What is natural law according to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke? 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke attempted to provide a basis for government using natural law, which to both men meant, very broadly, the principles of reason. Hobbes argued that because, in the state of nature, men would constantly fight with each other, natural law dictated that they yield, in the interest of self-preservation, to a leader powerful enough to regulate their behavior. Having lived through the turmoil of the English Civil War, Hobbes thought that leader's power had to be essentially absolute. Locke, writing later in the seventeenth century, thought that natural law dictated that men should enter into society and government in order, essentially, to protect their property. Unlike Hobbes, Locke thought the government must be strictly limited by the terms of this agreement, indeed by natural law itself, and he suggested that if government fell short of its role, or exceeded it, that the people had the right to remove the government. Both men, in short, believed that the only source of government consistent with natural law was a social contract. But they had very different visions for what the government established by such a contract would look like. 

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