Laura, The State of Nature

“To understand political power aright, and derive it from its original, we must consider what estate all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their posses- sions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.” 

I chose this passage because it is central to the theme of Dr.Quillen’s lecture on Humanism. I found her lecture very intriguing but also puzzling for several reasons. I wanted to further explore the meaning and purpose of Lockes state of nature. Initially, I did not understand several things about Lockes concept of “nature”. The word nature typically defines all that does exist, especially that which exists without the use of human force. By this definition Lockes concept of nature proves unnatural because it does not exist in reality, it only exists in an imaginary space created by Locke. These two factors stand in direct contradiction with the definition of nature. Furthermore, Locke wrote with the purpose of discovering truths about the world, but how can he discover something about reality using entirely false information? Is the best way to learn more about the world not to observe the world as it is and as it has been? In my perspective, the only way to find objective truth is to draw on other objective truth. I divulged my thoughts about this passage to a stellar Humester, Gabby Morale, and her thoughts were as follows. Sometimes, the best way to understand what is true is to understand what is not true. In creating the hypothetical of the natural state, Locke reveals truths about the world through contrast with unreality. In analyzing the ways in which we have not lived up to the state of nature, we can understand how a flawed system of power led us to this state. By revealing the flaws of pre-enlightenment power system Locke set the stage for his own theory of power which is further explained through his discussion of the state of nature. This addresses the earlier posed question “What is the state of nature”? It is a hypothetical that draws on elements of the real world in an unreal way in order to expose the truth about political power.

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