In the beginning, there was a darker side to the preservation of life. Man lived a life of kill or be killed, without any regard for other than his own. Life was solitary, poor, brutish and short. This barbaric and primitive state is what Thomas Hobbes believed to be the State of Nature. Practical reason dictates that when threatened you either act, give up your property, or anticipate for a sign of weakness to act. This means that all have a right to everything so long as it can be attained. People cannot be trusted to follow the Golden Rule, or the ethic of reciprocity, seen in many religions as stating that one must do unto others as one would like to be treated themselves.
With the ever looming danger of a cutthroat, survival of the fittest scenario, a need for security arose and the people reached a covenant through reason, which would ensure the self-preservation of those who agreed to it. By forming a social contract, there arises a need for an outside force who must be there to enforce these rules, otherwise any fault would eventually lead those who agreed to the covenant back to a state of war.
An all-powerful ruler is appointed in order to ensure the preservation of those in the covenant, which Hobbes called the Leviathan. Born outside of the covenant, this sovereign will keep the people from destroying one another by imposing supreme rule. This meant that the people would surrender ALL their rights to the sovereign, effectively imposing an absolutist rule. But how can they make sure that the sovereign is impartial to everyone? And more importantly, what are the people to do if the Sovereign begins to abuse its power to establish a new state where no one is safe from those who are there to protect them?
At the polar opposite of Hobbes’ account of the natural state was 17th century political theorist John Locke. Basing his argument on a Deist perspective, Locke believed that the state of nature is a more peaceful community, where people were governed by a Natural Law set forth by a Creator. One such natural law is the ability to reason, but a much more different view of it than Hobbes’. Locke believed that reason is what tells those in the natural state not to murder or offend anyone’s right to life, liberty and property. John Locke stated that this Natural right is inalienable, meaning that it becomes a great injustice to violate it.
Where Hobbes’ believed the state of nature and a state of war to be one and the same, Locke saw them as two separate entities, and sees the state of war as a smaller occurrence. Locke believed that nature is at peace until one man attacks another. In this state of war it is suitable for the person being attacked to defend themselves from the transgressor.
For Locke, It becomes increasingly difficult to defend the natural right due to the possibility of the state of war. In order to preserve the right, the people would also have to come together to form a social contract. They would then establish a...