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Thomas Hobbes' State Of Nature In Leviathan

1799 words - 7 pages

For centuries, political theory was dominated by the idea that people are not equal. This idea that some were good for some things and not for others massively shaped the theories that grew from them. However, in Thomas Hobbes Leviathan we see a departure from this inequality. The argument of people being equal and the state of man that he develops from that belief are central not only to his own theory but to the world of political science today. It is his examination of people being equal, followed by the state of nature and war, and finally his look at various laws of nature that lead a natural path to his political solution.
Hobbes assertion that all people are equal is no small departure from past political philosophy. It indeed is so revolutionary that some of those that follow Hobbes will assert that various races or genders are of a higher standard innately. Hobbes however says, "Nature hath made men so equall, in the faculties of body, and mind; as that though there bee found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind then another, yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and man, is not so considerable, as that one man can thereupon claim to himselfe any benefit, to which another may not pretend, as well as he." (Hobbes & Macpherson, 1968, p. 183). It is admittedly confusing that he chooses to use clearly gendered language throughout the text. However, aside from this word choice there is no clear indication that he means this to be a gendered statement. In fact, he is quite clear in his sections on parental authority that a man and a woman are equal. It is easy to extend this thought to the point of saying that he believes that all people and not all men are equal. This fact opens up the possibility of equal rights for women in the political process. While Hobbes does not take it that far, and it is not taken that far in political practice for a very long time the premise is contained in that small section there. This equality of people is also the basis for the nature of humans together in societies.
While Hobbes works on an assumption that a person is not selfish or violent until they must interact with others this argument is one that is nearly pointless. It is impossible at this point in human evolution for us to be that alone. It is also hard to fathom in the span of human existence that such a state ever truly existed in nature. His basic argument is that this state of equality makes humans naturally distrustful and because of this distrust, they will end up going to war with one another. His thoughts on men going to war or quarreling with one another are easily summed up on page 185 of Leviathan "So that in the nature of man, we find three principall causes of quarrell. First, Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory The first, maketh men invade for Gain; the second, for Safety; and the third, for Reputation." (Hobbes & Macpherson, 1968). Hobbes believes that this comes...

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