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My State of Nature

November 10, 2010

After looking at the three philosophers Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau I wanted to create my own state of nature. These three men’s ideas are very useful in creating one owns state of nature. There is obviously no right answer to what is the actual state of nature, and this lets your imagination run wild. It is tough to say in a state of nature with no government how man would react to the difficulties presented. Hobbes believes people would be in a constant state of war. Hobbes says,

“they (men) are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man” (Leviathan, ch. XIII).

Hobbes thinks life will be

“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Yet believes men are still in a search for peace in this state. Locke thinks that in a state of nature man fallows a law of nature, which is reason, not to harm someone else’s life, health, liberty, or possessions. Rousseau thinks that Locke and Hobbes were thinking through their societies lens and being influenced by their society. Rousseau thinks that man, realistically, only cares about food, sex, and survival.

These three ideas stem from each other due to them living in different time periods, with Hobbes creating the first state of nature and Rousseau being the last one out of the three to create his own state of nature. I would have to agree with Rousseau’s belief that man would go back to a primitive state where food, sex, and survival is the essentials. Yet, I believe Locke’s theory that people are born with a sense of right and wrong, or develop what is right and wrong quickly due to this law of nature. I don’t believe people could just go about killing each other, but maybe that is, because Rousseau’s idea that I am creating my state of nature through my own societies lens. I live in a society where killing is thought of as taboo, by most, which makes me think that this could be natural instinct, but most likely is a societal developed instinct.

To take a better look at what I call natural instinct or Locke’s reason let’s look at a basic example like hunger. When one gets hungry, would his natural instinct tell him to go get food? Using Rousseau’s State of Nature it seems man would aimlessly stare at a wall and starve, because he didn’t develop that natural instinct or reason to go eat. Man must have been created with some sense of natural instinct like Locke thinks. Rousseau states all natural man wanted was food, sex, and survival. How did natural man in his state of nature know or develop this reason or sense of what he wants. I believe it was do to the fact that they were born with some sort of natural instinct. That is why I partially disregarded Hobbes, because if man was born with natural instinct I have to believe they knew some sort of difference between right and wrong, and aren’t constantly in a state of war. I do agree with Hobbes though that man would have the liberty or natural liberty to do whatever one pleases. Hobbes is correct that man will do what he needs to survive, but Locke’s theory of reason doesn’t create a bloody, and war filled society like Hobbes thinks. Yes, man will act on instinct more and resort to violence way more often, but I deny to believe that man in a state of nature will kill any man he sees just, because he thinks it threatens his survival.

For me my own state of nature, which was developed above, is a society where natural liberty is used, and man can do anything his will or heart desires. Man is bound down by this idea of reason or law of nature and even though he has the ability to attempt anything he wants he doesn’t always act on it, because he is born with some sense of right and wrong. All man wants in a state of nature though are food, sex, and survival, and is able to accomplish these things by that same law of nature or reason mentioned above by Locke. When combining the ideas of these three men I was able to finally come up with my own state of nature.


  1. Jessie Altman permalink
    November 10, 2010 9:20 PM

    I think that writing your own state of nature is a very interesting idea. I think you may have overlooked some points that Rousseau was trying to make. In a state of nature man is born with natural two natural instincts (self-preservation, and pity). I agree that man in a state of nature would not just murder anyone they came across because they feared the man would jeopardize their survival. I do think that in the state of nature man would do whatever is possible for survival, but to say that the state of nature would be in constant war I think is a bit far fetched. I really liked how you talked about each philosopher before you presented your own state of nature. It would be interesting to have more students write what their state of nature would be and compare common characteristics of man in the state of nature.

  2. vdeepa permalink
    November 11, 2010 5:01 AM

    I really like how you point out that maybe even you are creating your own state of nature through society’s lens. I think there Rousseau is correct in suggesting that, to some extent, our ideas are shaped by our environment. However, I also believe there are other factors involving in forming one’s opinion. Even within a society, there are disagreements. And there is something that makes one take a certain side, bringing us back to Locke’s theory that people have a sense of right and wrong. Since society is made up of people, ultimately people are in charge of their own opinions.

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