State Of Nature


State Of Nature Essay, Research Paper

Robbie Dagg


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 we?ve 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 people?s 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 Rousseau?s 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 weren?t 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 man?s 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 why a form of social organization? Rousseau asks? He recognized

simply, that it would be impossible for man to shake the society and return to a state of


Now for the least popular view of all that just happens to be my favorite, the

anarchist view. Even though I can?t say it is the best view or it would even work, it is the

view that makes me think the most. It is the most optimistic view of all because it simply

states that the ?State of Nature? would be the best state to live in, a state would not be

necessary. Anarchists view that there are no ?rotten apples?. So far as there are ?rotten

apples? in the society, as Rousseau even suggests, this is a creation of the government.

Anarchists propose that governments are a cause of anti-social behavior, even though they

are created in order to remedy it. In the anarchist?s system the anti-social person will be

abandoned, in a sense left out of the cooperative society. In the anarchist?s view, people

become ?perfected? because they become cooperative and non-aggressive. But if there

were ?bad apples? in a state of anarchism, wouldn?t they become a threat to the society if

their anti-social behavior lead to violence? (which comes back to Hobbes? theory of the

State of Nature that would lead to the war of ?all against all?) And it leads to even more

questions of insecurity like: without coercion or authority would people obey the law or

does the threat of punishment work to promote more crime? Would you want to live in a

society where there were no punishments for crimes? Maybe public opinion would be

enough to keep the society in line… It is allot to think about and the arguments go around

in circles forever just because no system works out to be perfect because, their are

arguments for every gap or flaw in every rule or theory.

After I?ve been corrupted by so many different ideas of the ?State of Nature?, It?s

hard to state my own idea of it without repeating someone else. But anyhow, In the ?State

of Nature? I?d think of people as generally being cooperative, and smart enough to try and

keep the peace and order. Sure, people are concerned with their own interests, but they

are rational enough to think of ways for reaching their interests without causing conflict

with others, after all, keeping the peace with people would be a self interest of mine. In

this case you?d ask again, why is government necessary? however, I?m not sure I would

like to try the anarchist?s system just because of uncertainties of mine about the ?State of

Nature?. We?ve never been in the ?State of Nature? so it would be scary to simply ?try it


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