Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reflections on the State of Nature

Bellum omnium contra omnes. War of all against all. Is this the original state of nature?

In some abstract sense, it might be. But to assume it's the state of nature of our human species (even theoretically) prior to the institution of a strong government is completely absurd. The organizing principle of government exists in us before the word government can in a distinctly conscious manner be understood, even spoken. We are, as Aristotle originally presumed, social beings by nature. 

It might be true that there are monsters amongst us who seek unfettered power, ready to impose a Leviathan. But to attain such power requires the willing submission of one to another. It presumes an inherent willingness even for the most power-hungry to surrender some of their liberties and enter into an initial and untested relationship of seemingly irrational trust. They must become something else through the union of only potentially mutual benefits.

We can only gain power over our environment by organizing ourselves into primal tribes, groups of willing participants in a common mission set not arbitrarily by a sovereign but by the promises we trust will be mutually fulfilled. If it's true as Hobbes claims that, all things being equal, (wo)men are roughly of equal strength both physically and intellectually, then the only means by which to move forward is by joining into an arbitrarily trusting band of brothers and sisters.

Therefore, a social disposition, a willingness to "foolishly" trust despite the risks, must be assumed even without any fancy 21'st century psychological and medical examinations. (Wo)man is by nature the fertile egg for a society of willing individuals submitting to a common good – their continued existence – despite the inherent risks of submitting to the arbitrariness of someone else. 

To say we are all driven by the fear of death is merely a negation of our positive and common strife towards preservation of ourselves, our children and our extended family. Therefore, as the evolved conscious being we are, we must guided by the Basic Imperative.

The complexities of government evolves from this Basic Imperative. We are driven by a deep love of life and not the fear of its absence. It's not violent death we fear most, but the inevitable natural decay that comes from within. Only by continuos action and fusing our nature with others can we counteract our internal tendency towards a natural death. We surrender to a higher good because left alone we die not violently but prematurely.

Bellum omnium contra omnes, if at all, exists only in the original nuclear soup. But even there, it's the very possibility of proton fusion that is at the origin of all forward motion. In that stellar union of proton with proton lies the possibility of our own earthly evolution.