The result is an open conflict the war of all against all. The hand of each is at every others throat. Men in the state of nature of the concept of Hobbes live in a condition of perpetual fear, of cut-throat competition and war.
Unless there is a common sovereign power to regulate the behaviour of individuals, says Hobbes, they are all in “that condition which is called Warse: and such a warse is of every man against every man. Life of man is solitary, poor, hasty, brutish and short.
From above, the chief characteristics of Hobbesian state of nature can be discerned as follows:
Firstly, It is governed by no rules or laws. Men are engaged in fierce but ceaseless battle for blind passions. Which cannot be judged by any standards?
Secondly, Every individual has natural right to everything that can be obtained by power in competition with fellow beings.
Thirdly, There is no conception of justice or injustice because justice for Hobbes is by-product of law.
Fourthly, There is no place for “industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain”, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, knowledge of the face of earth, no account of time, no letters, no society”.
Hobbes on Laws of Nature:
Laws of nature or ‘dictates of reason’, borrowed from Grotius plays a crucial role in establishing a Leviathan. It shows the individuals, a way out of state of nature characterized by war of everyman against everyman. In essence, laws of nature “lex naturals” are a sort of restriction on the power of individuals in the state of nature to inhibit the exercise of natural rights”.
Contrary to subsequent writers like Locke who thinks of law of nature as instrumental in exercise of natural rights, Hobbes links it to limit the natural rights.
There are several ingredients in law of nature:
1. It is a logical outcome of Hobbesian mechanistic psychology. For, condition prevailing in state of nature cannot bring peace and harmony.
2. It provides a common yardstick in the form of Leviathan to regulate the political life of individuals. For, in the absence of an all powerful sovereign authority, anti-social impulses cannot be kept in check.
3. Reason has a regulative not an emotive force as it does not give any motive force to human minds it enlightens the narrow selfishness to form a civilized society
The important laws of nature laid down by Hobbes are as follow:
1. Aristotle of peace or laws of nature hints that men should seek and observe peace. The state of nature is not conducive to achievement of self preservation. They should follow the laws that abandon the war like situation and strive to live in peace with his fellow-beings.
2. Every individual should abandon his natural right to all things. This abandonment should be general and reciprocal. It is at this stage that individuals enter into a compact i.e. the “mutual transfer of rights” more commonly known as contract. It is by this dictate of reason that the artificial person, the state, the Great Leviathan, that mortal God on Earth, to whom the individuals owe their liberty in society and peace in life, is created.
3. Men should abide by the terms and conditions of the contract made among themselves. The very fact that individuals are not disciplined, the creation of all powerful sovereign with all means of coercion at his command is absolutely necessary.
4. One should have a sense of gratitude so that the benefactors do not have “reasonable cause to repent him on his goodwill”.
5. “Every man strives to accommodate himself to the rest”.
6. Men should pardon the offices of the repentant fellow-being.
7. No man by deed, word, countenance or gesture, declare hatred or contempt of another.
8. At the entrance into conditions of peace, no man requires to reserve to himself any sight, which he is not content should be reserved to everyone of the rest.
9. If man be trusted to judge between man and man, it is a precept of law of nature that he deals equally between them.
10. Such things as cannot be divided are enjoyed in common if it can be; and if the quality of the thing permits, without stint.
11. They that are controversy, submit their right to the judgment of an Arbitrator.
There have been severe criticisms of Hobbes’s concept of law of nature on following grounds:
Firstly, Hobbes relegates the humanistic tinge accorded to the law of nature by entrusting it to hinder the exercise of natural rights. By doing so he makes an individual’s natural right as scapegoat at the hands of mighty Leviathan.
Secondly, Prof. Vaughan attacks Hobbes for irreconcilable between his concept of state of nature and law of nature. For, self-interested individuals engaged in fierce battle with one another cannot be over nightly transformed from savage to civilize.
Thirdly, Hobbes’s conception of natural right is both fictitious and ambiguous. For, there can be absolute natural right to life.
Despite serious lacunae, Hobbes remains foremost in envisaging a mechanical role for the state. The individual’s role for the state the individuals obey the state because it is an embodiment of dictates of reason entrusted with the task of security of its members. This makes him a great individualist in his own style.