Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Hobbes vs Rousseau Essay Example for Free

Hobbes vs Rousseau Essay In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Age of Enlightenment was an important cultural movement of intellectuals in Europe. Philosophers of the time interpreted many theories and concepts about man and inequality in civilization and also ideas about government and the ways in which society could be controlled. Many believed that humans were naturally good, while others believed that humans were inherently bad. The argument of nature has lasted throughout time without a definitive answer, but with centuries of philosophical arguments to aid in the understanding of our own human nature. Two important philosophers of this time period were Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacques Rousseau. Both philosophers wrote about their ideas of human nature and the state of nature, also addressing equality within the state and the role government and civilization plays in man’s actions. While Hobbes had a very cynical view of man, believing man to be brutal and violent working only towards self-interest, Rousseau had a more positive view; depicting man as essentially good and compassionate, believing that only through society and civilization does man become corrupt. Although both philosophers’ arguments are well developed and supported, Rousseau’s understanding of the natural man and the state of nature is stronger than Hobbes’ opposing views. Rousseau’s positive view of human nature illustrates man as living in harmony with nature while Hobbes’ pessimistic view portrays man acting only for self-interest. Rousseau views the mankind as inherently good, capable of feeling compassion and pity for others around him as well as self-love. The condition of this natural man is a man without any forms of civilization, including clothes and language. Man is able to live individually, peacefully and in harmony when he is in this state of inh erent goodness. However, through civilization man becomes â€Å"wicked.† Oppression and dominance develop through the evolution of civilization, also creating inequality among men, destroying the harmony in which they lived. When man is able to satisfy his own needs, he is able to live peacefully (Rousseau 161). Through evolution of society, man is weakened and begins to depend on others to sustain his life, creating oppression and causing man to lose his natural goodness. Hobbes disagrees with Rousseau’s positive view of the nature of man, believing that men are instinctively violent and evil, acting only out of self-interest or for self-gain. He believes men are constantly in competition to become superior in worth or honor, creating continual jealousy and violence among each other. Hobbes believes that men are so brutal and wicked they are unable to survive as individuals but need a strong, central authority to force peace and cooperation among men. Hobbes states, â€Å"Without the terror of some power to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge and the like,† (Hobbes 106). Hobbes believes that in order to control man’s instinctive evil, they need to fear the law. Hobbes admits that inequality is a product of creating this commonwealth, but, unlike Rousseau’s idea of inequality in society, Hobbes says men are ignorant to the inequality, believing that the covenants create equal terms of law among men. This false sense of equality is able to control the violence and competition among men, allowing them to coexist more peacefully. So while Rousseau credits civilization to the destruction of peace and goodness, Hobbes does not believe man has any inherent goodness and thinks civilization is the only way to avoid war. Although Hobbes and Rousseau agree that in a state of nature men are equal, they have opposing views of what man is like in this state. A state of nature is a term used to describe a state lacking a form of government or laws. Rousseau believes in the state of nature, man lives individually in harmony with nature. Rousseau addresses this natural man as a â€Å"savage man,† stating that their actions are determined by their needs and these needs are met without the help of others. In this nature, men are peaceful and good. Men also have a natural sense of pity and compassion in this state (Rousseau 163). Because man lives solitarily, there is no one to dominate or control and thus no competition for power. Rousseau believes that this peace is sustained by the ability of the savage man to feel compassion, which allows them to govern the peace of their nature. However, this peace is diminished as inequality becomes prevalent through the progression of society. As property and family units evolved, man began to change his lifestyle and skills and talents developed (Rousseau 164). Families weakened man and woman in mind and body, causing them to rely on others to successfully fulfill their needs. This was the crucial part in development of oppression and domination, because inequality occurs when man becomes dependent on others to survive. Rousseau states, â€Å"But the moment one man needed the help of another; as soon as it was found to be useful for one to have provisions for two, equality disappeared, property appeared,† (Rousseau 167). The relationship between slave-master or worker-owner develop when men requires the help of another. Inequality creates oppression and domination, which, according to Rousseau, destroy man’s inherent goodness. Hobbes’ view of human nature contrasts Rousseau’s dramatically, seeing as Hobbes believed man to be naturally wicked and only through government systems are men able to live peacefully. Hobbes compares man to a machine, constantly in motion and always seeking something (3). He believes human nature is to act for their own self-interest, which causes men to be in constant competition for honor or worth, creating a state of war. Because Hobbes believes that men are constantly in a state of war, he believes that men are always trying to increase their power to be superior to others. He believes that in the state of nature where man is not governed by central authority, men are constantly in competition. Jealousy and competition among men make it impossible for men to live peacefully in a state of nature, creating the need for a strong, central authority to govern over the peace of man. Contrary to Rousseau, Hobbes believes that government is a way for people to â€Å"get themselves out of that miserable condition of war,† by governing peace that men are incapable of alone (Hobbes 106). Hobbes believes that through strong government, men are forced to coexist peacefully, because covenant creates a false sense of equality among men. Hobbes believes that men are incapable of surviving individually, unlike Rousseau who believes that men are better made to live individually. Their differing views of inherent behavior create contrasting conceptions of the state of nature. Based on their arguments of the nature of mankind, Rousseau’s explanation of man is more complete and logical than Hobbes’. In Rousseau’s view of nature, man is essentially good, able to survive on his own and able to peacefully coexist. This view of man could be considered naà ¯ve by some, but it must be considered that this man is also the â€Å"savage man,† a man before any form of civilization. Rousseau explains that a man is inherently good in a state of nature because he has no desire for power, but does feel pity. Rousseau goes into an in depth description of the development of inequality among men, describing oppression and domination developing and the ways in which these factors destroyed man’s intrinsic goodness. Man was unable to live individually in the new state of society, which destroyed their natural goodness. Being unable to live individually, they were forced to rely on others, which created domination and inequality, which leads to competition for power and corruption. The inequality also led to the diminishment of pity and compassion, which was crucial to man’s ability to peacefully coexist. Rousseau’s thorough time-line of man’s condition created a stronger and more agreeable argument than Hobbes’ pessimistic view of man.

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