States Of Human Nature: Pico De Mirandola, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau And John Locke

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In this day and age, people are living one of the most depressing and demoralizing fragment of the 21st century. Because of this dark and difficult time, it’s crucial to understand why we are looking through the prism of pessimism and that’s exactly why this essay has place to be. Philosophers like Pico de Mirandola, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau were all studying humankind and its origins for years, but they had their own particular visions on this topic. In the Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes expressed openly his beliefs in monarchy and in the absence of free will. He often mentioned that humans are not capable of proper functioning without authority. According to Hobbes, this lack of power could lead to chaos. Pico de Mirandola clearly believed in hierarchy and believed that humans were created to worship God and appreciate his kindness towards them. John Locke had a more modern approach and preached about free will of individuals, consent and civil rights. On the contrary to Locke, Rousseau often said that men are insatiable, self-centered and amoral creatures that live in inequality. After studying all of their treatises, I came to the conclusion that John Locke is the most optimistic philosopher out of the four candidates.

Optimism is an important concept that is explained on a mental level. In order to understand the meaning of this notion in a thorough manner, I decided to search it in a dictionary. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an optimist is “a person who is inclined to be hopeful and to expect good outcomes : someone who is given to optimism”. This person is focusing his attention on the brighter side and looking at the world through a prism of positivity.

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John Locke is an important figure in modern philosophy because he is one of the authors of liberal democracy. He truly believed in theory of divine rights and in the importance of natural rights. Just like the other philosophers, Locke was expressing his thoughts with the help of state of nature. In the beginning of the course, Sean Elliott established that state of nature is a primordial human condition before any political intervention. Because of the ambiguity of the term, it could be a hypothetical or a real scenario. Locke often implied that state of nature is like a power vacuum because it’s liveable for a short term. While it may seem as a doubtfully positive statement, it is partially one. This philosopher truly believed in balance and in consent. For him, in order to survive, there should be a mutual agreement between people and the government where both parties would know their boundaries. If this agreement would be compromised, people could overthrow the government if their natural rights wouldn’t be respected. According to the British philosopher, our natural rights in state of nature were life, liberty and property. By saying this, the philosopher indicates that humans have a conscience of their environment that is helpful in solving problems in an appropriate way. As we can see already, he wasn’t a believer in utopia, but his beliefs in natural rights and his individualistic approach hinted at hope and great expectations. As already stated, Locke’s version of state of nature was about co-operation. As Sean Elliott explained, it is a condition where no one has any sort of superiority over anyone else on a jurisdictional level. This proves furthermore that Locke has hope in humanity and is being optimistic about their possible future behaviour and evolution. Stating Mr. Elliott once again, John has a “romantic pastoral view”. This means that his point of view was amiably peaceful and beautiful. It makes sense why his motto in life was “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. In my opinion, he was some sort of rationalist dreamer who believed in peaceful society, but never allowed himself to bathe in this idealistic philosophy in order to stay cautious of all the possible outcomes that humans could hypothetically experience.

Thomas Hobbes is another well-known philosopher who was very vocal about his beliefs. Some of them were even similar to Locke because both of them believed in the functional society in the absence of the government, but the main difference between them was their approach to the subject. While Locke was mainly focusing on the bright ideas and the benefits, Hobbes clearly made an emphasis on chaos and violence. Thomas Hobbes didn’t believe in free will because he supposed that we’re simply programmed machines who respond to pleasure and pain; therefore, our behaviour is extremely predictable. Instead of thinking that individuals are conscious and mindful creatures, this theorist was convinced that we just rationalize our aspirations and that our personal experiences give us future appetite and aversion. In his famous novel, Leviathan, he focuses on the idea of aversion and justifies his idea of the absence of free will. “And it is called deliberation; because it is putting an end to the liberty we had of doing, or omitting, according to our own appetite, or aversion”. This quote is directly taken from the book and it proves that once deliberation comes to an end, freedom of choice or of movement is over as well. By analyzing Hobbes’ theory, we can clearly notice a lot of pessimistic approaches towards human beings and his disbelief in their nature. He doesn’t acknowledge individuals’ rights, compares humans to biomechanical creatures and supposed that human society is artificial as a whole.

Another philosopher worth talking about is Pico de Mirandola who contrasts the previous ones mainly because of his beliefs influenced by religion and because of his lack of theory on this subject. Pico was a part of the Renaissance philosophy that focused on rationality, logic and reason. He was a humanist and truly believed in free will. For him, this new philosophy was a collection of values that honoured the potential of Man. From the start, it might seem idyllic and promising, but the deeper we analyze, we come to a realization that he doesn’t worship all the humans and that he degrades those who make mistakes. In Pico’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, he states that “Thou shalt have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are brutish. Thou shalt have the power, out of thy soul’s judgement, to be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine”. Mirandola positions the humans in the middle of the hierarchy and explains that they’re just intermediary creatures that are able to upgrade to the divine level or downgrade to the Animals. In my opinion, this is an ignorant and depreciating point of view on human beings. He’s discrediting their worth that they have on their own and has the need to compare them to other creatures to give them some kind of value. I believe that his original intentions might have been sincere and thoughtful, but the outcome of it is pessimistic towards the individuals.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the famous Genevan philosopher, is the last candidate that I would like to evaluate. It’s not a secret that Rousseau was particularly skeptical and doubtful about progress. He compared the state of nature to a nasty and obnoxious trap where cruel human beings were forced to exist. In his book, The Second Discourse, he expresses vividly his thoughts on the origins of inequality and on the human beings’ attitudes. This radical savant loves to deconstruct his way of thinking to ensure the right perception by his audience. According to him, with time, individuals develop passions that later lead to this internal greediness that devours the human being. “Finally, consuming ambition, the fervor to raise one’s relative fortune less out of true need that in order to place oneself above others, inspires in all men a base inclination to harm each other” Rousseau perceives humans as greedy, manipulative, insatiable and amoral creatures. He thinks that this outcome is caused by the creation of private property. This concept generated vanity and ego that ruined individuals and made them forget that they were originally created to rule over their fellow brothers: animals. Rousseau never discredited human’s worth, but he showed how corrupted and ravenous they became once they encountered civilization.

All things considered, without a doubt, Pico de Mirandola, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke brought a lot of interesting ideas to the domain of political studies. Even though there’s a lot of disagreements and contradistinctions, they all shared their truth with the world. By comparing all of their doctrines and beliefs, I can affirm that John Locke is the most optimistic philosopher we studied because of his hope in human nature, his realistic yet admirable approach to life and his modern point of view.

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States Of Human Nature: Pico De Mirandola, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau And John Locke. (2021, October 05). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“States Of Human Nature: Pico De Mirandola, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau And John Locke.” Edubirdie, 05 Oct. 2021,
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