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Spring 2004 (20:2)

Developments in Democracy

BRIA 20:2 house | how Women winner the right to poll | have actually Women completed Equality? | Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and also Rousseau on Government

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Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and also Rousseau top top Government

Starting in the 1600s, europe philosophers began debating the question of who need to govern a nation. Together the absolute preeminence of emperors weakened, enlightenment philosophers said for different forms that democracy.

You are watching: What topics were addressed by the philosophes in their encyclopedia articles?

In 1649, a polite war broke out over who would dominance England—Parliament or King Charles I. The war ended with the beheading that the king. Quickly after Charles was executed, an English philosopher, thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), composed Leviathan, a defense the the absolute strength of kings. The title of the publication referred to a leviathan, a mythological, whale-like sea monster that devoured entirety ships. Hobbes likened the leviathan come government, a an effective state produced to i have loaded order.

Hobbes began Leviathan by describing the “state the nature” where all individuals were normally equal. Every human being was totally free to perform what that or she needed to perform to survive. As a result, everyone suffered from “continued fear and also danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and also short.”

In the state of nature, there were no legislations or anyone to enforce them. The only method out of this situation, Hobbes said, was for individuals to develop some supreme power to impose peace on everyone.

Hobbes obtained a principle from English contract law: an include agreement. Hobbes asserted the the world agreed among themselves come “lay down” their natural rights the equality and also freedom and give absolute strength to a sovereign. The sovereign, created by the people, can be a human or a group. The sovereign would certainly make and also enforce the legislations to certain a calm society, making life, liberty, and also property possible. Hobbes dubbed this commitment the “social contract.”

Hobbes believed that a government headed through a king was the best form that the sovereign might take. Put all strength in the hands of a king would mean an ext resolute and consistent practice of political authority, Hobbes argued. Hobbes additionally maintained the the society contract was an covenant only amongst the people and also not in between them and their king. When the human being had provided absolute strength to the king, they had actually no ideal to revolt versus him.

Hobbes warned against the church meddling v the king government. He feared faith could come to be a resource of polite war. Thus, he advised that the church end up being a department of the king government, i m sorry would very closely control all religious affairs. In any conflict between divine and also royal law, Hobbes wrote, the individual should obey the king or select death.

But the days of absolute monarchs were numbered. A new age with fresh principles was emerging—the european Enlightenment.

Enlightenment thinkers wanted to enhance human problems on planet rather than worry themselves through religion and the afterlife. These thinkers valued reason, science, spiritual tolerance, and what they referred to as “natural rights”—life, liberty, and property.

Enlightenment thinkers John Locke, Charles Montesquieu, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all arisen theories of government in which part or even all the civilization would govern. These thinkers had a profound result on the American and also French revolutions and also the democratic governments the they produced.

Locke: The wake up Democrat

John Locke (1632–1704) was born shortly before the English civil War. Locke learned science and medicine at Oxford University and also became a professor there. He sided v the good news Parliament against the roman inn Catholic King James II in the Glorious change of 1685. This event reduced the strength of the king and made parliament the major authority in English government.

In 1690, Locke published his 2 Treatises the Government. He generally agreed with Hobbes about the brutality the the state that nature, which forced a society contract to guarantee peace. However he disagreed with Hobbes on two major points.

First, Locke argued that herbal rights such together life, liberty, and property existed in the state of nature and could never be taken away or also voluntarily given up by individuals. These civil liberties were “inalienable” (impossible to surrender). Locke likewise disagreed with Hobbes around the social contract. Because that him, it to be not simply an agreement amongst the people, but between them and also the sovereign (preferably a king).

According to Locke, the natural rights of individuals minimal the strength of the king. The king go not organize absolute power, as Hobbes had said, yet acted just to enforce and protect the organic rights the the people. If a sovereign violated this rights, the society contract was broken, and the human being had the ideal to revolt and also establish a brand-new government. Much less than 100 years after Locke wrote his 2 Treatises the Government, cutting board Jefferson supplied his concept in composing the explanation of Independence.

Although Locke spoke out for freedom of thought, speech, and religion, he believed property to it is in the most necessary natural right. He asserted that owners may do every little thing they want v their home as long as they execute not invade the civil liberties of others. Government, the said, was mainly essential to encourage the “public good,” that is to safeguard property and encourage commerce and tiny else. “Govern lightly,” Locke said.

Locke favored a representative government such together the English Parliament, which had actually a hereditary home of Lords and an chosen House of Commons. However he want representatives to it is in only males of property and business. Consequently, just adult male residential property owners should have the right to vote. Locke was reluctant to enable the propertyless masses of people to participate in government because he thought that they were unfit.

The supreme authority the government, Locke said, have to reside in the law-making legislature, favor England’s Parliament. The executive (prime minister) and courts would be creations of the legislature and under that authority.

Montesquieu: The well balanced Democrat

When Charles Montesquieu (1689–1755) to be born, France to be ruled through an pure king, luigi XIV. Montesquieu to be born right into a noble family and also educated in the law. That traveled generally throughout Europe, consisting of England, wherein he learned the Parliament. In 1722, he created a book, ridiculing the regime of luigi XIV and the doctrines that the roman Catholic Church.

Montesquieu released his greatest work, The heart of the Laws, in 1748. Unequal Hobbes and Locke, Montesquieu believed that in the state of nature individuals were therefore fearful the they avoided violence and also war. The require for food, Montesquieu said, resulted in the timid humans to associate v others and also seek come live in a society. “As soon as man enters right into a state that society,” Montesquieu wrote, “he loser the sense of his weakness, equality ceases, and then commences the state of war.”

Montesquieu go not describe a social contract together such. Yet he said that the state that war amongst individuals and nations led to human laws and government.

Montesquieu composed that the main purpose of government is to keep law and also order, political liberty, and the residential property of the individual. Montesquieu opposed the pure monarchy the his home country and also favored the English device as the best model of government.

Montesquieu rather misinterpreted exactly how political strength was actually exercised in England. As soon as he created The spirit of the Laws, strength was concentrated pretty much in Parliament, the nationwide legislature. Montesquieu believed he observed a separation and also balancing the the strength of government in England.

Montesquieu regarded the English king as working out executive power well balanced by the law-making Parliament, which to be itself separated into the residence of Lords and the residence of Commons, every checking the other. Then, the executive and legislative branches were still further well balanced by an elevation court system.

Montesquieu concluded the the best type of federal government was one in i m sorry the legislative, executive, and also judicial powers were separate and also kept each various other in inspect to prevent any kind of branch from coming to be too powerful. He believed that uniting these powers, together in the monarchy the Louis XIV, would lead to despotism. While Montesquieu’s separation of powers theory did not accurately explain the federal government of England, americans later embraced it together the foundation of the U.S. Constitution.

Rousseau: The too much Democrat

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) to be born in Geneva, Switzerland, wherein all adult male citizens might vote for a representative government. Rousseau traveled in France and Italy, educating himself.

In 1751, he won an essay contest. His fresh view that male was naturally an excellent and to be corrupted by culture made the a celebrity in the French salons wherein artists, scientists, and also writers gathered to comment on the latest ideas.

A couple of years later on he published another essay in which he defined savages in a state the nature as free, equal, peaceful, and also happy. When people started to claim ownership that property, Rousseau argued, inequality, murder, and war resulted.

According come Rousseau, the powerful rich stole the soil belonging come everyone and also fooled the common human being into agree them together rulers. Rousseau concluded that the social contract was no a willing agreement, together Hobbes, Locke, and Montesquieu had actually believed, but a fraud against the human being committed through the rich.

In 1762, Rousseau published his most vital work on political theory, The social Contract. His opened line is tho striking today: “Man is born free, and everywhere that is in chains.” Rousseau agreed with Locke that the individual need to never be forced to give up his or her natural rights come a king.

The difficulty in the state of nature, Rousseau said, was to uncover a method to defend everyone’s life, liberty, and property while each person remained free. Rousseau’s equipment was for world to enter into a social contract. They would provide up all your rights, not to a king, however to “the whole community,” all the people. He called all the human being the “sovereign,” a term provided by Hobbes to largely refer come a king. The people then exercised their “general will” come make regulations for the “public good.”

Rousseau argued that the basic will that the world could no be determined by chosen representatives. He thought in a straight democracy in which everyone voted come express the general will and to do the laws of the land. Rousseau had actually in psychic a democracy on a small scale, a city-state favor his aboriginal Geneva.

In Rousseau’s democracy, anyone that disobeyed the general will that the people “will be required to it is in free.” He thought that citizens have to obey the legislations or be required to carry out so as lengthy as they stayed a residents of the state. This is a “civil state,” Rousseau says, wherein security, justice, liberty, and property space protected and also enjoyed through all.

All politics power, according to Rousseau, should reside with the people, exercising their basic will. There have the right to be no separation of powers, together Montesquieu proposed. The people, conference together, will certainly deliberate individually on laws and also then by majority vote find the basic will. Rousseau’s general will was later on embodied in the native “We the civilization . . .” at the beginning of the U.S. Constitution.

Rousseau was fairly vague on the mechanics of exactly how his democracy would work. There would be a federal government of sorts, entrusted v administering the general will. Yet it would be written of “mere officials” who got their orders from the people.

Rousseau thought that faith divided and also weakened the state. “It is impossible to live in peace with human being you think are damned,” the said. That favored a “civil religion” that welcomed God, however concentrated top top the sacredness the the society contract.

Rousseau realized that democracy as he envisioned it would certainly be difficult to maintain. He warned, “As soon as any type of man states of the work of the State, what does it matter to me?’ the State might be given up for lost.”

For Discussion and Writing

1. That the 4 philosophers debated in this article, i m sorry two do you think differed the most? Why?

2. I beg your pardon of the democratic forms government proposed by Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau carry out you think is the best? Why?

3. Rousseau wrote in The social Contract, “As soon as any type of man says of the work of the State ‘what does it issue to me?’ the State might be provided up for lost.” What do you think he meant? how do girlfriend think his words relate come American democracy today?

A C T i V ns T Y

The thinkers Take a Stand

1. Division the course into four groups, each acquisition on the duty of Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, or Rousseau.

2. The members of each of the duty group will have to research why their thinker would agree or disagree with the dispute topics provided below. The post contains part clues, however students should discover out much more about their philosophers’ see by using the college library and Internet.

3. After ~ research has been completed, each role group will state that is philosopher’s place on topic A. The groups should then conflict the topic native the point of check out of the thinker they are function playing. Follow the very same procedure for the rest of the topics.

4. After all the arguments are finished, course members should talk about which among the 4 philosophers they agree with the most and also why.

Debate Topics

A. The best form of federal government is a representative democracy.

B. Only the president should have the power to explain war.

C. A great way come make laws is for all the world to straight vote ~ above them.

D. Religion must be a part of the government.

E. The government should have the authority to confiscate a person’s building for the public good.

For more Information


Encyclopedia articles:

Wikipedia: cutting board Hobbes

Wikipedia: Leviathan

Internet Encyclopedia the Philosophy: thomas Hobbes

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Hobbes’ Moral and also Political Philosophy

Malaspina great Books: cutting board Hobbes

Leviathan text of the book.

SparkNotes: Leviathan A study guide to the book.


Yahoo Directory: cutting board Hobbes

Google Directory: thomas Hobbes

Open directory Project: cutting board Hobbes


Encyclopedia articles:

Wikipedia: man Locke

Bluplete Biography: john Locke

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: john Locke

Internet Encyclopedia the Philosophy: john Locke

Wikipedia: 2 Treatises that Government

Second writing of Civil government Text of the book.

See more: Where Is The Stator Located On An Atv Stator? What To Do About It

SparkNotes: Locke’s 2nd Treatise of government Two Treatises of government A research guide.