In today’s society, human nature is a commonly used term. On the other hand, there is not just one concept of human nature, but rather a plethora of concepts surrounding the idea. With the rise of capitalism, social structure is reformed; it is during this rise in the early seventeenth and eighteenth century, that John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau introduce their varying opinions surrounding man in nature. The western philosophers mainly concern themselves with the concept of the social contract. Rousseau, Hobbes, and Locke begin with the conception of the individual, because in the natural state, they all believe that man is an independent character. Each of the philosophers used their revolutionary concepts to challenge power, yet their arguments differ dramatically.
Through their texts, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau portray Enlightenment ideals of their time period. The texts give historical importance and context, for a greater understanding of their environment. Hobbes and Locke write their ideals, as a rise of capitalism is occurring in England. Through their texts, the nation’s structural change as well as equality, freedom, human rights, and democratic rule are conceptualized. Similarly, Rousseau publishes his work on the dawn of the French Revolution, asserting some of the key issues facing his society. Yet to fully understand the concerns of their modern men, the political philosophers retreat to their view on man’s natural state.
Thomas Hobbes, the first of the philosophers to publish his work, had a special interest in the nature of man and society. Hobbes was a proponent of rational egoism, and believed that self-interest is acceptable in cases of great reason and capacity, because of this he portrays man as a relatively greedy character. In the natural state, man has an unrestricted freedom and there is absolute equality. However, he also portrays this setting as a war against all humanity, in which man is intended to fight. The setting lacks laws or authority, which leads to its inadequate protection, further emphasizing Hobbes’s idea of total independence. Anything goes in a society with no moral normalcies, because there is no standard of justice, good, or evil, yet Hobbes still makes mention of man feeling shame by nature. Without morals, Hobbes views the natural man as corrupt, “so that in nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory” (Hobbes 1615:5). The natural man according to Hobbes is insecure, instable, and lacks progress. These assumptions of man lead Hobbes to believe that humanity is in danger of extinction without rules or structure.
From this equality of ability ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their...