The state of nature is enveloped in self-preservation and assumes the idea of freedom. It assumes the idea of life without overwhelming influence by the government or laws. A life without governmental interference is one of the premises of the state of nature. However, in today’s society, this is difficult to imagine. There is political philosophy in the theory. Nonetheless, in the 21st century, life without government is unimaginable. The ability to drive anywhere in the world or eat whatever is desired are things taken for granted. However, there are things prohibited like walking on the wrong side of the road or swimming in areas after closing. Philosophers have posited that the state is based on a mutual exchange between citizens to live under laws. Many suggest that the state of nature makes assertions about citizens who are free but conforms to the laws of the government.
Hobbes’ argument about a pre-societal state holds some weight because as the world evolved things changed, but before society blossomed, it was once in the state of nature. Although the government can be traced back many centuries where governmental intervention with Kings governing and instituting laws, there was once a society with free people before laws were enacted. However, laws were enacted as a result of an action. Inappropriate actions must have consequences. Thomas Hobbes argues that to understand politics in society, there must be an evaluation of its most precious commodity, people.
Much like the philosopher, Kant, Hobbes’ view that the state of nature is a war against humanity is enveloped in psychology. Hobbes posits that humans like power or the ability to be able to get what is desired. The means to get what is desired is important to consider. Then, there is the issue that humans’ desires are never really satisfied. The desire to want more increases after each fulfillment. The state of nature assumes that all people are equal regardless of faith, race, or any other facet that could make one appear to be unequal. Hobbes’ premise in the state of nature is that no one has a sovereign reign or power over another, but as humans, the vulnerability exists. This leads to war because the plan to protect one’s self is great and is considered defense. Hobbes also states, “We will fight for glory, the reputation of being powerful, either because we simply enjoy it or because it is a kind of power in its own right” (“The Ideal of the State of Nature” 1).
While I accept the state of nature to some degree because I believe that all men were created equal, there must be a ruling government to establish order. There is a reason governmental laws were enacted, which was to institute order and obedience for a civilized nation. While there are some who can live in a society without strict guidelines and laws to ensure obedience and common decency, there are others of the other side of the spectrum, who will steal, kill, and destroy. Then, there is a breach of faith. “The breach of faith can’t be called a precept of reason or nature” (Solomon, Clancy, and Martin 196).
The word leviathan stems from the Bible as a sea monster that is discussed in the Old Testament. It represents an evil force from hell. Thomas Hobbes used an image of Leviathan to describe a powerful state. The leviathan’s body comprises of individuals, all looking toward the leviathan’s head. The Leviathan is symbolic of absolute rule, and the subjects in the image submit to that rule. The famous, Leviathan, received a lot of attention. The bottom of the image contained symbols of powers that had balance, and on the left were emblems representing the monarch. The right side was symbolic of the church. In the center of the piece is the absolute King with people directing their eyes toward the head.
In the Leviathan, Hobbes’ argument is that people will engage in competition in a violent nature to secure vital needs and wants. He also believed that people would fight because of fear. While he does portray self-preservation in his writing, he also recognized that people have to right to use power for protection.
Throughout the Leviathan, Hobbes referenced the bible to support his theories or assertions. Hobbes’ intention was to discuss the power of the government. He believed that if the commonwealth gave up power, the state would increase in power. Hobbes also believed that the state of nature could be controlled in the event an ultimate sovereign takes rule as a power.
Not only did Hobbes discuss the image, but there were other inferences to the state of nature. This quote explains inferences to the state of nature (Solomon, Martin, and Vaught 196):
To lay down a man’s right to anything is to divest himself of the liberty, of hindering another of the benefit of his own right to the same. For that renounceth, or passeth away his right, giveth not to any other man a right which had not before; because there is nothing to which every man had not right by his way, that he may enjoy his own original right, without hindrance from him; not without hindrance from another.
A social contract occurs when a group agrees to relinquish certain rights and accept someone else or an authoritarian to protect their rights. This contract is the premise behind the government. The social contract is an implied contract, which has not been signed. “The mutual transferring of right is that which men call a contract” (Solomon, Clancy, and Vaught 207).
However similar, the social contract and government are different in many ways. The social contract can be traced to the pieces of Plato, but Hobbes explained it in the Leviathan. In the Leviathan, there were discussions about the earlier days without governmental intervention. Hobbes’ postulation was that people agreed amicably most of the time and created their own state and that state had minimal power. to provide protection of their well-being. However, in
For example, Richard Eskow used an analysis of programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food programs, and welfare to illustrate social contracts. It is examples like this that shed light on society. While these programs provide support, there is an exchange taking place. Social security is an even better example of the social contract between the government and citizens (Eskow 1). Social security is a social contract that provides income to people who are over 65. Medicare is a social contract that provides health insurance to older citizens. The problem with these social contracts are the exchanges between the government and the citizens using them. While the citizens seem to have no other choice but to allow the transactions to take place, something concrete must be dome. The population of those reaching 65 and older is increasing, and health care provisions barely meet the necessities of the ill. Social contracts need to be revisited and rewritten because they have not changed in decades, but society has changed. The age for benefits should be lowered for those who have worked and shown proof that they can no longer work. There are people who die before the age of 65 and have no younger children to receive their funds, and no one questions the stored funds by the government. Also, benefits for affluent citizens should be reduced because there are improvements needed in social contracts.
While Hobbes recognizes that all people are equal in the state of nature, people still have issues like self-preservation. Hobbes has three premises on this issue: diffidence for own conservation, competition for something wanted, and glory for reputation. Even in the pre-society, problems existed. If two people are vying for the same thing, and no one is willing to relinquish or share, arguments and fights are bound to ensure. This leads to no justice in the state of nature, which supports other philosophers’ premise that there must an arbitrator. The arbitrator is the government. Hobbes’ knew that citizens could not live in a peaceful state without interventionalists.
In relationship with God, he allows free will. People would be able to do as they will, but with consequences. The Bible alludes to Adam and Eve and their consequences for the forbidden fruit. They were allowed to eat the fruit, but afterward, the punishment was instituted. God allows all things, bad or good. The ramifications of bad behavior are often harsh. In the state of nature, all men would be free to do what is desired. Considering all people are not rational beings, there is no way that justice could prevail in a state with no authority. Whether the government or an individual, an authoritarian must be established to keep order. In believing that God created all men, there is the personal assumption that God would also allow men to exist in the natural state, but with consequences. There are many assertions of this in the Bible. It would not make a difference with God because he allows people to do as their wish, but with ramifications.
Hobbes suggests the following assertion about the state of nature (Solomon, Martin, and Vaught 202):
Liberty and necessity are consistent: as in the water that hath not only liberty, but a necessity of descending by the channel: so likewise in the actions which men voluntarily do: which because they proceed from their will, process from liberty; and yet, because every act of man’s will, and every desire, and inclination proceedeth from some cause, and that from another cause, in a continual chain.
Hobbes believes that there are natural rights so people can do whatever pleases them because of self-preservation, but he also uses the Law of Nature to defend his point. He posits that the need to protect one’s self from violence is enveloped in the Law of Nature. Hobbes recognizes that not all men are peaceful, and that is possible to adhere to the Law of Nature and still be violent.
Eskow, Richard. “Was This the Social Contract’s Comeback Year?” Huffington Post. 2013. Web. 14 June 2018.
Solomon, Robert C., Martin, Clancy, and Vaught, Wayne. “Morality and the Good Life: an Introduction to Ethics through Classical Sources.” 5th ed., McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009.
The Idea of the State of Nature. 2018.Web. 14 June 2018.