State of Nature

Robbie Dagg
4/22/99
State of Nature
To trigger off any philosophy on what should be the characteristics of the state we
must first imagine living in a state of nature (living with the lack of a state). Since we
cannot trace back to any time that weve been without government, we must imagine what
it would be like in a state of nature. What are people like with the absence of a state? there
have been many views in answering this question, therefore there have been many
differences in views for what the ideal state should be and serve as.
A character of a state is described to best remedy for the deficiency of the State
of Nature, as Hobbes came up with his pessimistic state of nature in which life is solitary,
poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Hobbes’ view started off when he stated that the first
principle of human behavior was egoism, or self-interest, and it was this egoism, that was
the root of all social conflict. Although Hobbes stated that all people are roughly equal,
still, if someone has more, others have less. The insecurity regarding what you can keep
leads to violence. where there are no restraints on peoples actions, it leads to the war of
all against all says Hobbes. So, Hobbes is basically saying, any state is better than the
state of nature, be glad that the state is there. Even if it is a corrupt state, you will benefit
more from the corrupt state than you would from the State of Nature which is completely
lawless. However, this vision of society which leaves power out of the hands of the people
and leads to criticisms from philosophers such as Locke and Rousseau, who counters
Hobbes with their own ideas of the state of nature. In Locke’s State of Nature the
State of Nature is ordered by the Laws of Nature, including your Natural Rights to Life,
Liberty, and Property. If a man works a piece of land and makes it better and more
valuable or useful, it becomes his property. This possession can only be freely contracted
away to others, and government. Although Locke said that the political society is the
result of agreements made between people living in a State of Nature, he says that the
state must have permission by a person to enforce the law on him, however if you acquire
any property which falls under the jurisdiction of the state, you thereby become a tacit
member of that state. Thus, by using the benefits of the state, you have consented to being
a member of the state. On a more liberal and appealing philosophy than both Locke and
Hobbes, Rousseau maintained that human beings were essentially good and equal in the
State of Nature but were corrupted by the introduction of property, agriculture, science,
and commerce. People entered into a social contract among themselves, establishing
governments and educational systems to correct the inequalities brought about by the rise
of civilization. All of the differences between Rousseaus theories when compared to
Locke and Hobbes, begin with different interpretations of the state of nature. Since
Hobbes had the impression that all people were egoists and were only interested in their
own good, he figured it would lead to the war of all against all, therefore any
government was better than the state of nature. Locke believed that most people got
along pretty well for the most part by rational intuition, but were always a few bad
apples in the group that forced others to give up their natural rights in a law system in
order to be able to punish the exceptions in the society. Rousseau criticizes Hobbes and
Locke by saying that they werent really looking at the real State of Nature, and that all
of the negative qualities of human beings that they had mentioned to be present in the
State of Nature was in fact, a quality brought on by the state of their time. The
Rousseau version of the State of Nature differs greatly from Locke, but from Hobbes
especially, in that he makes no mention of the constant fear which Hobbes believed would
control mans life in the state of nature, rather he describes the State of Nature as pleasant
and peaceful. He described the people in this primitive state as living free, healthy, honest
and happy lives, and felt that man was timid, and would always avoid conflict, rather than
seek it out. So

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