Is Hobbes a Liberal

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Is Hobbes a liberal? Word count: 2847 Is Hobbes a liberal? To define what ‘liberal’ means is difficult as liberalism itself is diverse. It is an ideology that has been developed throughout history and many different ideas and thinkers such as John Locke and John Stuart Mill have contributed to the general principles associated with liberalism. Thomas Hobbes author of such works as the ‘Leviathan’ and ‘De Cive’ has also often been regarded as a fundamental thinker in political philosophy and vital in the development of liberal thought. It could be argued however that his ideas in his work can no longer be associated to the liberalism that developed from it. This has led some to argue that Hobbes is not a liberal. In this essay I will consider whether or not Hobbes’ ideas are consistent with the basic ideals of what liberalism has come to encompass. Ideals such as a focus on the individual, individual rights and equality, a social contract based on government by consent, free market, and minimum government intervention and maximum freedom. I will concentrate on the works of other prominent ‘liberals’ of the same period of classical liberalism, such as Locke and Mill as a comparison to Hobbes in an attempt to establish if Hobbes can be regarded as a liberal. Perhaps the most important and fundamental principle of liberalism is that it centres around the individual and their rights. Mill in ‘On Liberty’ states that the cultivation of individuality produces humans who are ‘noble and beautiful objects of contemplation’ (Hampsher-monk, 2000). He holds the value of individuals as the highest in human life and in the role of promoting a development of civilisation. Hobbes in this sense can be considered a liberal as his work and analysis does focus with ‘man’ as an individual, an ideal which is therefore essential to liberalism and a contrast to conservative ideas
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