Would life in the State of Nature be intolerable as Hobbes and Locke believe? The state of nature is described as a primitive state untouched by civilization; it is the condition before the rule of law and is therefore a synonym of Anarchy. Anarchy means without government, anarchist thought is the conviction that existing forms of government are productive of wars, internal violence, repression and misery. Hobbes political philosophy considers what the life of man would be like without the state; of which is described as ‘brutish, short and nasty. ’ This view strongly contrasts with the utopian elements in anarchist thought.
The Leviathan, which is an archetypal statement of the need for strong government equates anarchy with violence and disorder. The complexity of political ideas generated by both philosophies can be examined and contrasted against one another; to generate an opposite consistent anarchist inversion of Hobbism thought that justifies life in a state of nature that is not insufferable. Hobbes explores the logic of a situation in which human nature predisposes men to act in certain ways, and there is no superior power to stop them from warring with each other (Sorrel, 1996).
Therefore in the state of nature there is no economic prosperity, as this depends on security and co-operation, no scientific knowledge ‘ no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all continual fear and danger of violent death’( Leviathan 82) This is an intense and extreme depiction of what life would be like with no government at all. Superimposed on this are images of a partial state of nature resulting from the breakdown of central government, or civil war, the realistic dangers Hobbes is trying to avert ( Gauthier, 1969)
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Hobbes abstract justification for government rests on the legalistic fiction of the social contract. The contract is created between two individuals motivated to set up a government because of the miseries they endure in the state of nature of which there is no stable social organisation (Sorrel, 1986). Hobbes rationalises that individuals driven by fear and in search of peace would all come together to draw up a peace treaty, and simultaneously set up a sovereign in order to ensure that the promise is attained. Hobbes shows that it is in the interest of the people to live under a strong overnment, and therefore one should act in a way as to maintain the existing government (Sorrel, 1986). Moral obligation and its involvement in legal practice is something that is used to conclude that government is necessary, useful and has legitimate authority. In comparison, the anarchist William Godwin replied to the notion of an original contract by constructing a rational anarchist philosophy. He pertained that contracts were not between the fictitious entity the ‘people’ and the government, but between specific individuals (Woodcock, 1977).
Godwin’s society would not be built In an assumed past as Hobbes was, but on series of mutually and constantly renewed compacts between freely contracting individuals, permanent contracts such as marriage were seen as an infringement of freedom: this theory was based on the principle of justice in anarchist thought ( Nozick, 2006) The impact of Hobbes theory is based on the evocation of violence, fears and chaos which ensues without the role of the government to enforce law.
If theses notions are ‘reversed, it can be argued that men are by nature, when uncorrupted by the perverting influence of the government and evil societies, peace loving and activated by spontaneous sympathy towards others’ ( Nozick, 2006) Therefore the logic of the situation is reversed; Government now ceases to be the protector of the individual and a guarantor of their lives and property. Instead ‘the state is seen as a chief threat to liberty, security and prosperity of the individual, whom it circumscribes with laws and regulations’ ( Rotberg, 2004) Hobbes did concede that governments might harm their subjects’ (Gauthier, 1969) but retained that this harm would ensue a lot less damage compared to the horror inflicted upon man in a state of war and calamity as in an anarchist society. Anarchists like Godwin and Tolstoy believed that governments are responsible for the greatest crimes, and promote devastating wars between states ( Ferrel, 2001). It is of course an over simplification that to say that anarchists believe men are always naturally coercive and peaceable, just as it is misleading to suggest that Hobbes thought all men were competitive and vainglorious .
The anarchists conclude that government is a great and unnecessary evil, and that anarchy in the literal sense of no government need not mean anarchy in the popular sense of violence and disorder (Bain, 1967) . ‘The most basic element common to both theoretical frameworks is the assumption that social analysis begins with the individual, his personal desires and wishes’ (Ferrel, 2001) rather than with the society as a whole; political conclusions are based on an individualist position. Hobbes defines freedom as the absence of external constraints on the individual.
The need for a strong government to prevent civil war can be replaced with the government’s priority to promote a natural harmony of interests. ‘The restrictive role of the state is reduced to a minimum, and the logical consequence is a laissez faire liberalism in which there is a belief in the role of the state in maintaining internal peace, and providing defence against external enemies’ (Woodcock, 1977). If this brand of liberalism is taken to its logical extreme what results, is a kind of laissez faire anarchism postulating a natural harmony of interests in all spheres of social life. Woodcock, 1977) This is a conception of individual freedom that can be attained in a state of nature that is accepted by Hobbes. Although he does not believe in overriding the rights of the government, he espouses radical egalitarianism ( Gauthier,1969) . The equality of all men is a notion that is pertained in order to deny the nobility of the privileged, and hence disruptive status within the realm; all men are equally obliged to obey the sovereign ( Sorrel, 1996) The basic sense of equality against all men in the state of nature is necessary if all men are to live under a sovereign.
He refutes the idea that some sections of humanity are naturally superior to others, the aristocracy are not superior by nature, but by social convention; women are not inferior by nature but by family convention. ( Sorrel, 1986) .In Godwin’s theory of justice it is understood that all men and women are morally equal, therefore justice demands they should be socially and economically equal. Therefore in a state of nature of which all men are equal, there would be no need for any civil war, as no man is above another nor has the authority to claim war against any fellow man (Woodcock, 1977)
Hobbes psychological outlook on the nature of man is similar to an anarchist libertarian approach. The pleasures of life, especially sex, are viewed as passionate desire of man which should not be denied (Bain, 1967). There is no hierarchy of higher and lower passions, man is perceived as a machine motivated by a succession of desires: this view is subversive of social taboos and social morality (Gauthier, 1969). A belief in the fulfilment of mans natural desires can be turned into a positive plea to encourage individuals to satisfy their desires and find happiness (Ferrel, 2001).
This could be achieved in a state of nature governed by anarchist thought, it is a position that would serve man well and allow them personal freedom against the walls of repression produced under the laws of government. Another direct assessment can be proposed regarding the outlook of law between the two contrasting philosophies. For Hobbes the law is defined as the will and authority of the sovereign, and is not due to the law of nature or the principles of natural justice.
If the legitimacy of the sovereign’s authority is denied then so is the legitimacy of the law (Rotberg, 2004) . If one believes in independent standards of justice and morality; as do anarchists, existing laws can be judged as morally unjust. Moreover if government in itself is an evil then the laws propagated by the governments are not only coercive restrictions on individual liberty, but an intolerable form of coercion (Nozick, 2006) In conclusion, life in the state of nature would not be an unbearable way to live.
There is a possibility that man may live harmoniously without the need of government to restrain them; as they are able to direct their passions and desires using a sense of rationality. The use of government has an inverse effect on society which causes corruption and creates wars with the use of individual power and authority. Hobbes seems to be describing a society of beasts in anarchy after the disturbing influences of the state has been removed, after which people are unaware of the natural laws of equality of which they should live by. References Woodcock, George, (1977) The Anarchist Reader, chpt7 • Ferrel, Jeff, (2001) Tearing Down The Streets; Adventures in Urban Anarchy, chpt 5, 2, 1 • Nozick, Robert, ( 2006) Anarchy State and Utopia, chpt 2, 5 • Rotberg, Robert, ( 2004) When States Fail; Causes and Consequences, chpt 4 • Bain, William, ( 1967) Between Anarchy and Society chpt 1, 2, 3 • Gauthier, David, ( 1969) The Logic of Leviathan, chpt 1, 2, 5 • Sorrel, Tom, ( 1986) The Arguments Of Philosophies, chpt 8, 11 • Sorrel, Tom ( 1996) Cambridge Companion to Hobbes, chpt 9 chpt = Chapter
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Would Life in the State of Nature Be Intolerable as Hobbes?. (2016, Dec 13). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/would-life-in-the-state-of-nature-be-intolerable-as-hobbes-and-locke-believe/
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