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Hobbes’s, Rousseau’s, Locke’s, Mills’s Philosophy Essay

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Updated: Jul 17th, 2020


It would be grave injustice writing about law and philosophy without having an in-depth analysis of the opinions of Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke and Mills. To start with, Thomas Hobbes is said to be one of the greatest philosophers of all time. His philosophy was developed at a time when England was going through struggles and notable achievements in classical literature. The fact that he lived at a time of two main revolutions is substantially reflected in his philosophy. His argument about nature and human beings was to the effect that human beings are in constant motion. He clearly emphasized the distinction between human beings motion and other particles in the universe. In arriving at that distinction, two motions in human beings were identified. They include; the vital motion and the voluntary motion. The motions are triggered by other forces. For instance, voluntary motion was driven by selfish interests. In other words, the existence of a voluntary act was through selfish motives.

Thomas Hobbes argument

In answering the question on when the government is justified in compelling its citizens to obey the laws, he observed that the conflicts in achieving the desires could be controlled by the obedience of the said laws. Disobedience of the laws was bound to occur since human beings concern was to satisfy their desires. The selfish interests of human beings could be controlled by the government forcing them to act towards the common good. According to Hobbes, the voluntary motions dictated the behaviour of human beings either by moving closer to the things they liked or moving away from the things they hated. His opinion on the state of nature was to the effect that human beings were in a constant, continuous struggle. He opined that the said struggle was due to clashes between personal, egoistic motives. The said conflict resulted in suffering, fear and endless conflict. The search for felicity aggravated the conflict between human beings. His views were in support of the monarchy authority which did not allow democracy. The existence of the compelling authority rendered the notion of the social contract inapplicable.

John Locke’s philosophy

John Locke writings substantially contributed to political philosophy. His definition of the state of nature was contrary to Hobbes. Locke observed that the state of nature was made up of peaceful situation of strong will and mutual assistance between individuals. He believed that all human beings were born with God gave rights. He stated that the crucial weakness identified in a state of nature was the lack of authority to enforce the said rights. He denounced absolutism and argued that the ruler was supposed to exercise power with the consent of the ruled. According to Locke, equality and liberty are vital rights, which must be upheld by the citizens. The state of nature in his argument entailed equal rights to all persons. Locke averred that the rights to liberty, life and property were continuously threatened in the state of nature. According to Locke, human beings consent to the protection of their rights through a social contract. In this situation, Locke stated that the civil or political society was justified in using force to compel observance of law and the protection of God-given rights. In addition, he stated that the consent of the people is required in the formation of the civil society hence supporting democracy. He also maintained that absolutism was incompatible with majority rule society.

Rousseau’s philosophy

Jean Jacques Rousseau gave an elaboration of the behaviour of human beings towards the preservation of fundamental rights. His account of the social contract supported the idea of the general will. Rousseau averred that the social contract portrayed the will of the many. According to him, sovereignty was the organization within society which was responsible for enforcing the laws. He also pointed out that social contract limited individual liberty. Sovereignty belonged to the people hence it could not be exercised against their will. In some situations, the body politic had powers to compel the obedience of the law. Under the social compact, the government would be justified in using force against those who disobeyed the general will. He stated that individuals were bound to obey the general will and if they did not, they would be forced by the government. Rousseau observed that laws to govern the general will for the common interest were supposed to be made by the citizens. The citizens and the government were to be subjected to the same laws. In Rousseau’s description of the state of nature, the general will existed with personal will. Preservation of the said will depend on the social contract and the social compact. His opinion on democracy was to the effect that the power that made laws had to execute them. He suggested a unity between the executive and the legislature for democracy to be attained.

According to Rousseau, the general will should be fostered in public affairs. He expressed his opinion on democracy in a modern state by terming it elective aristocracy hence rendering it irrelevant. He disputed the existence of democracy stating that the majority could not govern the minority.

Mill’s philosophy

John Stuart Mill opens his argument by acknowledging the power of the legislature in any given society. He summarized the role of the legislature into two main functions. He averred that the legislature had the power to compel people to do what is right. It was capable of being misused. He pointed out that governments abused their powers and breached the personal liberty of citizens in situations that did not require intrusion. He opined that many undemocratic governments had a tendency to breaching citizen’s liberty. The state of nature at this time was characterized by individuals not concerned with the way of governance. A balance between the interference of citizen’s rights and the government’s use of force was essential in maintaining social control. In order to maintain control, rules were enforced by governments and it sometimes involved the use of justifiable force.


In examining the thinking of Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke and Mills, it is evident that societies are organized and governed by laws and force is a necessity in compelling human beings to obey the said laws. Hobbes stated that the government’s use of force helps in making human beings obey the set laws. Locke observed that use of force assists in safeguarding God-given rights. Locke pointed out that, in the use of force, the government must seek the citizen’s consent. Failure to seek their consent would lead to a revolution. Rousseau averred that the use of force promotes the general good. Mills advocated for absolute liberty pointing out that compulsion by the government was justifiable when administered for the security of others.

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IvyPanda. "Hobbes's, Rousseau's, Locke's, Mills's Philosophy." July 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hobbess-rousseaus-lockes-millss-philosophy/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Hobbes's, Rousseau's, Locke's, Mills's Philosophy." July 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hobbess-rousseaus-lockes-millss-philosophy/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Hobbes's, Rousseau's, Locke's, Mills's Philosophy'. 17 July.

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