Why Does Hobbes Describe the State of Nature as a State of War? Essay

1638 WordsDec 27, 20127 Pages
Hobbes perceives “that great Leviathan” called society as artificial, rejecting the views of classical thinkers such as Aristotle who argued that society is natural. In so doing Hobbes argues that society is in need of explanation, he begins his argument by giving us an account of human nature within a state of nature, a natural condition which humanity finds itself in before entering society. Hobbes account of human nature emphasizes our animal nature, our will to act only in our self-interest without regard for others. According to Hobbes this creates a state of war where the life of man is ”Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. But for Hobbes the meaning of war is not simply that of a battle, but also the threat of a battle to come. Thus in the state of nature man finds himself in circumstances in which no one rules over him, but this is far from desirable given Hobbes account of human nature, and his definition of war. The first reason Hobbes gives for the state of nature being far from desirable is that human beings are naturally appetitive. He describes mankind as egoistic individuals motivated by their ever-changing and inexhaustible desires. Human beings are slaves to their desires; their actions are determined by the will of their strongest present desire. Thus individuals naturally fear death as the ultimate frustration of their ability to satisfy their desires, particularly violent death at the hands of others. Since the state of nature is a condition of scarcity and not of abundance this brings us into violent competition with others for resources and space. And as we are egoists according to Hobbes we have no natural inclination to cooperate with each other or to limit our desires. But isn’t this a massive generalisation that Hobbes is making here, many individuals are happy fulfilling but a few essential desires rationalising that violent

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