Why, for Hobbes, is a State of Nature tantamount to a State of War? What claims about human psychology and the world does Hobbes offer in support of this thesis? How might we imagine an alternative argument – one that relies on fewer assumptions.
In the book Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes discusses his moral and political philosophy about the nature of human beings especially concerning the way they behave amongst each other as social animals. He also looks at the state of nature and the natural condition of human interaction concerning their nature. It forms many of his political theories about an absolute sovereign where the power of the people is invested. In Hobbes philosophy, the state of nature is important in the making of a political theory. This essay analyzes Hobbes philosophy of the state of nature and whether his argument is valid or not.
<strong>The state of Nature, the state of war, and human psychology</strong>
One of the most important arguments concerning Hobbes theory about human psychology is that of pessimism. Here, pessimism brings him to his conclusion that the state of nature is as objectionable as it is with the way he describes it in his view. Hobbes continues to argue that every human being is characterized by the thought that despite a few, who through a mutual kind of recognition and admiration, he understood to be his equal homes and endowed with the thought of wisdom (Leviathan, p.61). About this kind of argument, all men according to Hobbes are equal as each human being has faith in what he or she believes in, meaning that each of man’s stature is to have the same kind of desires and abilities of their own to realize these desires. It brings about the fact that in a situation where men desire what they know they cannot have, they develop mistrust that breeds contempt and hatred (Leviathan, p61). Also according to Hobbes, the nature of life is filled with the egoistic kind of desires, and due to this, men will make and destroy each other which is a very instrumental factor in Hobbes philosophy of the state of nature (Leviathan, p61).
It should, however, be remembered that despite the augmentation of powers that are enjoyed currently, men will pursue this course of self-help. It will also be done as a way of conservation. Hobbes says that “the cause of this is not always that a man hopes for a more intensive delight than he has already attained to… but he cannot assure the power and means to live well… without the acquisition of more.”(Leviathan, p.47). In this argument, it openly means that because all men desire conservation in places that they know they are not able to have, they anticipate that those who desire this will also try to take it away from them.
With the same argument, human beings will through any means, fight for power to control as many men as they can. This means that a man will fight for so much power until he is very certain that there is no other man with the power to harm him. Human psychology also shows that men desire to be glorified, and this is in their nature to seek these actions. This is what makes us different from another type of animals. For example, when we look at chapter 17 he draws a comparison with ants and bees. Hobbes argues that men are very distinct as they major concern is to be glorified, however, for ants and bees, glory is meaningless to them and private and public gain has no difference.
The state of nature is one that is filled with suspicious thought as it is human psychology. For Hobbes, the state of nature is anarchical in nature; this is because there is not over-arching power that controls the actions of man. However, it is directed by the quest to win over little resources that men continuously fight for. With this regard, the human psychology is driven by the desire to forsake their natural state and seek for something bigger which leads to a state of war. This is because resources are limited and all men have the same desire, and not everyone has the power or the ability to realize these desires. Due to this, man will find himself at war where men fight against one another (Leviathan, p. 62).
As a product of a state of war for all and the need of the man to use all he can so as to guarantee his security, Hobbes adds that “every man has a right to everything including another person's body. Therefore, as long as this natural right of every man to everything endures, there can be no security to any man.”(Leviathan, p. 64).
With this regard thus, in man’s state of nature, there is no rights or property, neither is there the right of the self, meaning that each man has a right to what he or she believes to be rightfully theirs. It is with this assumption that Hobbes bases his argument on the desire of man to fight for his self-interest. This means that man will only support a system that will drive him towards achieving these desires. For this reason, man will form a pact with himself to surrender to these desires where the greatest desires rule. For Hobbes, these desires are invested in one person by all people who are a necessary condition that must be satisfied for a man to be rescued from the state of nature.
Also, whether or not this kind of power is invested in one person or a group of people, this is not so important. However, one must ensure that this power is absolute by all means. Different people will be attracted to a different state of nature, as an objective moral law that is right for some reason other than the rule of a sovereign, for example, rationality or religion. This could also include property rights, a state constitution that limit man’s sovereign power or that which divides sovereignty among different areas of the government. For this reason, Hobbes advises that for a man to escape the state of nature then he must be able to recognize the rule of sovereign as the only power source.
In the end, as man recognizes an alternative source of power, then one risks a return to the state of nature like when sovereignty is divided then the two branches will as is nature compete in the end the state of way will also follow. When we look at the constitution or some moral code, due to the fact that human disagreement is all pervasive, there will be need for external intervention in order to interpret this for each human being, in the end sovereignty of the man being divided the state of nature and that of war will compete with one another till one of them becomes victorious. This is the same as a shared sovereignty with two areas of government, where it dictates that the only way to run away from the state of nature is to embrace the fact that one person must pose sovereignty in its most absolute form.
In conclusion, the state of nature is very vital in human psychology as it molds the behavioral concepts that ensure that man can lead or prevent oneself from the state of war though total human understands and compromise. It is the state of nature itself that leads us to the formation of human nature which sets out rules and laws of living. This includes that selfish nature of human beings and the state of war against this. Since the only way that man can escape from the state of nature is by adopting a state of absolute sovereignty, or risk a return to the state of nature. In the end, while there is doubt about the ability of man to create a personal covenant his characterization to the state of nature is an absolute reason to realize his desires and glory.
Hobbes, T. (2006). <em>Leviathan, Richard Tuck (ed.).</em> Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.