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State of Nature

Page history last edited by katelyn 14 years, 12 months ago

Thomas Hobbes believes that in the state of nature all humanity is at war with each other.  Hobbes has a mechanistic view of human beings and sees humans as calculating bodies of mass and motion, only interested in satisfying their own appetites and instincts, with a lack of caring for others. There is a materialistic relationship between man and nature, with matter as the driving force for ideas and how they relate to each other.  He believes that once these human “machines” enter into a series of social relationships and trade relations, there is a constant struggle that exists among them, for he saw all individuals as innately desiring power and glory over others. Since human beings care to protect what they own and have a fear of death, Hobbes argues that they will rationally enter into a social contract where they willingly give up some of their power and freedom and subordinate themselves to a sovereign in order to protect themselves and their property.




     In John Locke's concept of the state of nature, unlike Hobbes, Locke views humans as naturally rational creatures, existing in a state of perfect freedom and equality, and abiding by a moral code.  He believes that each individual has the natural right to life, liberty, property, appropriation and the right to alienate that which they own. With the consent to money, individuals have the right to appropriate, and in order to protect this right, they enter into a social contract. It is here where the state emerges in order to protect also their life and property (their rights) and where market forces govern individuals.  It is therefore society, structured around the right to possess, that creates order and grants the state, (which regulates capital), legitimacy.  A government based on the consent of the governed, where individuals sacrifice some of their inherent equality and agree to use capital in order to trade with each other and protect their rights. For Locke, individuals interact through a role of community, with the belief that what is good for the individual will benefit the whole. 


        Jean-Jacques Rousseau

fundamentally disagrees with Hobbes’s state of nature. Instead of it being a constant war of all against each other, Rousseau states that there were no social bonds between men and that they were indifferent to one another. They had no desires but only accomodated themselves with the bare necessities for personal existence. Man was forced out of their state of nature, he argues, because of growing populations as well as climactic changes.



     Montesquieu has an argument similar to that of Rousseau, stating that language and social bonds did not exist in the state of nature and men desired only the daily bare necessities: food, warmth, protection, etc. But because no historical knowledge exists of a social state before “society,” the state of nature can only be hypothetical.




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