Hobbes, Locke, and the Theological Foundations of the State of Nature

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Woodfinden, Benjamin Luke




Modernity, while often understood as a secular project, seems to be inseparable from its theological origins. The thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke makes clear that the relationship between modernity and religion is far more complicated than the standard narrative suggests. Both Hobbes and Locke use state of nature scenarios in their thought, but these states look quite different. This is rooted in theological differences. Hobbes was a nominalist, and his God is distant and arbitrary. This renders Hobbes's state of nature a dangerous ethical vacuum. Locke's God was more rational. Through reason, Locke's God, and his commandments, are knowable. Thus, the state of nature is far more ordered and peaceful, because there is a knowable and morally obligatory natural law. What this suggests is that the foundations of modernity were highly theological, and thus our understanding of the relationship between modernity and secularization needs to be rethought.


Political Science




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Master of Arts: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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