Sample Exam Question: Why does Hobbes describe the state of nature as a state of war?
Before answering the question why Hobbes describes the state of nature as a state of war it is to be clarified what is meant by those two terms. For Hobbes, as pictured in his work “Leviathan”, the “state of nature” is the condition before the foundation of the state. In this condition of anarchy, literally everybody has the freedom to do everything he wants. The state of nature is also a “condition of war a war of every one against every one” (p. 189). For Hobbes, “war” is not only the situation of actual battle, but also the immediate thread that a battle might occur (p. 186).
Analyzing Hobbes’ argumentation, one can find three main reasons why the state of nature is a state of war:
1. Men are motivated ...view middle of the document...
The second condition why Hobbes identifies the state of nature as a state of war is that men are always able to use force as a means of resolving conflict. The reason for this is that men are more or less “equal” in their physical or mental power (p. 183f). While acknowledging that there surely are differences in the distribution of those powers, Hobbes points to the fact that these differences are too small to stand in the way of conflict. In fact, even the weakest man will have a chance to succeed over the strongest – for instance by cooperating with others or by using tools. Neither will the smartest always win against the dumbest. This equality is also mirrored in men’s hopes to have a chance of succeeding in a battle. Thus, men usually consider battle as a means for their ends, instead of just surrendering to the stronger.
Finally, in the state of nature, nobody hinders men from fighting each other. In the state of nature, there is no ruler, and where no-one has agreed on a ruler, there is no-one to make any civic rules (p. 188). Therefore, the only rules to exist are the “rules of nature”, which are given by reason and claim that no man should act “destructive against his own life”, and every man should be entitled to any action that he thinks will serve the protection of his life (p. 189).
To sum up, there are always reasons that men use force, they are in most cases also able to do so, and in the state of nature, everybody has the right to use force against everyone. Hence, everybody has reason to assume that the man next to him will kill him. As in the state of nature there exists no right to forbid the other to do so, and even if there would, there is no ruler to ensure the enforcement of such. This insecurity is nothing else then having to fear to be under attack at any time, which has initially been identified as a condition within the state of war.