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Hobbes And Rousseau, The State Of Nature

1528 words - 7 pages

Both Hobbes and Rousseau have different even opposing views on the topic of the natural state of man. These views play a major role on their beliefs and reasoning for why man needs society and government. These beliefs can be easily summarized with Hobbes believing in an inherent selfishness and competition in man, whereas Rousseau’s views on things is far more positive, believing that man is far happier in his natural state, and the root of his corruption is the result of his entrance into society. Rousseau’s theory is based on a state prior to the formation of society and any form of government. Thomas Hobbes, the founding father of political philosophy and who was in great opposition to ...view middle of the document...

Hobbes also believed everyone to be equal, in both mental capacity and physical prowess, this led him to believe that no natural disability is severe enough to warrant any advances on your fellow man. Hobbes saw this State of Nature as being a perpetual battle royal, pitting all men against one another. Not only did this world include incessant fighting there were also no laws. In this world, Hobbes attributes the inhabitants of this world with a sense of self-preservation the right of nature; by this Hobbes meant that whatever one saw fit to preserve one’s self, Hobbes also saw the idea of self-preservation as a boundless concept being that self-preservation can mean almost anything. Being that everyone in this world has the right to everything, this is what leads to the constant fighting due to the competition of goods and scarce resources. The natural state of man is in a state of conflict this conflict is not continually fighting, but becomes a continual preparedness for war. Due to this extreme lack of trust and competition, the world is intrinsically unstable, which leads to an arms race, constantly trying to one up your adversaries. The necessity for government and for structure is very evident when you look at the world in this context. Being that there is no proper structure people are free to do what they see is suitable, this leads to things such as preemptive attacks out of fear. Another problem with the lack of any form of government is those with the proclivity towards violence against others are totally free to do what they please, leading to mass chaos; therefore the need to be more and more powerful is very prevalent, being that everyone is striving to become more powerful than his neighbor.
Objectively, Rousseau believed that man was neither good nor bad, he was born as a blank slate, this is know as tabula rasa. Rousseau also believed that society is the corruptor, what we learn throughout our lives is what ultimately makes us evil, selfish and hateful. This state of nature that Rousseau envisioned was pre-societal and not a notion like that of Hobbes. Rousseau does agree that man in his state of nature is largely motivated by self-preservation and that all men in the state of nature are equal, yet what he did disagree with, was the state of constant war that Hobbes had assumed. Meaning that what they strived for the most were basic necessities such as food, water and all other immediate needs. Continuing with the belief that humans were neither good nor bad, Rousseau believed that men would not harm one another due to strong feelings of empathy; this is what Rousseau means when he refers to men as “noble savages”. Rousseau theorized that man’s need for improvement and technological advances are what drive him into the state of war. Rather than fighting one another humans in this state of nature are more inclined to help one another, being that no one has any claim on anything no concept of ownership. Moving towards...

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