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Hobbes and Locke: Journal 3

Week 4 journal The Political “we�

Small group discussion during the fourth week of class focused on the formation of the political “we.� Each group discussed Thomas Hobbes’ writings in Leviathan (chapter 13, “Of the Naturall Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery,� chapter 14, Of the First and Second Naturall Lawes, and of Contracts� and chapter 21, “The Liberty of Subjects.�) Discussion focused around the transition from states to established society and the difference between the two. We also talked about the common ideas of ownership and property between Hobbes’ writing and that of John Locke in Of Property.

A great portion of our discussion focused on Hobbes’ view of the natural state of men. In Chapter 13, “Of the Naturall Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery,� Hobbes defines his take on the natural state of men. Hobbes explains that naturally, all men are equal. We discussed Hobbes’ idea that since all men are equal, without any common power over them, they are always in a state of fear and war with one another. This state of war resulted from no limitation of rights, which in turn left all men without security and restricted any man from owning property for himself.

We discussed Hobbes’ suggestion that peace comes only from the mutual fear of death among men. This fear motivates men to seek after peace. We talked about the necessity of men giving up certain rights by way of contract in order to ultimately benefit themselves and those around them. This process of forming contracts and relinquishing some of their rights facilitated the formation of a common-wealth. Under this common-wealth, power was given to a Sovereign. Under this sovereign, men are granted peace and protection and are finally allowed to own property.

We see that it is ultimately only by limiting some rights that any man is able to truly have rights to property. By organizing together, men form a society that ultimately grants and takes away the right of ownership to all men. If a man owns a certain land, all other men lose their right to that land. By having a sovereign, these rights are protected and men are no longer left in fear. John Locke takes the idea of ownership one step further by establishing the idea that ownership of property comes only by way of labor. In Of Property, he states: “The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property…For this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for other.� (Locke, 111-112.)

From this passage, we learn that Locke’s idea of land ownership (property) is only granted to the man who labors over a particular area of land. Once he has worked over the land and improved it by tilling, planting, etc., he alone has ownership of it and can enjoy the fruits of it. All other men lose their right to this land. Included in this passage are also very important stipulations on property ownership. In the last line, Locke adds that the man who has labored over a land has a right to own that property as long as there is still enough, good land left for the rest of the common people. This stipulation ensures that men only take as much land as they can use and that there is enough common land left that any man who will labor for it, may have property for himself.

By limiting the property of man to that which he can labor over and use the fruit of, no man would be able to take over too wide an expanse of land or take away the right of another man to own his own share. (Locke, 115.) Within society, once a man has taken possession of a certain area and improved the land, the whole society benefits from his labors. Locke supports this idea by saying, “…he who appropriates land to himself by his labour, does not lessen, but increase the common stock of mankind: for provisions serving to the support of human life, produced by one acre of enclosed and cultivated land, are (to speak much within compass) ten times more than those which are yielded by an acre of land of an equal richness lying waste in common.� (Locke, 116.)

We see that the idea of self and community are always interconnected and dependent upon one another for benefit. Left to himself, every man has unlimited rights, but cannot enjoy them because of constant fear of his fellow man. Society is dependent on each man forsaking some of his unlimited rights in order to ensure protection for all and allow ownership. This ownership allows for common lands to be labored and improved, which in turn benefits the whole society.