
4. Locke mostly influenced:
a. England’s government
b. The United States’ government
c. Reader’s Digest
d. France’s government
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"John Locke (1632-1704)." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 30 Dec. 2003.
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Kemerling, Garth. "God."
A Guide to Locke's Essay. 30 Dec. 2003.
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