How do John Locke's ideas on the purpose, scope, and limits of government compare to those of Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes?

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John Locke's political philosophy is characterized by staunch resistance to authoritarianism. Locke asserts that, in "the state of nature," humankind is equal and independent, each person free to follow their own desires and self-interests. Problems arise, however, when one person's self-interest comes at the harm or expense of another's. Therein...

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John Locke's political philosophy is characterized by staunch resistance to authoritarianism. Locke asserts that, in "the state of nature," humankind is equal and independent, each person free to follow their own desires and self-interests. Problems arise, however, when one person's self-interest comes at the harm or expense of another's. Therein lies the need for government; the people surrender their natural rights in return for impartial justice. This mutual agreement is the basis for legitimate government; if a ruler seeks absolute power and no longer allows the rule of the majority, it is the peoples' right and responsibility to overthrow this illegitimate government.

Hobbes, on the other hand, views the state of nature as a state of constant war and chaos; he believes that the primary role of government is to eliminate conflict and to save mankind from itself. He posits that, in order for it to succeed, a government has to possess absolute authority over its people. His political theory differs from Locke's in that he has a much bleaker view of the nature of humanity and a much more favorable outlook on authoritarianism.

Aristotle famously wrote that "man is a political animal," asserting that even in the state of nature, humankind naturally aligns itself into political factions. This differs from the opinion of both Hobbes and Locke, who saw humankind as naturally independent. Aristotle writes that all governments serve some degree of "good" for the community, but that they are most effective when power is concentrated in a small group of people. He considers democracy to be anarchy and asserts that monarchy or aristocracy are the most effective ways to run a government. A second way in which his philosophy differs from Locke and Hobbes is his views on equality; Aristotle contends that some people are inherently inferior to others and must be subjugated by their superiors.

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