After an interesting class today in which we compared the contract theories of Locke and Hobbes, I realized I roughly agreed with Hobbes’ understanding of the State of Nature, but not his extreme solution (i.e. the creation of an absolute power). While I can only speak for myself (and I suppose Graham as well), I think many of us may still feel unsure about why Hobbes at first seems so correct in assessing lawless society, but after proposing his remedy so absurd. I’m sure this is lengthy philosophical question that’s been debated for at least a century or two, but I’d like to propose the idea that Hobbes’ major error is assuming people to be acting excessively rashly when they leave the State of Nature. In a nutshell, Hobbes argues that the State of Nature is so awful that people do whatever it takes to get out of it, often entrusting power to a leader/group and giving them absolute power. But I’d disagree that people would feel an immediate desire to exit the S of N and immediately become party to an unjust agreement with some type of sovereign. In a S of N, the people don’t simply appear out of nowhere, instead, I believe it’s a somewhat gradual process to get there. Not only must population reach a level in which people are forced to frequently interact with each other, but resources must begin to dwindle and people must gain the basic knowledge which would allow some type of government formed later to even work. With such a gradual buildup to instability, it seems to me unlikely people would immediately elect to enter into a contract which is clearly unjust. The underlying principle I’m trying to get at is that urgency is proportional to the unfairness of a contract, and thus Hobbes’ exaggeration of urgency, leads to an exaggeration about the extremity of the social contract. Of course, though, that’s just one take on it. Please note that while some might reference civil wars in developing countries in recent decades as evidence that anarchy can quickly become immense and that general will turns to a dictator, I do not consider such examples true S of Ns. In my opinion, as long there’s knowledge about a previous period of effective government (or to say it another way, people aren’t developing government in intellectual isolation), people aren’t in a Hobbesian S of N. Also, I use the word social contract occasionally in the post, though some might argue Hobbes doesn’t really put forward a SC, I use the phrase informally for clarity.