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Final paper Topi for Rational Animal

When discussing the concept of justice it would be difficult to find two philosophers who present such widely divergent views than Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Although Locke was influenced by Hobbes’ writings and philosophies, his conclusions regarding both the “state of nature” and the essentially character of ethics and social morality are, in most regards, in opposition to Hobbes more cynical interpretation and definition of justice.

For Hobbes, justice involves a vision of human society as “a war of each against all; a condition in which each person has a right to all things” (Ewin 93) and because, according to Hobbes, there is in nature an absence of justice and ethical law, justice is best envisioned as “the condition that obtains between sovereign states; a condition in which each is his own judge” (Ewin 93) and this assumption, of course, relies to a great extent on the notion of power.

The idea of power find expression, morally, not only in interpersonal relationships, but in civic relationships; for Hobbes, there must be authority to administer justice where it is absent in a state of nature. What Hobbes has created is, in effect, “a reductio argument to show the necessity of authority relationships in any social life” (Ewin 94) and it is from these authorities that justice is both defined and enforced upon an essentially amoral or even immoral universe.

Although Hobbes’ language on the subject of the state of nature may seem dense and hard to penetrate, his conclusions are essentially simple: that the laws of nature must only be observed “as they subject us not to any incommodity, that in our own judgment may arise, by the neglect thereof in those towards whom we observe them” (Ewin 118) but Hobbes is certainly not promoting or extending the idea that in the state of nature anything like an absolute sense of justice exists.

instead, it is a war for power and the ability to define justice and the state of moral and ethical determinations. Hobbes turns to the concept of a “leviathan” or a form of social-poltical construct (a State) which would act as the communal opposition to the inherently destructive natural instincts for selfishness and pursuit of individual hedonism that arise from the state of nature. Within the context of the relationship between individual desires and the power of the state, the individual must submit to the will of the State:

As a matter of justice[… ] Communal life in the face of disagreement requires that some submit to others. If we are to have communal life, that submission is inescapable. The question to be asked is whether the procedure determining who submits to whom is a just one. (Ewin 201) For Hobbes, notions of freedom, justice, personal liberty, and personal property are not rooted in nature but constructed from human rationality in the face of lawless nature. The adjudication and enforcement of any system of justice or ethics is dependent upon power.

The power of a leviathan or State to enforce justice exists due to the covenant with the collective citizenry. Though it may be simplifying Hobbes philosophy to state, explicitedly, that Hobbes equates power with justice, such a connection, is, in fact, present in his theories. Coming from a distinctly opposing vision to Hobbes, John Locke, though also devising his theories of economics and politics from a posited “state of nature,” identifies a theory of justice which rests upon the concept of “property.

” For Locke, property indicates not only material possessions. The word “property” in Locke’s theories refers to “man’s ‘life, liberty, and possessions [or estates]’, as well as in the narrow sense of material possessions alone” (Shimokawa 68); any notion of justice, in Locke’s thought, is inseparable from this notion of property. To hone in even closer to Locke’s idea of property, it is important to understand that he, like Hobbes, saw justice as a quantity or quality which had to be preserved against possible encroachment and oppression.

In Locke’s concept of property, “The exclusive right implies that its objects belong exclusively to a particular human being; that its exclusiveness can only be cancelled [… ] with the consent of the right-holder; and that it is to be effectively protected by the use of force” (Shimokawa 68) which, like Hobbes, implies a connection between power and justice. Locke’s theory of social adn political order involves a form of reciprocity based on the concept of property wherein “the mutual preservation of property” (Shimokawa 63) is the goal of political and social order.

The big distinction between Locke and Hobbs rests on Locke’s vision of the state of nature. Locke viewed the natural state of man as something to be valued. For him, liberty, freedom, creativity, and property (as defined above) were a part of the natural order and it was, then, incumbent for human social and political institutions to be created with great attention being paid to the natural rights and “property” of all people. In conclusion, although both Hobbes and Locke saw a relationship between power and justice, Hobbes insinuates that power is i justice and that where power resides, justice may be defined.

Hobbes viewed notions of political and social justice as human constructs aimed at protecting the collective of human society from the destructive desires and impulses of individuals. By contrast, Locke observed a state of nature which was essentially just adn moral. He viewed humanity as having the natural right to property which he defined as inclusive of both material goods and abstract concepts such as “liberty. ” This key difference between Locke and Hobbes as philosophers — the vision each formed of the state of nature — both defined and gave opposition to their individual philosophies of justice.

While one philosopher, Hobbes, extended what is basically a cynical vision of nature and of humanity’s will to power, the other philosopher, Locke, saw in nature the basic definition of justice which could be abstracted into forms of political social order. Works Cited Anstey, Peter R. , ed. The Philosophy of John Locke: New Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2003. Ewin, R. E. Virtues and Rights: The Moral Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

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