Life In Nature Is It Justified Philosophy
In philosophical terms the 'state of nature' is defined as 'the hypothetical condition before the foundation of the state'. This is a topic of great philosophical interest and a number of philosophers have given their views on what a state of nature would be like. The term was first coined by Thomas Hobbes Leviathan(1651) in attempt to illustrate the severity of society without state interference.
Hobbes described such an environment as 'war of everyman against everyman' and anarchy. By this Hobbes assumes that lack of a sovereign power would result in a situation of turmoil. However, he points out that his stance on war does not necessarily mean a situation of constant war but a situation where war is almost imminent because of the living circumstances.
In Leviathan (1651) he uses the terms 'poor, nasty, brutish and short' to describe the state of nature stating that the mere fact that there are no laws or rules to govern the land that everyone acts selfishly and does whatever is necessary in order to survive. This is a very similar take on the survival of the fittest outlook. In Hobbes' state of nature everyone has the natural right to do whatever is necessary to preserve life, property and family. He draws on the fact that humans are selfish beings and uses this theory to justify why he believes that they will do anything, whether that may include harming others in order to gain more.
He also outlines the reasons for such actions by devising four features of human condition, which include scarcity, equality of need, equality of human power and limited altruism. He uses these to show that humans will constantly continue to fight against each other in order to gain more unless there is some form of authority to enforce laws.
He outlines three main reasons why the state of nature could result in a constant war. They are: 1) No government; 2) diffidence; and 3) reputation.
One of the first reasons would be the lack of governance in a state of nature. This would mean there would be no industries such as farming, education or housing to ensure that each citizen can have a part in society. This lack of industrialization would result in scarce resources and increases reasons for attacks on those who may have acquired more than others.
Secondly, the issue of diffidence. The possibility of such attacks may lead to a situation where those who may consider themselves in danger may adopt the attitude of 'attack before getting attacked' and may act solely on the basis of fear.
Thirdly, as a consequence of diffidence, some may be inspired by having a reputation and the advantages garnered from it and may just use this as a means to show that they are in fact capable of exercising such power over those who may be weaker.
The main point of Hobbes' argument is that such an environment will not result in anything but unnecessary bloodshed unless a higher authority is implemented.
Perhaps, a modern day situation of a state of nature is demonstrated between nations. An example of this can possibly be when America pursued Iraq simply for the interest of oil. Iraq was viewed as a weaker nation and a booming oil industry could benefit the United States financially. Hobbes' three arguments can also be used to illustrate such, there is no governance amongst nation states which gave the Americas just reasoning for their plan, they do adopt the attitude of attack before being attacked and they enjoy their reputation as being the most powerful nation in the world.1b) Can the state be justified?
In order to give a proper analysis of whether or not the state can be justified, a definition of the state is necessary. In Politics: An Introduction to the Modern Democratic State, the state is defined as 'the enduring complex of institutions and processes by means of which authority and power are exercised in a society'. (Johnston, 2001) This describes the state as being a number of organizations responsible for authority in a given society. While this is a political definition, many philosophers define the state on much stronger terms. One such philosopher is Karl Marx who defines the state as an institution that embodies conflict of interest found in the world. Jean Jacques Rousseau added to this by stating that the state is the source of all human misery. While some may have a rash view of the state, Hume considers it to be an evolving entity that has no set purpose and will never come to an end. There are many definitions and viewpoints on the state but its important is undeniable and its basis in theory is very simple, to protect its inhabitants. The obvious role of the state is to protect those in society and enforce laws in an effort to maintain an orderly and safe environment. The importance of the state is acknowledged by those living in it but the question is whether the state is rightfully justified in enforcing these rules and limits on society and to what extent should they allowed to do such. Although state reasoning may be frowned upon, they are many reasons to show why these laws are adhered to by the general public and substantial theoretical evidence to prove that the state is in fact justified in their actions.
In order to give a reasonable answer the question at hand there are three main elements that must be examined.
Society before the state
The social contract theory
Obligations to the state
Before the introduction of the state, the world as we know it was engulfed in a natural state or in a state of nature as referred to by many philosophers. Many philosophers have conflicting views of this element of history. One of the most criticized theories was Hobbes who felt that this environment was one of warfare and constant fear. A society that involved oppression of the poor and weak and the attitude of 'every man for himself' was adopted by all. On the other hand, John Locke argues against this describing the state of nature as a place of equality with no one having more power than the other and calling it a place of freedom. He pointed out that reason played an
integral part in such a society and led to an environment free of subordination and subjection. To solidify this reasoning, he used the Native Americans as an example. They lived in a peaceful environment and lived much fulfilled lives, providing for themselves and their families whether it be food, clothing or shelter. However, Locke did make the point that even though such an environment was a peaceful one, there needed to be some level of governance that exists that would limit or stop criminal activity. He claimed that natural laws always existed within the state of nature and that a powerful source would be needed in order to make sure these laws were abided to. Some of these laws were murder and theft of property. Locke had strong points on life and property stating that they both belonged to God and anyone who tried to kill anyone or take property which was not theirs broke the natural law. Many philosophers whether they had conflicting views on the idea of the state of nature held the view that some authority was needed in order to maintain some kind of order in society. The issue was always the extent of such power. This led to Thomas Hobbes coining the social contract theory.
According to Hobbes, being the reasonable creatures that humans are they would not want to live in such an environment and the justification in political obligation lies within that. Humans would therefore give in themselves to sovereign power in order to live a peaceful life. Hobbes believed in absolute power and felt that state intervention to the extremity was a must. So he proposed the social contract theory in an effort to avoid a state of war and so that society could move forward socially cooperating. In order for a surety of safety and protection, a government would have to be formed. As a result those under this government would abide to the social contract in exchange for safety and social goods.
The mere existence of the state would be to enforce any rules necessary for living using morality as the backbone for the contract. Morality as the basis of the social contract in an argument in itself because Locke's theory supposes that morality can exist and did outside of the social contract and the contract is by no means the way that it needs to be enforced. Because of this general understanding, the pre-existing cultures like the Native Americans had no problems socializing and led a prosperous and peaceful life according to Locke and Rousseau. Apart from the argument surrounding the existence of morals, it has always been thought why is it that we so easily adhere to laws and requests of the state. This can be because of the benefits garnered from living in the particular territory or because there is no other option but to do that.
One of the main reasons why the state is justified and obeyed is because of what they offer and the fact that to most, society is somewhat better off with this authoritative force. Without them, the world may be resort to jus what Hobbes described. The state is there to encourage and sanctify social cooperation and advancement in society. There is also the issue of the vulnerable beings in society because in a state of nature the weakest would be the first to perish so the state implements measures to eradicate poverty and illness.
A notable question would be whether the contract even existed in the first place. For one, there was never a defining moment when a contract was signed and even if they was such a moment, it would not be fair to enforce rules on a contemporary society that were agreed to centuries ago. So the mere fact that the state enforces this power on society does not mean that everyone in society may want to adhere to these rules. What would then happen to those who want to disobey the state? However, Locke reprises this by showing that citizens do consent to this authority.
This draws attention to another issue, the issue of consent. A major issue with the social contract theory is whether or not it can be assumed that everyone in a society agrees and have given their consent to such. Tacit consent is assumed or implied consent. This simply means that because there was no written contract, the fact that the members of society enjoy the benefits of living in a state that they automatically abide to the laws of the land. Because of this simple understanding, the answer would be to leave the state if the rules or laws are disliked. Plato sanctions this argument in Crito as well, stating that the fact that a man remains in society and enjoys the privileges that he is bound to accept the obligations. (Raphael, 1976) This is simply a situation of when students leave various parts of the world to perhaps come to the United Kingdom to study. Whatever their laws might have been at home is no longer relevant and they must now acknowledge and adhere to the laws in the territory they now reside. Even though this gives a pretty straight forward response, it does have its faults. In Locke's famous analogy of consent, he drew the conclusion that if one was dissatisfied with the rules of the land they can easily leave. Realistically , It is not that easy to leave a state and there are several laws that have been implemented to ensure that persons cannot just enter a state to live these days. Even if leaving a state was easy, every state has its own rules and the person would still be bound by them, so it's a matter of following rules wherever someone goes.
This leads to hypothetical consent; which is agreeing to something because there are no better options. Hume's argument about the man who is on the ship is applicable here. He either had to
adhere to the laws of the ship or perish in the seas. Hypothetical consent can be assumed to be an act of fear in which people jus oblige to certain rules because of the fear of the outcome.
Even though, many philosophers have strong precise arguments both supporting and contesting the state and the level of their authority, Hobbes believed the easiest way to ensure order in a society with minor interference is to adopt the theory of absolutism. The state should have all if not most power in a society and has the right to punish any perpetrators if necessary. Moreover, the obligations of society are unconditional due to the fact that society is happily consuming what the state has to offer. It can sometimes reflect positively as it did with Louis XIV of France. He was a firm believer in absolutism and the period of his reign is said to be the longest in European history. France was seen as the most dominant force in Europe during this period as well. This constitutes the point that having an absolute sovereign can sometimes be immensely beneficial to those involved in it. Hobbes believes that using such a method the state can ensure moral behaviour and would create an environment where the 'right' and 'wrong' thing would no longer have to be pondered but would be indicated to us by the ruler. However, this approach may also lead to the same state of anarchy that Hobbes first spoke about regarding his state of nature. A state in which a sovereign power exists would limit speech, religion and many other democratic elements that have become a part of contemporary society. A more modern example of the execution of absolutism was demonstrated in South Africa during the period of apartheid from 1948 to 1990. This was a legal policy enforced by the state and clearly shows that absolutism sometimes causes problems in society and was the cause of several wars and revolutions throughout history. So while the state may have solved Hobbes' issue of 'war of everyman against everyman', they could create one of 'war of everyman against the state'.
While Locke agrees that a social contract is necessary in order for our natural rights to be protected, he reiterated that the state can only be justified to do just that and that if they don't act in the interest of the people, they have the right to rebel and have them overthrown. Locke's analysis can be seen in modern democratic societies where the public are responsible for deciding on the state and has the right to revolt if the state does not act in accordance with their wishes. Locke was brave in his analogy being the first to describe this right which is generally referred to as 'civil disobedience' and he also introduced the fact that the state is not above the law and all power cannot be vested in them because God can be the only sovereign power. Some of Locke's theory clearly reflects that of
utilitarian thinking. This thought was first initiated by Jeremy Bentham who used the term to describe the state acting in accordance to the greater good of society. Locke and Bentham both held beliefs that whatever the state did it should be done keeping the public's happiness in mind.
In conclusion, the basis of the state should be to protect the basic entities of that are necessary for the survival of any society such as the protection of life and property and the protection of society from outside threats. it can therefore be argued that the state can be justified as long as it works in the interest of securing and fulfilling the natural rights of the society and act on behalf of the society by enforcing laws and rules where necessary.
Article name: Life In Nature Is It Justified Philosophy essay, research paper, dissertation