Thomas Hobbes's Discourse On Inequality And Social Contract

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Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Discourse on Inequality and Social Contract each attempt to explain the rise of and prescribe the proper management of human society. At the foundation of both philosophies is the principle that humans are asocial by nature, a precept each philosopher interprets and approaches in a different way. Hobbes states that nature made humans relatively “equal,” and that “every man is enemy to every man.” Life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” he says, and “every man has right to everything.” Rousseau outlines primitive asocial man having “everything necessary for him to live in the state of nature” from “instinct alone,” and being “neither good nor evil.” In contrast to Hobbes, who argues social bonds form to regulate human nature, Rousseau argues that the formation of the civil state results from and in a “change in man,” that humans must of necessity be denatured in the process of forming society. There are similarities between the two’s philosophies, but it is Rousseau, through his arguments that human nature can be changed, who articulates a political vision more consistent with the claim that humans are asocial by nature.
In the beginning, the arguments of both Hobbes and Rousseau are similar. Man in nature is isolated. Man in nature is asocial. Rousseau, who writes later than Hobbes, doesn’t even appear to take issue with Hobbes’s statement that man is relatively equal to his fellows, and “the
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