On the Natural State of Men

1. We have next to inquire about those duties whose performance is incumbent upon a man, in view of the particular state in which we find him living the common life. And by state I mean in general that condition in which men are understood to be placed, for the exercise of a certain kind of actions. Special rights also generally accompany that state.

2. The state of men is either natural or adventitious. The natural state can be considered under three heads, so far as mere reason lights the way; either in relation to God the Creator, or in relation to individual men, as regards themselves, or as regards other men.

3. Viewed in the first way, the natural state of man is that condition in which he was placed by the Creator, when He willed that man should be an animal superior to all the rest. From this state it follows that man should recognize and worship his Author, and marvel at His works; and also pass his life in a very different manner from the brutes. Hence this state is contrasted with the life and condition of the brutes.

4. In the second way we can consider the natural state of man, if we imagine what his condition would be, if one were left entirely to himself, without any added support from other men, assuming indeed that condition of human nature which is found at present. Certainly it would seem to have been more wretched than that of any wild beast, if we take into account with what weakness man goes forth into this world, to perish at once, but for the help of others; and how rude a life each would lead, if he had nothing more than what he owed to his own strength and ingenuity. On the contrary, it is altogether due to the aid of other men, that out of such feeble-ness we have been able to grow up, that we now enjoy untold comforts, and that we improve mind and body for our own advantage and that of others. And in this sense the natural state is opposed to a life improved by the industry of men.

5. In the third way we consider the natural state of man according as men are understood to be related to each other, merely from that common kinship which results from similarity of nature, before any agreement or act of man, by which one came to be particularly bound to another. In this sense we speak of men as living together in the natural state, if they have no common master, and one is not subject to the other, and they are not known to each other by kindness or injury. In this sense the natural state is opposed to the civil state.

6. Again, the character of this natural state can be considered either as it is represented by a figment, or as it really exists. We have the former, if we conceive that from the beginning a multitude of men came into being at once, without any interdependence, as the story of the Cadmean brothers has it; or else, if we imagine the whole human race as now so broken up, that each man would govern himself apart, and none be bound to any by other bond than similarity of nature. But the state of nature which really exists, has this feature, that one is joined to some men by a special alliance, but with all the others has nothing in common except one's humanity, and owes them nothing on any other account. Such a condition now exists between different states, and between the citizens of different nations, and formerly it obtained among the scattered patriarchs.

7. For it is clear that the whole human race has never at one and the same time been in the natural state. For those who were horn to our first parents, from whom all mortals draw their origin, as the Holy Scriptures relate, were subject to the paternal authority. Later, however, this natural state did appear among some men. For the first men, in order to fill a world still empty, and to seek a roomier habitation for themselves and their flocks, left the paternal homes, separated in different directions, and nearly every male set up a household for himself. Among their descendants, who scattered in the same way, the special bond of kinship, and the affection springing from it, gradually vanished, and there remained only that community which results from a like nature; until later, when the race had multiplied remarkably, and they had discovered the inconvenience of the isolated life, by degrees the nearest neighbors united to form societies, first smaller, then larger, by the voluntary or enforced union of several of the smaller. Between these communities, as they are joined by no other bond than that of common humanity, the natural state certainly still exists.

8. Now those who live in the natural state have this particular right, that they are subject and responsible to none but God. From which standpoint that state is called natural liberty; by which, unless there has been some previous act of man, everyone is understood to be his own master, and subject to the authority of no man. And from the same standpoint each is accounted equal to every other, and neither is subject to him, nor holds him in subjection to himself. Moreover, since the light of reason has been placed in man, and, by its beams he can guide his actions, it follows that every roan living in natural liberty depends upon no one for the regulation of his conduct; but, in accordance with his own judgment and will, has the power of doing everything that agrees with sound reason. And on account of the common inclination, implanted in all creatures, a man can but endeavor by every means to preserve his body and his life, and to banish what seems to destroy life, and must employ the means to that end. For this reason, and because in the natural state no one has another man as his superior, to whom he has submitted his own will and judgment, therefore in that state every one of his own judgment determines the fitness of means, and whether they conduce to self-preservation or not. For, no matter how much he hears the advice of another, it is none the less in his own power to decide whether he wishes to approve of the other's advice or not. But that this self-government be rightly conducted, it is required that it be undertaken according to the dictate of right reason and the natural law.

9. However much the natural state allures by the name of freedom and immunity from all subjection, still, until men have united into communities, it has many added disadvantages, whether we imagine all men as existing singly in that state, or consider the situation of the scattered patriarchs. For if you conceive a man who even in adult age is left alone in this world, and without any of the comforts and supports with which the ingenuity of men has made life more civilized and less hard, you will see an animal, naked, dumb, needy, driving away his hunger as best he can by roots and herbs, his thirst by any water he chances upon, the severity of the weather by caves, an animal exposed to the wild beasts, and alarmed when he meets any of them. A life somewhat more civilized was possible among those who lived in scattered families, — a life, however, which could not be compared in any way with civil life, not so much on account of want, which the household, with its limited desires, seems fairly well able to banish, as because security is not fully provided for there. And, to be brief, in the natural state each man is protected by his own powers only, in the community by those of all. In the former no one has a certain reward of his industry; in the latter all have it. In the one there is the rule of passion, war, fear, poverty, ugliness, solitude, barbarism, ignorance, savagery; in the other the rule of reason, peace, security, riches, beauty, society, refinement, knowledge, good will.

10. Moreover in the natural state, if a man does not willingly perform for another what he ought under an agreement, or if he has injured him, or if some controversy arises otherwise, there is no one who by authority can compel the other to perform what he ought, or repair the injury, and can thus settle the quarrel, as in states, where one may implore the aid of a common judge. But because Nature does not permit us to go to war for any cause indifferently, even where one is amply persuaded of the justice of one's cause, therefore we must first try to see whether the matter can be adjusted in a gentler way, namely, by a friendly discussion between the parties, and by a pure (not conditionate) compromise, that is, an appeal to arbiters. These arbiters should conduct themselves with fairness to both sides, and in giving their decision make no concession to hatred or favor, but regard solely the merits of the case. For this reason a man is not usually taken as arbiter in a case in which there appears to be greater hope of advantage or special distinction for himself from the success of the one side, than from that of the other, and so where it is to his interest that one of them win the case by whatever means. Hence also there should be no agreement or promise between the arbiter and the parties, by virtue of which he may be bound to pronounce in favor of the one. And if the arbiter is" unable to find out what the fact is, either from the common confession of the parties, or definite instruments, or unmistakable arguments and signs, he will be obliged to find it out from the depositions of the witnesses. These may indeed be constrained to tell the truth by the natural law, and generally by the sanctity of an oath, still it would be safest not to admit such persons as are so disposed towards one or the other of the parties that their conscience must struggle as it were with favor, hatred, lust for revenge, and other violent passion, or even some very close he, — motives which not all have firmness enough to conquer. Sometimes, too, quarrels are ended by interposition of common friends, and this is with good reason accounted one of the most sacred duties. But as for the performance, in this state, that is each man's affair, when the other does not voluntarily fulfill his obligation.

11. Again, although it was the will of Nature herself that there should be a certain kinship between men, and that, by virtue of this, it should be wrong for one to injure another, and — better still — right for every man to spend himself for the advantage of others, nevertheless among those who live together in natural liberty this kinship generally exerts a very feeble force. Hence any man who is not our fellow-citizen, or one with whom we live in the natural state, is to be regarded, not indeed as an enemy, but still as an inconstant friend. The reason for this is that men are not only perfectly able to injure each other, but for various reasons very often willing to do so. For in some cases perversity of nature, or the passion for ruling and possessing superfluities, spurs men on to injure others. Other men, though of modest temper, rush to arms in the desire to preserve themselves, and not to be anticipated by others. Many are matched against each other by desire for the same thing, others by a rivalry of talent. Hence in this state suspicions all but perpetual are rife, as are distrust, the desire to undermine the strength of others, the passion for getting ahead of others, or of strengthening one's self by the ruin of others. Therefore, as it is the part of the good man to be content with what he has, and not to attack others, nor seek their property, so the cautious man who is devoted to his own welfare, believes all men his friends, with the possibility, however, of presently becoming his enemies, and keeps the peace with all, as something which can presently change into war. For this reason also happy is that state regarded which even in peace thinks of war.

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