Being a theorist, I like taking time to think about the world today… and what those who helped shape the thoughts and philosophies we study as a science today would think about them.
With a recent rash of gay beatings and bashings, I’m often taken back to two of my favorite founders of western political thought, Hobbes and Locke; and often think about what they would say about it, among other things going on in the world today.
“In Locke’s state of nature, things aren’t so bad! In Hobbes’ state of nature, it’s DEADLY.”
— Professor Laurel Sprague
I come back to the ideology of each theorist’s state of nature — where, in all things being equal, Man is at his most primal when it comes to social governance. There’s no government to tell them what to do; Man, essentially, has all the rights one could ever want.
Locke’s State of Nature is a pretty laid back utopia of “I respect your boundaries, you respect mine, and we’re all happy.” There are a few commonly understood rules that society in and of itself lives by. Hobbes, however, it a bit more of a free-for-all. Things are a lot more “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” to coin a phrase from The Bible.
In a Lockeian State of Nature, I don’t see such a thing happening. It would go against the very point of Locke’s theory of Nature in and of itself. People don’t inherently harm others in his world.
Hobbes, on the other hand, is dramatically different. If a group of straight guys were to beat up on a gay guy, Hobbes would be the first to say that it’s quite likely a group of gay guys would want retribution and blood for the blood spilled of their brother… either the guys who committed the bashing itself, or just a target to prove a point.
What’s the most likely to occur if we were thrust into a State of Nature today?
- John Locke vs Thomas Hobbes (leekottner.typepad.com)
- A Monster of a Political Text! (politicsnphilosophy.wordpress.com)
- Hobbes in Lieu of Sunday School (garyborjesson.wordpress.com)
- Gotham’s State of Nature (bravenewsworld.com)
- A Calvin and Hobbes / Firefly mash-up tee shirt? Yes, please. (randomdorkness.wordpress.com)
- Thomas Hobbes (socialtheoryencyclopedia.wordpress.com)
- Loss of Knowledge (duttonkimberly.wordpress.com)
- On Enlightenment (sherhernandez.wordpress.com)
- Why the Establishment likes Locke (thehobbesian.wordpress.com)
I would say that in a Hobbesian state of the nature the latter would be true on its face. However to say that a group of gay men would go out and seek retribution against the straight men would be assuming that they possess equal strength to the straights and a cost/benefit of such actions would be worth it. In reality, when dealing with groups which are a clear minority like homosexuals, who only compose a fraction of the population as compared to heterosexuals, there is perhaps greater incentive to lay low and avoid the direct confrontation when a crime occurs. A group of homosexual men may realize that starting a conflict with heterosexuals will be a losing proposition overall since they should be expecting retribution in return for their payback measures. And seeing as how straights outnumber them the retribution to the gays as a whole could possibly be more devastating than the original crime (the single gay men being beaten up) itself. So instead of it being just that one gay men, it could result in multiple gay men being beat up.
This of course is how oppression operates, the minorities hide in the shadows and avoid a direct conflict. Locke may see the lack of retribution as evidence of man’s egalitarian natural state. However a Hobbesian sees that there is a more complex behavioral social aspect at play and realizes that the apparent peace and fairness is but an illusion overlying a deeper injustice that is occurring. This of course serves to justify government involvement to rectify and prevent such injustices which would occur in a natural state.
Hmmm, well said! I hadn’t thought of it from a ‘minority’ standpoint, more just a different class of people… but yeah, very interesting points.