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Hobbes and the State of Nature - Essay Example

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Hobbes and the State of Nature

The concept of what is the nature of man is also unresolvable. Is man ‘evil’ and needs to be controlled? Or, is man ‘good’ and needs to institution or the elimination of institutions to achieve a sense of balance. In the world of Hobbes, man is ‘evil’ and needs to be controlled by a central authority-The Leviathan. When you view other philosophers, particularly Kant, one could say that man is not evil but needs encouragement to be good and cooperate. These are also the two tenets that are present in international politics. These are generally referred to as ‘Realism’-the Hobbesian Approach or ‘Liberalism’-the Kantian Approach. One can see elements of both in the actual practice of international politics. In this short essay, the ideas put forth in the Leviathan will first be discussed, followed by a brief discussion of the state of international politics with a focus on terrorism. It will conclude with a discussion on the Kantian Approach, as a viable alternative. Concepts of the Leviathan The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes is based on some common tenets associated with many other political philosophers of this period, particularly John Locke. The basic premise is that there is a natural state of nature where man is without governance. This would be associated with the association of chaos and the common notion of anarchy. In other words, without some kind of authority, man resorts to the most brutal of actions and defends things by brute force with no apparent justice. The following is the basic foundation that Hobbes frames his philosophy: Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. (Hobbes, 78) In the Hobbesian world without a central authority, man is in a constant state of warfare to the extent that everything is supplanted to this purpose. Since there is no authority, according to Hobbes, this is the consequences. It is noteworthy that the nation-state system was just recently in place at this time. The era of feudalism was acknowledged as a time of extreme violence that resulted in nothing, but hardship. The idea of a controlling force to stop the violence is an obvious conclusion. However, this extended by Hobbes and others into the idea of rights and those rights being given to an authority by “contract” for the good of all. Therefore, we have the idea of man in his natural state. In the Hobbesian world this was not a Garden of Eden, but similar to Bruegel’s vision of Hell. It was a world in which individuals were constantly defending themselves against ...Show more


Hobbes and the State of Nature Introduction It would seem to some that the present state of international affairs is leading toward Armageddon. There is turmoil in the Middle East. There are accusations of genocide coming from the international community concerning the government of Sri Lanka handling of the opposition, the Tamil Tigers…
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Hobbes and the State of Nature essay example
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