Our state of nature


Okay; its a bit weird and unusual to even think about political philosophy; because I HATE IT.

Sinistrean questions 

Let me consider some curiosities of thought…

  1. Imagine (thought experiment) what a pre-societal grouping of humans would be like; a pre-governmental order
  2. What would people be like if they were not restricted by legal norms (Social Contract Question 1)
  3. What would people be like if they were not restricted by social norms? (Social Contract Question 1*)
  4. What are people like naturally; before the conditioning processes of socialisation? (Antrhopological question)

The state of nature

Kant was very much enamoured by Rousseau. Rousseau and Locke, in their treatment of a theory of government viz social contract; set a fundamental desideratum of the theory to give an account for the nature of society; the nature of a pre-governmental society; that is, the State of Nature.

That is to ask; what are we like as persons, before our social conditioning, and before our submission to the state powers? What are we like at our most natural (I’m sorry, I couldn’t find a better word…maybe default is better?) temperament?

Let me ask another, corollorary question; are we naturally good, or evil people? Is it that; society makes us cruel, where before we were naturally virtuous and good? (I think that is the Rousseaunean view); or are we wicked and cruel people who need the state to police us to keep a check on our dirty deeds? (Hobbesian [maybe even Lockean] view?)

The Kant connection 

If I’m right in my reading about Kant (and I’m not expert here…); Kant’s impact from Rousseau was the troubling treatment of our natural moral disposition.

Kant has reservations about our natural sentiments; which I very much share too. Let me give some examples:

  1. Socrates once asked Thrasymachus: is it justice to give one what is owed; if we have a situation where we owe someone weapons, and they come to us in a state of rage, asking it from us, knowing they will use it to violent ends; an end to which they will probably regret later? [Plato, Apology bk 1]
  2. When we decide things when we are horny, we, (more often than not), regret it later! [Antisophie gave me this example]
  3. It is more noble for the grocer not to overcharge in virtue of his respect for his customers and his role as grocer, than not to overcharge in virtue of maintaining reputation towards the end of getting more customers/keeping his current customers; although the action is the same; the intentionality is different

The million dollar question?

How do we treat ‘default’ moral reactions to situations: dealing with horniness, for example, temporary rage; or, what Zangwill calls “Depression, Accidie and Listlessness” (the challenges to motivational internalism) [Zangwill, Theoria, 2007]

Do we appeal to a Kantian analysis? (my default answer is YES!)



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