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Hobbes and Locke
Mock Debate: Hobbes vs. Locke
Hobbes and Locke

Hobbes and Locke:

Government in the Age of Reason


1. Be able to discuss the view of human nature of Thomas Hobbes, and of humans in the state of nature.

2. Be able to discuss Hobbes's view of the sot of government required to address the needs of humans.

3. Be able to discuss John Locke's idea of the state of nature, and to compare and contrast his view with that of Hobbes.

3. Be able to discuss Locke's view of the limits, purposes, and functions of government.

4. Be able to discuss Hobbes's view of the purpose and function of government, and of the power of the sovereign.

Key Quotes from the Players:

From the Leviathan:

"From this equality of ability arises equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and to achieve their end, which is principally their own preservation, and sometimes their pleasure only, endeavor to destroy or subdue one another."

"The passions that incline men to peace are fear of death, desire for such things as are necessary for a comfortable living, and a hope by their labor to attain them."

"The first branch of that rule contains the fundamental law of all of nature, which is to seek peace and to follow it. The second, the sum of the right of nature, which is, by all means we can to defend ourselves."

"...that a man be willing lay down his right to all things. For as long as every man holds the right of doing anything he likes, so long are all men in a state of war."

"Men are constantly in competition for honor and dignity...and consequently, among men there arises envy and hatred and finally war..."

"The only way to erect such a common power which may defend them from the invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one to confer all their power and strength upon one man...."

"The function of a sovereign...consists in the purpose for which he was entrusted with the sovereign power, namely the securing of the safety of the people; to which he is obliged by the law of nature, and to render an account thereof to God, the author of that law, and to none but him."

From Locke's Second Treatise on Government:

"...we must consider what state men are naturally in: a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature....A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is mutual, no one having more than another....but though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license...the state of nature has a law of nature which obliges everyone; and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind wh will but consult it that, being equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions."

"Men being by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this condition and subjected to the power of another without his own consent."

"...these laws ought to be designed for no other reason than for the good of the people."


I. Thomas Hobbes

A. Historical events of the era

B. His basic goals

C. His basic assumptions about the human race

II. The Leviathan

A. The Problem

i) Human nature

a) as matter and motion

b) the passions

i) desire: desire for power

ii) repulsion: fear of death

iii) love and hate, good and evil

c) role of reason?

ii) The Function and Purpose of Government

a) control of things that cause fear

b) contract

c) the sovereign and his powers: leadership

i) Louis XIV and the absolute monarchy

III. Summary

A. Implications of Hobbesian position

B. Hobbes compared to the Humanists and other predecessors

IV. John Locke

A. Basic assumptions as compared to Hobbes

B. Institutions and Moderation: Reformist urge

V. Locke' Second Treatise on Government

A. State of Nature

B. Equality: his definition

C. Liberty: his definition

D. The Purpose and Limits of Government

E. The Right of Rebellion

VI. Summary

A. Impact of Hobbes and Locke on Modern Government