Locke believes in pre-political property rights being under pressure both from Hobbes and Hume. While Locke’s theory seems quite utopian, Hobbes sincerely believes that a human could be a wolf to another human. Given a possibility to disapprove of Locke’s theory of equality and peace above all, Hobbes would probably argue the following.
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All human beings start their life from a “natural condition”: As we mentioned many times, Hobbes states that all people are born equal in physical and intellectual rights. The most powerful right that humans are entitled to is the “right to everything”. Hence, humans are haughty, selfish and arrogant beings. Therefore, this leads to a fatal consequence – the “war of everyone against everyone”. To have the “right to everything” under military conditions means in practice not to have any rights at all. This is what Hobbes considered as the “natural condition of humankind”, powerful in one way and miserable in another. Therefore, I can say that Thomas Hobbes goes beyond the positive structure of the natural law concept. He highlights destructive features of concept of natural law, and states that to establish peace any method will suffice.
Thomas Hobbes would also argue with Locke’s theory of freedom of mind above all. From his point of view, it is important to be able to refuse from any freedoms for the sake of peace.
Both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke assume that any explanation of ethics and politics must begin with an examination of the state of nature. Yet the ways in which they characterize that state are quite different.
Thomas Hobbes postulates that life without government would be turned into a condition known as the “state of nature”. In such a state, each person is entitled to everything in the world. Therefore, conflicts, “wars of all against all”, lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” would be predominant. There is a way to escape this state of war. It forces all men in the state of nature to accede to a social contract and establish a civil society.
According to Hobbes, the social contract is an agreement among all citizens of a certain community to live pursuant to certain rules and to obey the orders of sovereigns. From his perspective, civil society is population beneath a sovereign authority, to whom all individuals in that society cede their natural rights with the purpose of being protected by the power of sovereignty.
Indeed, in any society there will be abuses of power. They should not be regarded as evil yet. According to Hobbes’ theory, such abuses of power should be seen from a different angle. In particular, they are to be accepted as the price of peace. The separation of powers doctrine seems pointless to Hobbes, because in his works he assumes that it is the sovereign who should control civil, military, judicial and ecclesiastical branches of power in a state.
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At the same time, to ensure the absolute protection and safety for the civilians of the society, Hobbes allows rebellion to happen in the event of harsh violations on the part of the highest authority.
Appraisals of Locke have often been connected to appraisals of liberalism in general. He is seen as the world’s leading liberalist overall, and as the founder of American concept of organization of social life. While Hobbes believed in the sovereign power as the dominant authority in the state, Locke’s beliefs more concern the issue of property. He actually uses the term “property” in both broad and narrow senses, where the former covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations, and the latter refers to material goods.
Locke presumed that property precedes government, since it is derived from labor of a human being, which basically precedes the governmental form of existence of the state. Government cannot “dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily”. By this statement, Locke explained the origins of property and posed the human rights together with the right to property on the highest level of social interactions. The government, according to Locke, is aimed at protecting people and their property, and is therefore, subordinate to property rights of people. Like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke welcomed the state of nature theory, which let men be guided by their selfish interests. Nevertheless, unlike Thomas Hobbes, John Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance.
Although Locke agreed with Hobbes on the issues of concepts of civil society, the government and human rights, he also advocated governmental separation of powers. He believed that only in a state where each branch of power is responsible for a certain scope of competence, the rule of law could prevail. Besides, contrary to Thomas Hobbes, John Locke thought that revolution is not only a right but an obligation under some conditions.
In conclusion, both philosophers have made a huge impact on political, ethical and philosophical traditions of modern states. They have investigated the state of nature in order to preclude the most perfect condition for humans to abide by. Many of their ideas were common, however, many were different. Locke went further with Hobbes’ contractual theory of state, and shaped the idea of liberalism, which is still popular in many parts of the world.