Torture Instruments from Medieval Times - MAN IN THE STATE OF NATURE

This image depicts the frontispiece of Hobbes’ book about Leviathan. What does it signify? The British Library helps us to understand the illustration: “The famous cover engraving provided Leviathan with an enduringly striking image. A crowned giant emerges from the landscape, clutching a sword (a symbol of earthly power) and a crosier (a symbol of Church power). The torso and arms of this colossus are composed of over 300 humans, showing how the people are represented by their contracted leader, who draws his strength from their collective agreement. Underneath is a quote from the Book of Job: 'Non est potestas Super Terram quae Comparetur ei' ('There is no power on earth to be compared with him'); this link is the figure to the biblical monster, mentioned in Job, that Hobbes's book is named after.” Public-domain image online via the U.S. Library of Congress.


Thomas Hobbes, one of the great English philosophers of the Middle Ages, spent a lifetime thinking about the nature of man. In chapter 13 of his famous book Leviathan, Hobbes states his pitiful conclusion:

The condition of man [in the state of nature] is a condition of war of every one against every one.

That's why mankind needs society, Hobbes argues. That's why civilizations need laws and government.

As though the idea of "war of every man against every man" isn't bad enough, Hobbes has a further observation about man in the state of nature (a place where there is no law and no government):

Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues.

Even if we completely disagree with Hobbes about everything else, he seems to have a point here.

Complicating man's ability to get along with other human beings, Hobbes makes another striking statement:

All men have a natural right to all things.

And, in chapter 14, man has the right to "preserve himself" and to do anything he pleases:

For as long as every man holdeth this right, of doing anything he liketh; so long are all men in the condition of war.

Wow! Hobbes didn't think much of man's inherent character! Why not? Although we can't be sure of the answer to that question, we can examine some pretty compelling evidence:

  • Let's find out what was going on during the Middle Ages (and the history which was available for Hobbes to study). 
  • Let's take a look at what people did to each other (even when there were laws in place) and what they thought about (including monsters).
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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2000

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2019

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"MAN IN THE STATE OF NATURE" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2000. Dec 09, 2019.
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