THE STATE OF
notion that man is a creature equipped from birth for society is a view
implicit in Plato and expressly formulated by Aristotle in the genesis of his
Man is by nature,
a political animal. Anyone who by his nature and not simply by ill-luck has no
state is either too bad or too good, either sub-human or super- human
Hobbes regards the assumption that man is by nature political animal as false.
In his view, man became a political animal only after the institution of the
civil society. The period prior to the civil society is what Locke, Rousseau as
well as Hobbes called ‘the state of nature’ - the apolitical state of man. In
the hypothetical state of nature, there lacks a central and sovereign power. Life
in this state is unrest, misery, constant fear, war, and insecurity and is
ruled by egoistic law of self- preservation. This is because in this state, all
men are equal and equally have the right to whatever they consider necessary
for their survival. On this Hobbes
The right of
nature is the liberty each man hath to use his own power as he will himself…
and consequently of doing any thing which in his own judgment and he shall
conceive to be the aptest means there unto.
here means simply that anyone is capable of hunting his weak neighbour and
taking what he thinks he needs for his own protection.
Hobbes’ state of nature, there exists the survival of the fittest for instance,
a physically strong man could overcome the physically weak and take what
belongs to the weak, but the weak could by his intelligence gain advantage over
the strong by joining forces with those in the same danger with him. Therefore,
a lack in one aspect could be compensated with some other thing. We have to note
also that the right of all to all that prevails in this state does not mean
that one man has a right whereas others have corresponding duties. The word right in the state of nature is
To do what he
would, and against whom he thought fit and to possesses use and enjoy all that
he would or could get”. 
Hobbes later identified
three reasons for the disorder and quarrels: he says
the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First is
competition, secondly, difference, and thirdly, glory”. 
Hobbes said that the first makes meaning for gain, the second, for safety,
and the third for reputation. Hobbes asserted that before the formation of
civil society and sovereignty, men were in continuous state of war with each other.
This situation he technically called ‘the threat of war’. And war here does not
necessarily imply battle (fighting) but portrays the situation where man lives
in continual fear, and insecurity. One sees his neighbour as a threat to his
existence and obstruction to his well-being.
is no common power ipso facto, no rules, no morality and justice, personal and
selfish inclination was the principle that governed all actions. Everyone feels
he is entitled to every thing. Ownership is effective only in so far as no
stronger person has interrupted. And because man is constantly in want, he
tries to eliminate the other. The continuous conflict of desire remains the
order of the day.
situation is precisely that of war of all against all. There exist a continual
fear and danger of violent death, all individual deciding how best to survive
this anarchy and disorder. Hence:
“There is no
place for industry because the fruit thereof is uncertain; no navigation nor
use of the commodities that may be imported by sea. No commodious building, no
instrument of moving and removing such things as required much force. No
account of time, no art, no letters, no society and which is worst of all
continual fear and danger of violent death. And the life of man solitary, poor,
nasty, brutish and short”.
held that it was man’s continuous desire for power, honour and fame that result
in the disorderliness in the state of nature. Thus he writes;
I put for a
general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power
after the power, that cease the only in death. And the cause of this, is not
always that man hopes for a more intensive delight than he has already attained
to, or that he cannot assure the power and means to live well which he hath present
without the acquisition of more. And from hence it is, that kings whose power
is greatest, turn their endeavour to the assuring it at home by laws or abroad
one of the political philosophers held that man is naturally good; but was
corrupted by contemporary society of man. He further believed that it was
competition and lust for private property that was responsible for this
corruption. He equally believes in the essential goodness and sympathetic
nature of man. For him, state of nature is of idyllic happiness since man is
free being who enjoys equality.
on his own part has a very optimistic view of the Human nature. For him,
The state of
nature has a law of nature to govern which obliges every one, and reason, which
is that law, teaches all mankind… that being equal and independent, no one
ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions”.
the state of nature as proposed by Hobbes is not a historical fact. Rather it
is a situation that obtains in lawless society. The central questions how can
man agree to form society since they are according to Hobbes, antisocial,
politically and culturally apart. To fight these societal maladies, Hobbes
found out what he referred to as natural law (Lex naturals). These laws will
urge them to organize themselves into civil society.
1.2 LAWS IN PRE-POLITIAL SOCIETY (NATURAL LAW)
law dates from the time of rational creation. It does not vary according to
time but remains unchangeable, because it is written in the hearts of all men,
right from birth as the scripture held it. Hobbes in his political philosophy
saw natural law as:
A precept or
general rule founded out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that
which is destructive of his life or taketh away the means of preserving the
same, and to omit that which he thniketh it may be best preserved.
takes the second position after the eternal law as a source of law. There are
mainly three sources of law: namely God, Nature and Sovereignty. It is from
these that we derive the eternal, natural and civil laws respectively.
Naturally, law is a divine will discovered in nature by man through the
dictates of reason, while the civil law is the law made in accordance with the
rule of nature by one who has the command over others. The natural law,
therefore, is the dictates of right reason. Men discovered that they must lay
aside the right of nature in order to preserve their lives. None of these laws
is man-made rather they are discovered by human reason which already exist from
the very nature of individual existence. They are laws which man cannot change
or influence, but can only conform and abide by.
described the condition of man before civil society as a state of equality
between individual freemen. Everyman has
the right to all things he desired. The condition was described by Hobbes as
war of all against all, hence the condition of man becoming wolf to man. It is
through nature that each man knows that he has to protect himself. Everyman quarrels. So the need to protect his
natural right of self-preservation that leads men to form a civil society. The
laws of nature are those rules that rational man must accept, if he were
conscious of his horrible predicament in the state of nature, where men are
selfish. To answer the question how men move from the state of nature to form
social state, Hobbes deduced nineteen other natural laws from the fundamental
right of self- preservation. Among
these laws, deduced by Hobbes, only three of these laws will be discussed here.
The first of these laws states that: Everyman ought to endevour peace, as far
as he has hope of obtaining it, and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek
all helps and advantage of war”. From the above quotation, we can see that it
contains the first and the fundamental law of nature; which is to seek peace
and follow it. It also contains the natural right, which we can by all means
protect and defend ourselves.
second law of nature by which we are urged to endeavour peace, this law states;
That a man be
willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defence of
himself he shall think necessary, to lay down this right to all things, and be
contended with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men
is from the compromise arising from the second law of nature that made it
possible for men to come together and form a social society. This is because if
everyman holds his natural right, they return to their former condition, that
is, condition before civil society. The second laws also held that man has to
lay down his right on the condition that others will do the same because he
will make himself prey to others if they refuse to lay down theirs. Right is
laid aside, either by simply renouncing it or by transferring it to another.
Men are bound not to hinder those they have entrusted their right from
exercising them. If they eventually go contrary to that, they have committed
injustice or injury. This mutual transferring of right is that which men call
that law of nature, by which we are obliged to transfer right to another, such
rights as being retained, hinder the peace of mankind, there followeth a third
law of nature which is, “that man perform
their covenants made.” Without which covenants are in vain but empty words,
and the right of all men to all things remaining, we are still in the condition
of war. This law of nature constitutes the foundation and origin of justice. To
break the covenant made is unjust and the definition of injustice is no other
than non-performance of convent. But because covenants is a mutual trust, where
there is a fear of non performance, on either part…. are invalid, therefore
before the names of just and unjust can have place, there must be some cohesive
power to compel men equally to performance of their covenants, by terror of
some punishment, greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their
law according to Hobbes binds in conscience, and still maintains that all men
have an obligation to obey the natural law in a state of nature. And it is
obeying the natural laws that made it possible for the mutual transferring of
rights, and man forming political society.
 Aristotle; The Politics, (Great Britain: Penguin Bks. Ltd,
 T. Hobbes; English works(ed) Willian moles worth, London
John Rohm, Igbo, p. 116
S.E. Stumpf; Philosophy: History and problems, (U.S.A: Mc
Graw- Hill Inc, 1983), p. 223.
T. Hobbes; Leviathan (ed) by C.B.Macpherson (Great Britain:
Penguin Bks, 1968), p. 185.
 J. Locke, Two Treatise Of Civil Government, (London: Dent,
1970), p. 119.
A. Appadorai, The substance of politics, (Delhi: Oxford
University press, 1975), p.27.
F., Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. 5, pt. 1. (New
York: Image Bks, 1964), p. 45