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State of Nature Rev. 9/2013 Locke, Hobbes And Others Government - Lehr Objectives • Understand the concept of the “state of nature” and its usefulness in exploring how government systems work. • Understand the evolution of the theories about legitimacy, power and government • Understand how basic assumptions about human nature are an essential factor of which system of government a society chooses. Basic Cornell Note-Taking On this side, jot down extra thoughts, ideas, questions your own and those suggested by the teacher State of Nature Notes On this side, copy down stuff from the board, pretty much exactly (you can summarize in your own words if you understand the concept) On the last page of note-taking, we’ll summarize everything here. What is the “State of Nature?” • During the 1500’s, scientists like Newton were using lab experiments to discover amazing things about the way the physical world works. • Social scientists wanted to use the same kind of experiments to figure out the way that governments and societies work. What is the “State of Nature?” • But, you can’t “test” new government or social ideas with people - they are too used to the way they already do things! • The only way to try out new ideas about government and societies is to do ‘thought experiments’ and imagine how things will turn out. What is the “State of Nature?” • The “state of nature” is what philosophers called the imaginary place where no government exists. – People have 100% freedom (the right to do anything they want) – There are no formal restrictions on what a person can do. What is the “State of Nature?” • The state of nature gives the philosophers a common starting point for ‘running their thought experiments’. It’s a clean, uncontaminated “petri dish”where they can be sure their ideas are being tested properly. Remember, the state of nature really ONLY exists in the imagination. Discussion questions • Imagine what life might be like in a state of nature. Think what your classroom might be like if there were no rules. Think what might happen if the teacher didn’t have the right to tell anyone what to do. • What might be the advantages and disadvantages of living in a state of nature? • What might happen to people’s rights? • How might life be like for everyone? Niccolo Machiavelli 1459-1527 • Believed world was full of corruption. Everyone is basically greedy. • His solution: We must have a strong, absolute despot (ruler). – One person being in charge is best. – Leader should use any means necessary to stay in charge • “It is far safer to be feared than loved” • “Ends justifies the means” is a Machiavellian philosophy Questions…(for left column of Cornell notes) • Do you agree with anything Machiavelli believed? • How does it make sense that “corrupt” people need an absolute ruler? Why doesn’t Machiavelli think democracy could work? Jean Bodin 1530-1596 • Introduced the idea of the Social Contract. – A contract is an agreement between two parties. – In the Social Contract, the two parties are the individual and the government. – If “the People” are the government, then the Social Contract is between an individual and the rest of society. Johannes Althusius 1563-1638 • Althusius expanded on the Social Contract: – Like a regular contract, the Social Contract is valid only as long both parties (individual and government) are happy with arrangement. – So…if one party violates the contract, then the other party is no longer bound by it. Questions…(for left column of Cornell notes) • What are the terms of the Social Contract? • How does a person (you) break the contract? What happens when you break it? • How does the government break the contract? What can happen when they break it? Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679 • Hobbes agreed a lot with Machiavelli: – Chaos rules in the state of nature, because man is essentially a ferocious animal, seeking only his/her own gain and survival. – In the state of nature, this will result in the destruction of others and eventually self-destruction of all humanity. • So, Hobbes believed we must create a social contract where people give up many of their rights, and let a king or dictator rule over them. • And, once people give this power to a king, they cannot take it back. The people must be fully obedient to the king. Thomas Hobbes, cont. • Kings should not be allpowerful; they cannot force men to murder, steal, commit suicide, etc. • Hobbes believed that all people should have the same religion. And that God gives a king the authority to rule (called the “Divine Right of Kings”) Questions…(for left column of Cornell notes) • Why do you think Hobbes believes it is best for the king’s power to be irrevocable (can’t be revoked, or taken back)? • Why do you think Hobbes believes that there should be an official state religion and state church? Baron de Montesquieu 1689-1755 • Democracy is the best form of government • Governments should be organized to prevent one person or group from dominating others • Proposed a three-branch system (separation of powers) Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1778 • People are naturally good , but corrupted and enslaved by society • Government has a duty to secure freedom, or else it has no right to exist. • “Popular sovereignty” is best John Locke “Grandfather of American Democracy” 1632-1704 • Disagreed with Hobbes Man’s natural State is not one of war and selfseeking. Original, true nature of man is of peace, goodwill and mutual assistance - men naturally move toward social living. John Locke, cont. • Natural Law exists even when there is no government. So, even if there is no law against stealing, it is still “wrong” to steal, and it cannot be allowed. • Also: no divine right of kings, no inherent absolute power of kings. • Instead, People take the rights they are born with and give them up to a government (social contract). If the government doesn’t use those rights well, the people can take their rights back. Summary • Machiavelli and most other early social philosophers thought that the world was a mean, corrupt place, and a strong ruling hand was needed to manage society. • All these earlier thinkers concluded that an absolute ruler (king) was necessary. • During this time, the idea evolved that people had rights naturally, rather than getting them from a king. • Also adopted Social Contract theory, that agreements between the ruler and the ruled should be thought of as a contract that can be broken by either party. Summary • The State of Nature was used by social thinkers to work out their theories of how governments work. • Hobbes used the State of Nature to prove that greedy, selfserving people need a strong leader and a common religion. • Locke made persuasive arguments that people are not by nature corrupt and self-serving; leaders serve the people; and citizens can live together with others in peace under a peoplecentered government. • These arguments helped convince our Founding fathers that a government based on democracy, rather than a government with an absolute ruler, could work. Readings from “We The People” Group 1: • Read “Taking the position of a political philosopher” pp. 3-5 • Take notes on and be prepared to share with the rest of the class your understanding of the following terms: -Law of nature -legitimate -consent -Life, liberty, property Group 2: • Read “What is the significance of Locke’s definition of the natural rights to life, liberty, property?” pp. 5-6 • Take notes on and be prepared to share your understanding of the following terms: -Natural rights -Unalienable -Civil rights -Political rights BOTH GROUPS: Be prepared to answer the “What do you think?” questions at the end of the end of the reading. Group 1 Questions • Give examples of conflicts that might occur when one’s rights to life, liberty or property clash with others. • How do we give our consent to govern, and how do we withdraw it? • Are there other basic rights than the right to life, liberty or property? Education? Health care? Other? Group 2 Questions • If government is supposed to protect rights to life, liberty property, then when, if ever, should they be allowed to limit these rights? Think about limiting: – Rights to believe as one wishes – Use of one’s property – Associate with whomever one wishes • If people are not equal, should rights be equal? Why/why not?