The views of Hobbes and Rousseau on the state of nature are drastically different and unique. Though, both philosophers have written works on how to achieve an ideal governing society, their ideas on the state of nature contrast greatly. A wide spread of ideas are expressed by both on the state of nature and the effects that forming a state had on the population. Hobbes views it as a much more radical, while Rousseau believes the state of nature is innocent. Their clashing viewpoints allow us to challenge our own thoughts on the matter. Reading and analyzing both of their stances on the state of nature can help one greater comprehend and perceive their own views on the topic.
While Hobbes thinks that a state of nature is also a state of continual war, Rousseau holds that we are innocent and society is what corrupts us. Hobbes states that man is in a mindset of fear and selfishness whilst in the state of nature. Rousseau on the other hand argues that man was perfect in the state of nature, and changes to the state of nature brought upon discontentment and violence. He asserts that man lost his freedoms and equality in the forming of civilization. He continues by saying that the rich took excessive land and tricked the majority of the people near them into thinking they were the authorities. I think that I agree more with Rousseau and his argument that society is what corrupted man in the state of nature. For example, a young child playing in the park can be considered innocent, but if an older person comes along with drugs, eliciting them as medicine, then the child can easily become corrupted.
Hobbes argues that the state of nature is a continual state of war, every man should fend for himself. We see an example of this when he says, “The condition of man... is a condition of war of everyone against everyone” (2). He insists that man wants to bring peacefulness, but is more focused on his survival. Hobbes says man has the right to do anything necessary to protect his life. Since there is no personal ownership in Hobbes’ view of the state of nature, one can imagine that without perfect peace between men, there could be many issues arising with such freedoms. Besides the natural laws, common sense laws recognized by everyone, Hobbes does not recognize any laws whatsoever.
In much contrast to Hobbes, Rousseau believed that Hobbes was incorrect in his idea of basically dropping modern man into a state of nature. Rousseau thought that Hobbes’ line of thinking was inaccurate, that is, to put cultured people directly into state of nature, and he insisted that the true state of nature would consist of a more savage people.(1) Those who would not come into much contact with each other, but rather, would be like-minded and peaceful. Because Rousseau claimed these people were innocent, neither good nor bad, there must not have been in a continual state of war such that Hobbes suggests; at least according to Rousseau.