Thinking about Hobbes and Rousseau
In thinking about Hobbes and Rousseau, there are a few different questions that you should consider. The first one is relatively straightforward: how significantly does the Hobbesian account of natural law in the Leviathan differ from the account we saw in the excerpts we read from St. Thomas’s Summa? Following on from that, we might ask: how do those differences point to larger differences between St. Thomas (and Aristotle) on the hand, and Hobbes on the other, in terms of how they understand the place of reason in our moral or ethical life?
Turning to Rousseau, you should consider to what extent Rousseau’s critique of all prior natural law theories applies to the natural law theory that you see developed in St. Thomas. How persuasive is his critique when applied to Thomas? Furthermore, to what extent do you think Rousseau is right that Hobbes has not yet discovered what the human being is by nature? Hobbes says we are by nature violent; Rousseau says that we are by nature peaceful and stupid. Who, if anyone, is right? Perhaps more importantly: how can we ever know what human nature is apart from the effects of society?
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