Political Science 1020E Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: William Godwin, Natural Abundance, Rationality

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Lecture 3 Reading- An Introduction to Political Philosophy: Johnathon Wolff
The State of Nature, p.7-33
What would life be like in a natural state (world without government intervention)
Live in a world of political institutions that distribute and administer political power
(courts, central government)
Our lives are structured and controlled by the decisions of others: people placed in
responsibility roles- command us to act specific way-punish for incompliance
What would things be like with the state?
oState of nature: no state exists and no one possesses political power
Was there ever a state of nature?
oJean-Jacques Rousseau: too much time would’ve been required to pass from a
state of nature to civil society
oArgued the amount of time needed for the transition was longer than the age of
the world
oContemporary examples of peoples living in a state of nature
Civil Society: a society governed by a formal state
Thomas Hobbes: worried by English Civil War thought country was falling into a state of
nature
Leviathan: shows how unpleasant world would be to persuade readers of the advantages
of the government
Nothing could be worse than life without the protection of the state
Argued strong government is essential to ensure that we do not lapse into a state of nature
Absence of government, human nature will bring us into severe conflict “nasty, brutish,
and short”
Two Keys to understanding human nature:
oSelf Knowledge- to understand human nature you must first understanding the
matter of which we are made
oConservation of motion: ‘when a thing is in motion, it will eternally be in motion,
unless somewhat els stay it’
Human beings are always searching for something never at rest
Seek ‘felicity’ continual success in achieving objects of desire
oSearch to secure it will bring us to war over state of nature
oFear of death would bring humans to create a state
oNatural, continual attempt to increase power (riches, people’s control) leads to
competition
oHumans are by nature equal- all possess roughly the same level and strength/skill,
capacity to kill
oThree principle reasons for attack in state of nature:
For gain, safety, glory/reputation
oRational human action will make the state of nature a battlefield
oHumans seek to satisfy their central desires- fight not for gain but reputation,
safety
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Law of Nature
Hobbes Locke
Seeks peace if others are, but
otherwise use war to advantage
Theological aspect- do not harm
others because no natural superiors
besides those in heaven (all God’s
creatures)
Natural liberty: do whatever is
appropriate to help secure own
survival- attacking innocent
Preserve mankind as much as possible
Accepts that in the state of nature his
Laws of Nature are ineffective
Do not harm others in the state of
nature, besides self-defence – duty to
help them
Natural liberty: liberty to do what law
of nature allow, liberty to do what is
morally permitted
Human beings have always lived under a state, only way they could live
oThe state naturally exists- natural to human beings
oMay not be human beings if we lived in a state of nature
Evidence that humans have been able to live in state of nature
John Locke
Possible to live an acceptable life even in the absence of government
State of nature: state of perfect freedom, equality, bound by a Law of Nature
Principle of equality: moral claim about rights: no person has natural right to be
subordinate
Equal in state of nature- anyone has power, everyone must
oMust be a natural right held by each person to punish those who harm another
Law of Nature: most important is right to private property
oGod put us on Earth not to starve- secure plots of land
Nature has given richly, natural abundance of land, plenty of room for everyone
oLittle reason for conflict and dispute as result
oRather cultivate own plot than invade neighbour’s- relatively peaceful climate
Primary fault: administration of justice- disagree about interpretation of the Law of
Nature
Recognizes that once land is scarce and under dispute inconveniences of state of nature
multiply- imperative to establish civil government
Jean-Jacque Rousseau
Motivated by desire for self-preservation
argues compassion acts as a restraint on the drives that lead to attack/war
humans naturally motivated by pity/compassion
argues notion of law, right, and morality have no place in the state of nature
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