Thomas Hobbes and Absolutism

John Locke was an anti-absolutist. This meant that he was against an absolute monarchy, a monarchy in which the ruler is sovereign and not subject to any other power, whether his own laws, traditions, customs or the popes.

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1558 – 1679) was Locke’s contemporary. However, he did not share Locke’s anti-absolutist beliefs. Hobbes was, in essence, an absolutist. He is most known for his political philosophy. Like Locke, it began with the ‘state of nature.’

Hobbes’ ‘state of nature’ was however an opposite of Locke’s. While in the latter philosophy there were individual rights, natural law, etc, in Hobbes’ there were none. In fact, his was very primitive. Everyone was constantly fighting everyone else. The human nature, says Hobbes, is driven by the passions and selfishness, not reason.

Thomas Hobbes

This brings to mind an argument: if we are selfish, we want self-preservation. Why then are we fighting? It is irrational. But, remember, Hobbes said that human nature is not ruled by reason.

To return to the fact that humans are constantly fighting in the ‘state of nature’, we would want to instate peace. To do this, says Hobbes, we must create an absolute monarchy. Unlike Locke’s civil government, where there was no absolute monarch, Hobbes wants someone with complete power (not totalitarian but authoritarian). Only this way, he says, can the peace be kept.

But if the monarch fails to keep the peace, the people can refuse to live under his reign and the monarch will be removed, all reverting once again to the ‘state of nature.’

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