I have chosen to write about what Thomas Hobbes’ calls “The State of Nature” and how morality is needed in order to maintain peace among different societies. I will begin by briefly describing “The State of Nature” argument and illuminate some of the basic features within this theoretical situation. Then, through the use of excerpts from Hobbes’ book The Leviathan I will give specific facts regarding the conditions of human life as expressed within the state of nature. Next, I will demonstrate how these specific facts caused Hobbes’ to conclude that human life within the state of nature will be ruled by constant fear of other people, otherwise known as the “state of war”.
I will then offer solutions for individuals to escape such an unpleasant situation because the majority of humans would find that life under constant fear of being harmed is unacceptable. Next, I will discuss James Rachels’ beliefs concerning the two fundamental conditions that would ultimately allow people to escape the state of nature by enabling individuals to work together. Lastly, I will explain why by putting these two fundamental conditions in place it amounts to an agreement, known as the social contract, between people to obey the basic rules of morality; I will also define the term social contract.
The state of nature argument suggests that people would naturally do whatever was necessary to obtain their wants and desires without considering the consequences of their actions; there are no innate moral values that control people’s actions nor is there pure good or evil. Hobbes’ writes that morality solves the issue of societies’ tendency of self-interest and is needed in order to promote a healthy, peaceful environment for all people (Rachels, 80).
Hobbes’ believed that life in this manner would be short, hard, and nasty. He dreaded a life in which there would be “no industry, no society, no commodities, no letters, no arts, and no account of time” (Rachels, 81/Excerpt from The Leviathan). There are four basic facts about life which according to Hobbes’ would make life awful; they are the equality of need, scarcity, the essential equality of human power, and limited altruism (Rachels, 81).
More specifically, these four facts highlight that all humans require the same basic things in order to survive such as food and shelter however the world is not equipped with the proper amount of these needed resources to supply all beings with and no one individual is entitled to a larger share of these goods than another human being because everyone is capable of being overpowered or outsmarted; lastly, this poses an issue because everyone will put the needs of themselves above others in times of conflict so all human beings must be able to stand up for themselves.
No one person is ever more powerful than another human being however a person’s desire to power others poses a major concern; Hobbes’ believes that human life within the state of nature will be ruled by constant fear of others. Hobbes’ states that the worst result, stemming, of the state of nature argument is the “continual fear and danger of violent death” (Rachels, 81/Excerpt from The Leviathan).
Hobbes maintained that the constant back-and-forth mediation between the emotion of fear and the emotion of hope is the defining principle of all human actions. Either fear or hope is present at all times in all people. In a famous passage of Leviathan, Hobbes states that the worst aspect of the state of nature is the “continual fear and danger of violent death.” In the state of nature, as Hobbes depicts it, humans intuitively desire to obtain as much power and “good” as they can, and there are no laws preventing them from harming or killing others to attain what they desire. Thus, the state of nature is a state of constant war, wherein humans live in perpetual fear of one another.
This fear, in combination with their faculties of reason, impels men to follow the fundamental law of nature and seek peace among each other. Peace is attained only by coming together to forge a social contract, whereby men consent to being ruled in a commonwealth governed by one supreme authority. Fear creates the chaos endemic to the state of nature, and fear upholds the peaceful order of the civil commonwealth.
The contract that creates the commonwealth is forged because of people’s fear, and it is enforced by fear. Because the sovereign at the commonwealth’s head holds the power to bodily punish anyone who breaks the contract, the natural fear of such harm compels subjects to uphold the contract and submit to the sovereign’s will.