>State of Nature

>Dr S Lechner, a Lecturer from Kings College London, wrote an article on the above especially for this website. You can see it here:

It is a subject that has provoked a lot of thought from philosophers and also from the public in general. What questions do you see arising from the topic? What do you see the State of Nature as being? If there was no creation then can we even talk about a State of Nature?

Any thoughts are welcome.


  • >This is a difficult, or perhaps impossible, assertion to prove. But I maintain that there was no uncaused cause. Everything we know of is connected to other things through causation and effect. If there were something that could not cause change in us then we would never be able to see or learn of it, for that knowledge would in some way change us. Yet if that thing causes change in us then it is not disconnected from the existence of cause and effect. Three possible answers remain:1. The 'uncaused cause' caused everything else and then never interfered again.2. The 'uncaused cause' caused everything, yet is still connected (or has re-connected often enough) to everything else, and hence has since changed beyond recognition due to the impact of the created/caused.3. Everything was caused.To me 3 seems most plausible. However it would still be possible to talk about a state of nature if we talk only about humans prior to civilisation, or even what we would be like now without civilisation.I would say that each philosopher studied by Dr Lechner was right in some ways and wrong in others. But this is not because I think they failed to analsye human psychology. It is because each and every person's psychology has differences. Hence in a state of nature you would be blessed or cursed with good/bad luck depending on who you got to be with.

  • >It seems to me to lead to the question of what constitutes a corrupt state/social institution exactly?Gavin

  • >To me it leads to umpteen numbers of questionsbut yeah that's one that I hadn't really thought of. Good one.So what to you constitutes a corrupt state? And how is the human state of nature related?

  • >A corrupt state would be one in which some desires are set at a higher priority than other's needs re: its constituent parts.For example, in a state of 4 people one is homeless. The other 3 concentrate harder on acquiring a new game for their console than finding homing for the 4th member.It's not that desires shouldn't be realised, but that the effort expended in realisation should be appropriately lower than that of attaining what is needed.Gavin

  • >But how do you define where the lines/boundries lie? i.e. when does it stop being a desire and start becoming a need? And what if needs are so great that those people who achieve most would need to give up all desires in order to fulfil the needs of the poorest?

  • >If someone would be damaged by the lack of something, then they need it. So: food is needed to maintain the body. Stability is needed to avoid psychoses. Distraction is needed to prevent boredom which could diminish stability, etc. Of course, some needs are more pressing than others, the ill effect of the lack is felt sooner or more strongly.If those who achieve most had to give up everything they desired to fulfill the needs of the poorest then they would have to do so to avoid the state as a whole from being corrupt. If unwilling to do so then to avoid corruption the poor being unsupported would have to be deemed as not being part of the state.Such ruthlessness could have its own ramifications in interstate relations/decrease in wealth.Gavin

  • >Ok so stability, distraction, perhaps even happiness is a need? Lack of that too would damage the psyche. As for people at the top having to give up everything this is Communism. Do you believe that Communism works in reality?

  • >It's clear from past attempts that communism either doesn't work in reality, or that a true model of it is so difficult to set up that it would surely be too fragile to last reliably.Gavin

  • >Yet you still argue "If those who achieve most had to give up everything they desired to fulfill the needs of the poorest then they would have to do so to avoid the state as a whole from being corrupt."?

  • >Yes. So I must conclude that any practical state setup will be corrupt to some degree.Gavin

  • >Do you mean that every state will contain some corrupt individuals or that every individual will be corrupt to some extent?

  • >An individual is, in effect, a tiny state. So yes every individual is corrupt to an extent.Gavin

  • >Interesting. But I can't bring myself to agree with your definition of corruption.According to the dictionary corruption is "dishonesty and illegal behaviour." I would seize upon the last part i.e. illegal behaviourI think that we define what corruption is within each community. Essentially corruption to me is breaking the rules.Now corruption in some degree may continue to happen I agree. But we can most definitely keep a pincer hold on it. If corruption begins to mount it is a sure sign that we need faster and bigger change.

  • >What if the rules are corrupt?Gavin

  • >Interesting question. I'm not sure if you can have corrupt rules. Immoral rules that need changing, yes absolutely. But if you're an elected BNP candidate promoting racism within the rules are you corrupt or immoral? Perhaps you think both but I think simply the second.This relates to the concept of natural rights and whether or not we all have them. Though some say that Locke agreed with the concept I think he was extremely skeptical. For if a divine creator had entitled us to rights then it would follow that people had them. Yet all around the world there are people without any rights, even the right to life.

  • >Corruption can occur legally, via loopholes within law. If you paid me to lie about something, and I did so, I would have committed a corrupt act, yet it would be legal. Bribery is only illegal within some situations, not the law as a wholeYou, via money, would have corrupted my morals if I wasn't otherwise willing to lie in that situation.Gavin

  • >Hmm, yes I suppose so. I guess this distinguishes between two levels of corruption: corrupt against the law, and corrupt against the principles behind the law.

  • >If the law is created in opposition to moral principles then the law is corrupt!Gavin

  • >The law cannot be created in opposition to all people's moral principles.Someone will always believe it is the right thing.Did Hitler kill Jews because he knew it was wrong? No, he did it because he thought it was right.You may not define that as moral, and nor do I. But in Hitler's mind it either was a moral outcome, or at least did not contradict with his moral viewpoint.If you said a majority moral viewpoint that would be different. But no laws are implemented in complete opposition to all people's moral values.

  • >I believe there are basic moral principles that are right though, even if humanity has been unable to agree on what they may be.Gavin

  • >And those who disagree with the principles you define as correct may think the same thing about other morals. Hence the 'correctness' will always be subjective without proof. Even if you reach agreement with 100% of people alive today it does not mean everyone in the past or the future would agree. And how would you get proof on 'correct' moral virtues? For this topic you should see: http://blog.thebigqs.co.uk/2010/03/does-universal-morality-exist.html#comments

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