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state of nature


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The state of human beings outside civil society, invoked by philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, in order to clarify what is explained by nature as opposed to what is explained by convention, and what is justified in each way. For Hobbes the state of nature is a war of all against all, and the life of man ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’. Society is justified as the remedy to this appalling state (see also social contract). Others such as Rousseau have been more optimistic, up to the vision of noble anarchy with family-like relations performing all the role of social bonding that modern societies supplement with legal coercion. The whole notion is rejected as an analytic tool by Hegel and Marx, since it is society itself that has created the nature of human beings, and their capacity for rational action. Sociobiology confirms that we naturally inherit a network of adaptations for life in society.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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