Why does Hobbes think that sovereignty needs to be absolute and perpetual? How does Locke criticize this position?
Hobbes and Locke; the State of Nature and Sovereignty
John Locke and Thomas Hobbes both wrote on many of the same issues of social philosophy yet due to a basic different philosophical conception of the world, they held very different opinions. Hobbes's view of the man's place in the natural world is famously described in Chapter 13 of Leviathan; " ¦.continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Hobbes saw a nature indeed red in tooth and claw and one in which man was hopelessly at odds with his natural environment and more ominously, his fellow man. In short, man in nature was in a perpetual state of war thought Hobbes. Fortunately man had reason at his disposal and long ago reasoned that it would be far better to renounce the state of nature, including his natural right to all things, in favor of establishing a peaceable, safe commonwealth where power would be held by an omnipotent sovereign. Thus Hobbes saw sovereignty as the beacon in the night, the bastion that saved man from his beastly alter ego. It mattered little if the sovereign was just or not, what mattered was that it was strong, absolute, and perpetual so that man could not slip back into his natural state of war.
For reasons too many psychoanalysts could posit, John Locke saw things quite differently, beginning most importantly with his conception of the state of nature. Rather than a Hobbsien hell, Locke saw the state of nature as less a ruthless hell and more a passing purgatory.
To Locke the state of nature was "men living together according to reason without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them (Chapter 19, Two Treatises). He saw man in the st... Continue Reading