Thomas Hobbes’ imagined “state of nature” is full of “masterless men” (p. 140). Jean Jacque Rousseau’s imagined “state of nature” is full of radically independent, solitary individuals who are innocent of good and evil. How does Hobbes come to that conclusion about man in the state of nature? On what kinds of evidence does he rely? How does Rousseau come to his conclusion about individuals in the state of nature. On what kind of arguments does he rely? Compare and contrast their imagined states of nature making sure you reference the evidence they draw upon to build heir argument.
It is important to remember when relating Hobbes and Rousseau and their ideas of the natural state that they are not speaking of the same thing. Hobbes defines the state of nature as the time when men lived without a common power. Men would constantly be at war with each other, and the elements around them. There would be no laws or authority and without them, men would believe that everything is theirs. It is very similar to the mindset of a child. Children are not born with a natural inclination to share. That is something that parents must teach them as they grow.
Greed is naturally instilled in men and because of this men have been fighting and violent even before societies were developed. Men were fghting, stealing, and murdering each other for survival. Rousseau argues with Hobbes. Rousseau describes a hypothetical time when society did not exist and men only acted on their natural instincts which were peaceful and timid. Men would not have any sense of right and wrong because they had not been molded by societys standards yet. Hobbes states that in the state of nature men would be fearful and greedy and because of this it was necessary for societies to exist.
Humans need protection from each other because instinctually we are violent and pose a threat to others. Men naturally crave property and self-preservation and in this environment peace is not possible. When men come together to form societies social contracts are necessary to guarantee the protection of rights of each man. Once a social contract is established man gave his rights over to the sovereign. A social contract is an understanding in which multiple individuals come together and give their rights to one man.
Once the individuals give their rights over them become one sovereign. The rights and rotection of a single individual is no longer important; only the protection of the sovereign as a whole. This is when men could begin to live their lives without fear. Once order was imparted on the people or a society they would live in harmony with each or be forced to leave. If this occurs that individual would no longer be under the protection of the sovereign. Hobbes believes that there are three principles that cause violence: competition, glory, and difference.
If one man sees another with an item that he craves competition will take over and he will take the item using force or other means. Glory drives a man to be superior. Without a firm authority established one will be driven to be the most powerful. Rousseau disagrees with Hobbes and insists that in the state of nature the only factor is survival. In this case I believe that Hobbes is thinking too much from a society stand point and he is also contradicting himselt. Society molds us into competing tor glory. In the state ot nature this would not be the case.
Hobbes and Rousseau both agree that in the state of nature reason and inequality do not exist yet and it would not be possible for man to understand that he should be more powerful than another. If inequality does not exist then it ould not be possible for one man to be more powerful then another. In Rousseau’s natural state men are solitary, timid, and greed doesn’t exist because society has not corrupted their innocence yet. Rousseau believes that human nature is inherently good and it wasn’t until societies began to establish that human’s instincts became corrupted.
When man is in its natural state they are solitary and have no sense of ownership over anything. They struggle with their environment and their natural conditions. Individuals are looking out for themselves and self- preservation is guiding them, Just as in Hobbes natural state, however Rousseau says here is no violence between them. Rousseau compares man to animals by saying man needs to satisfy their physical needs for survival, however we have a natural repugnance for seeing others in pain. Because of this we would never harm another person for our own selfish desires.
Language does not exist yet because people are solitary and keep to themselves. Because of this reason does not exist. Without reason there is no Jealously, inequality, or other negative emotions that lead to violence. This seems too optimistic to be accurate. Compassion would exist to an extent but self-preservation will always be more of a priority. If a man has to cause pain to another because there are limited resources then so be it. For example, let’s say it was winter and a man found a small cave. There was already someone else in there and it was only big enough to fit one.
Rousseau believes that since men have no sense of ownership, and are solitary creatures that one would simply leave because they don’t have to reasoning to think, “l was here first, so it is mine. ” Hobbes would say that men are violent and greedy and in this situation violence would occur. Men are born with a natural instinct to survive and because of this both men would fght over shelter. Humans would not do harm Just to be “evil” because good and evil would not exist yet. Once families started to form humans had more time to do other activities and with this came reason and inequality.
Rousseau gives the example of a dance around a fire. One man will look at another and see that this man is bigger than another and reason would lead him to believe that one must be better than the other. Once inequality is established man has a need to be more powerful then another. Another factor that leads to inequality is the ownership of land. Rousseau states, “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and ound people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.
From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody. ” Once man owns land and inequality has set in men will become greedy and want more believing that owning land is a symbol of power. Man ill begin to want more wealth and glory and this is when violence starts.
The natural instincts of being solitary and peaceful have been corrupted by the society and humans have now been molded into greedy power hungry people. Rousseau states, “l must make everyone see that bonds ot servitude are tormed trom the mutual dependence of men. It is impossible to slave a man without first putting him in the positions of being unable to do without another person. Rousseau believes that when men live alone they cannot be corrupted because they rely on no one but themselves for survival.
Once men come together and form families and societies they become enslaved by dependence into that society. After looking at both ideas I believe that Hobbes is not most accurate in his thinking. Rousseau has an optimistic, humanist way of looking at men, but I believe that it doesn’t matter how far back in history one goes, men were always violent, greedy, fearful creatures. Just because reason didn’t exist does not mean that men wouldn’t have a wanting for resources that weren’t theirs. Men may not have been able to reason why they wanted something, but the greed was still there.
Society and social contracts did not cause or mold our greediness, and violence like Rousseau believes. Those instincts were instilled in men from the beginning as a way of survival. It is impossible to have any absolute truth over who is right in this argument. Once man has been civilized the effects cannot be reversed. We would never be able to go back to the state of nature and this is why the debate is still continuing today. Nature vs. nurture is a topic that is debated today because it is impossible to know for sure what is instinct and what has been molded by our society.