State of Nature Assumption for the StateJune 28, 2021
“If the state did not exist, would there be a need to invent it? Would it be needed, or would it have to invent?” (Nozick 2000, p. 31). This is the most fundamental question that arises in political philosophy. This is the question of political philosophy about the nature and origin of the state. Political theories that try to explain the reason for the existence of the state are based on an assumption.
Assumptions are thoughts or designs that provide a possible solution to a problem and guide the solution of this problem. The state of nature is a starting point or design that guides the solution of the problem of the origin of the state.
This assumption is the state of nature assumption. In political philosophy, the state of nature is not conceived as a real state. As stated above, the state of nature is an assumption, a design. It is a situation designed to explain the reason for the existence of the state and to justify the existence of the state.
All natural law theories, which see the purpose of law as justice, are also put forward from a hypothetical conception of the state of nature. Therefore, this state of nature design is a necessary assumption in terms of grounding both justice and the state. All natural law theories, especially those developed in the 17th and 18th century philosophies, put the state of nature design at the beginning of their systems as a first case, a starting point, an acceptance, as in every first argumentative system. The political and state theories of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) in England, and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) in France are always theories that have been put forward from the basic assumption of the state of nature. The state of nature design was used as an assumption not only in the 17th and 18th centuries, but also in contemporary political theories. One of the most important representatives of contemporary political philosophy, John Rawls, in his work named A Theory of Justice, tried to answer the question of the basis of the state and law, based on a concept of the state of nature that he called the “original state”.
So what is the state of nature? What is the initial stage that philosophers mean by this situation? The state of nature is a design that expresses the situation when there is no state organization, political organization and administration, or it expresses the state of human being in an undisturbed or completely natural state outside the society. The state of nature approaches the problem of the foundation of the state, starting from a design that it takes as a hypothesis. In the state of nature, everyone is subject to the laws of nature. It has also been seen as a disturbing situation by some philosophers, as human nature has different aspects that both protect rights and tend to injustice. Thinkers, who put the disturbing aspects of the state of nature on the basis of their explanations, considered a civil contract called “social contract” necessary. Some other thinkers also saw the state of nature as a state of true equality and saw the emergence of the state as the birth of inequality. The state of nature, which Hobbes sees as the period of “the war of all against all”, is conceived by Rousseau as a state of freedom in which people live in equality. These different conceptions of the state of nature form the basis of these thinkers’ different theories of society and the state. Such a state of nature assumption is at the core of views of modern civil society and the modern state.
Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook