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Is Any Account of the State of Nature Convincing?

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Is any Account of the Condition of Mankind in the State of Nature Convincing? (30) The State of Nature is a hypothetical state where there is no government, no state, and no laws to rule over mankind, which allows us to understand the question of 'why should I be governed?' The movement from the State of Nature to a government or a state, many philosophers argue, is based on the need for a social contract, supported by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. The social contract is an agreement between the people to live together under the laws in our society (according to Hobbes, this contract can either be tacit or explicit), though the reason that we enter this social contract differs due to the many conditions of the nature of mankind in the state of nature, as each account offers a very different view on humanity. Hobbes depicts a savage State of Nature (referred to as a 'State of War' in Leviathan), and to understand this State of Nature, we must first understand its components - people. ...read more.


John Locke, in complete contrast to Hobbes, however, views the State of Nature with regards to 'morals'. Both Locke and Hobbes agree that the State of Nature is a state of perfect freedom and equality, and that we all have the right of self preservation, but there are limitations on what we may do, given by the 'Law of Nature'. This 'Law of Nature' is that no person may subordinate another; harm his life, health, liberty or possessions. Essentially, one can do something so long as it is not detrimental to other people. The State of Nature, therefore, is a state of liberty, governed only through the 'Law of Nature'. This Law of Nature is discovered through reasoning or through God, as we are all God's creatures and have a natural understanding that we cannot harm one another, which allows the State of Nature to be peaceful, and, by extension, the condition of mankind to be peaceful and moral. ...read more.


So it is compassion which acts as a powerful mean to restrain people to harm others. Rousseau pictures the savage man as a solitary human being, able to survive alone. His speech is not yet developed and cannot express opinions on things. The peculiarity which distinguishes him from the animals is, according to Rousseau, the free will and capacity of self-improvement. Finally, he advocates that it is the capacity of self-improvement to have brought progress to mankind and misfortune with it. I think that the picture that Rousseau has drawn of the State of Nature populated by "noble savages" more similar to animals than civilised human beings (such as in the theories of Hobbes and Locke) may be a plausible vision, though I do not necessarily agree with his dark view of human development. Rousseau's beliefs that civilization and progress led to a state of war, bringing evil and misfortune into a "purified world" which was still blessed by ignorance, is certainly coherent with his argument. However, I find more challenging trying to imagine how the state of nature would be if populated by developed and civilized human beings as in Hobbes' and Locke's views. ...read more.

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