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The True Nature of Man

“All men are liable to error; and most men are, in many points, by passion or interest, under temptation to it.” This quote by John Locke gives us a brief insight to his opinion on the “true” nature of man. This quarter we discussed the true nature of man in society, and the nature and role of man in government. Philosophers have always asked the question “why?” and have proposed theories to answer their own questions. Two theorists in particular have proposed different ideas and insights into the true nature of man. The question both theorists have attempted to answer is, вЂ?why man would give up his or her own personal freedoms given to him under the state of nature, to join a social structure or to conform to a government?’.

In order to fully comprehend the philosophy behind the nature of man, one needs to be made aware of the concept “State of Nature.” The State of Nature as defined by John Locke in his book the Two Treatises, is “Men living according to reason, without a common superior on earth, to judge between them, is properly the state of nature.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) The state of nature is the condition man abides by when there is no governing force over him. These rules allow man to do as he or she pleases since they are not being governed for by anyone else. The philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes began to wonder and study how man would behave if they were to have to abide by the laws of the state of nature. The findings of these philosophers eventually led to the differing and numerous theories of Social Contract. In brief a social contract theory pertains to the method of which man abides to his government and the responsibilities that are given to him by joining a society. [Wikipedia] Each philosopher came up with different opinions on the issue.

Most people have an opinion on the question of whether man is basically good or bad. This question is the basic premise for questions concerning the behavioral state of the “true” nature of man. Thomas Hobbes, who was an English philosopher, who lived during the 1600’s, was one of the first to publish a book about the Social Contract theory and about the “true” nature of man. Thomas Hobbes wrote in his book The Leviathan about the “true” nature of man, “during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.” (Ch. XIII, The Leviathan) Thomas Hobbes theorizes that man in his “true” natural state is constantly at war with each other in fear of the other attacking and taking what is naturally theirs. This theory states that man is unable to coexist properly without an absolute government ruling over them protecting their natural rights. A proper illustration would that of a man who has an orange tree and a man who has nothing but deer meat to explain the state of nature that each of these men have to abide by in order to survive. Thomas Hobbes implies that the two men would not be able to coexist and would be constantly fighting with each other for fear of the other taking ones goods and that an authority over them would be the only way for them to coexist. In the Leviathan, Hobbes gives us three reasons why men are at war with each other. Reason number one being competition, second being diffidence, and the third being glory. (XIII Leviathan) Hobbes claims that these three factors are what make man the selfish beast he/she is, and without a form of an absolute sovereign rule over man there will be no resolve of the issues that make man want to combat each other. Hobbes also goes on to conclude that man in the state of nature has no sense of right or wrong because with out a government there is no law and with no law there is no such thing as injustice. (Ch. XIII The Leviathan) In concordance with Hobbes’s view of man, this implies that man has no basic moral or value system and a government is needed to uphold these morals and rights. Alluding that man is incapable of discerning right or wrong with out an authority specifically stating what is just and in-just and that man is incapable of reasoning with each other with the absence of a government.



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