Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Critique of Hobbes and Locke’s Conceptions of the State of Nature
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a major philosopher, writer, and composer. He successfully composed a number of musical selections and wrote a number of historical pieces. Rousseau was one of many famous philosophers of the Jacobin Club. The majority of his work was founded on the concept of a hypothetical state of nature in his argument. Rousseau advocated for morality. The philosopher often argued that humans have “uncorrupted morals” that contribute to the state of nature. Rousseau is famous for being a critic of Thomas Hobbes.
While Hobbes also refers to the state of nature in his theory of social contracts, he does not view humans as being inherently good. Hobbes explains that men in the “state of nature . . . have no idea of goodness he must be naturally wicked; that he is vicious because he does not know virtue.” According to Hobbes, humans are born as wicked species, which implies that the state of nature is wickedness. Hobbes’ remedy to escape such wickedness is to establish a social contract in which individuals mutually agree to work towards peace.
While Hobbes proposes complete abandonment of the state of nature, Rousseau encourages the embracement of nature. Since he does not view man as inherently evil, Rousseau does not view the state of nature as being the problem in society. The philosopher calls individuals to exercise inner virtue instead of establishing societal contracts. Rousseau criticizes Hobbes and Locke in their societal contract theories because they fail to recognize the positive attributes of mankind. In doing so, the philosophers present erroneous arguments that call for the dissolution of the state of nature, something that Rousseau views as unnecessary.