The Machines and Monsters in Hobbes’ Leviathan & Rousseau’s A Discourse on Inequality

Rousseau describes the nascent man to be the most successful stage of human kind. He uses the metaphors of a machine and beast to define his ideal state of man. Similar to Hobbes’ Leviathan, who is both a machine and monster. The Leviathan is a machine whose actions are caused by the effects of the actions of the past. The monster that the Leviathan embodies is the sea creature who protects the citizens. The Leviathan is a mythical creature from the book of Job and can only be defeated by the Lord himself.

Rousseau’s nascent man is a machine whose actions are derived from the senses that protect and maintain one’s life (part 1, p15). The operations of the nascent man are automatic reactions to the environment to ensure one’s life. The nascent man acts in order to survive, taking mechanical actions. The beast within a man is manifested in the form of instinct. The actions taken are derived from one’s instinct, which ensures that the nascent man will eat, sleep and reproduce.

The machines of Hobbes and Rousseau explain the reactions of man to their surroundings. Hobbes’ machine functions due to cause and effect, explaining the lack of control one has as one’s fate is determined by past actions. Rousseau’s machine also lacks in the ability to make decisions for oneself as it fulfills one’s physical desires because of the subconscious need to survive. Hobbes and Rousseau describe man as a machine for their decisions are a result of forces beyond their control.

The Leviathan is a monster that protects the people in Hobbes’ ideal state. Similarly, Rousseau’s beast protects the life of the man. Both monsters describe a force that ensures the safety and lives of the people. The aspects of a machine and monster serve similar purposes in the Leviathan as well as the nascent man.

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