Hobbes And Rousseau On Good For one to be a good citizen, there are certain expectations a person must follow to achieve this goal. While many people have their own ideas of what makes a good citizen, there is little consensus to exactly what this would be. Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in their books The Leviathan and The Social Contract, create a system of political governing where the citizen plays a certain role and has certain expectations to carry out this role for the governmental system to work properly. In this paper, I will discuss what each of the men believed to be the role of the average citizen to support the state. Both men have quite different opinions in regards to the roles of citizens. While both are good theories, and create a strong case for government, neither is applicable in the real world because what is demanded of the citizen in these systems of government is based on certain assumptions. The assumptions made by these men, both good and bad, are not evident in the every day person.
Thomas Hobbes believes, that all men are egocentric, by nature. This is to say that men spend their whole lives looking for what makes the happiest as an individual. Even when men socialize, it is not for the benefit of building strong ties between each other, but simply for personal benefit. Hobbes argues that man is self- centered in nature because he desires power. This arises from the fact that man, unlike animals, may seek things that are not tangible.
Hobbes argues, not only are men egocentric, but also equal. Hobbes believes that even though every person may have different levels of strength, intelligence or character that all men are equal. “For such is the nature of men that, howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty or more eloquent or more learned, yet they will hardly believe there be so many so wise as themselves, for they see their won wit at hand and other mens at a distance.” (Leviathan, 98) More importantly in dealing with equality, Hobbes believes no matter what power, strength or intelligence one possesses, his vulnerability to be killed is the same. Because man is egocentric, a mans ego, for the most part, will drive his actions. Because of this, a cycle of competition will begin. This cycle of competition can be summed up as the state of nature.
In the state of nature, where the strong survive, life is not very good. In the state of nature, man is trying to fulfill certain needs, such as safety or life. Because of these common needs, Hobbes believes man searches for peace. Peace is then achieved through a social contract among the members of the society. Before the social contract to even begin, man must find others willing to go along with it.
This becomes difficult because man is very untrusting in the state of nature. This distrust, however, is overcome by the fear of death. A fear of death and of equal vulnerability to it is common with all men and the driving force behind men coming together to form a social contract. To create the social contract, every person must give up the right to judge themselves, and hand this power over to a third party, the state. The state is founded on a common belief system held my all the people in the new commonwealth.
“The only way to erect such a common power, is, to conferre all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will.” (Leviathan, 227) The state is all-powerful and cannot be challenged because the contract would then be broken. The only people that can break the contract are those who agreed to it, therefore the state cannot break the contract, because the state is a result of the contract. Now the Hobbess social contract has been created and agreed to by the citizens, there are several things the citizens must do to support the state. The demands are simple. A good citizen must obey the state and the laws the state makes.
Hobbes believes that citizens have an obligation to obey the government because all of citizens agreed to give up the right to be judge in their own case. Once a citizen has entered into this contract, the citizens obligation to obey the sovereign is absolute, with one limitation to be discusses later. It does not matter what the state does, the citizen must follow, even if the citizen believes the state is wrong in what it is doing or the laws it is making. Citizens have an obligation to obey the law. Hobbes gives three reasons why.
The first is a result of a duty to the contract. Because the citizens agreed to the social contract, which gave the state absolute power, the citizens have a moral obligation to follow through on the contract in which they agreed. The second results from self-interest. When people have to reason to obey the law, the state cannot enforce it. If the state is no longer able to enforce the law, the reasons citizens agreed to the contract are gone.
Finally, out of fear of punishment. The state can enforce the law, by the use of punishment because the people have given their consent for the state to do so when the agreed to the contract. Hobbes also argues citizens must follow the states laws because they are all good laws. The state cannot make a bad law because the states power is absolute. There is nobody to blame the state, and no action of recourse against the state.
There is one instance when a citizen may refuse to obey the state. This is when the citizens life is in danger. Even if the state is justified in its actions, the citizen may disobey. The citizen is as justified in preserving his life as the state is in taking it. In this case, the state has become the problem and not the solution, as was the case in the state of nature.
However, Hobbes believes one does not have the right to refuse military service, even if the citizens life will knowingly be in jeopardy. This again falls on the shoulders of the contract. When a citizen agrees to the contract, for his own benefits, he also agrees to reciprocate benefits in the states times of need. Rousseau, however, believes the problem with many states is the people transfer the power to a sovereign, which does not promote the will of the people. Rousseau believes the general collective will of the people in a particular society should be the force, which governs the state.
The individuals, which make up the community would give up their identity …