Hobbes & Locke Study Questions (discussed in class)

Discussion Questions Regarding Hobbes' Leviathan:

  1. According to Hobbes in Leviathan, what is "the state of nature" and why might human beings be adverse to living in it? What is life in this state of nature like? There is a littany of adjectives he uses to describe life in the state of nature, and none of them are nice...
  2. What kinds of freedoms (liberties) might a person enjoy in the state of nature? What conventional (to us) freedoms would a person likely NOT enjoy in the state of nature?
  3. What two basic motivations exist for people in the state of nature? Do these instincts continue in some way after the social contract is formed? Is there innate good/evil/morality in the state of nature, or are these constructs of civil societies?
  4. What is a "social contract" and why would we need one? What kinds of boundaries does it place on individual liberty? What are the tradeoffs involved in choosing life in society over life in "the state of nature"?
  5. What type of government do you think Hobbes advocated? Why?

Discussion Questions Regarding Locke's Second Treatise of Government:

  1. What was the style of government he felt best, and why?
  2. What was Locke's position on human beings' ability to govern themselves? Did he feel they were innately too selfish, as Hobbes did? Did he feel that they needed God's guidance? Did he feel that they needed an absolute sovereign?
  3. What was Locke's understanding of basic human liberties and natural rights? Which liberties did he feel were most fundamental and should therefore by preserved and served by government? Which liberties did he feel were worth giving up in order to attain the stability of life in civil society?
  4. Once the social contract is made and a government is formed, does Locke believe that the people forfeit their influence on this government forever? Why/why not?
  5. How did Locke's views of human rights and purpose of government differ from Hobbes?