The state of nature according to Locke is “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit… without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man. ” For Locke, the state of nature is where humans exist without an established government or social contract. In a since the state of nature is a state of anarchy, of no order. What John Locke believed about the state of nature was that if men could act in a positive way, they could reach order without being absolutely controlled by one person.
The state of nature is a state of liberty where persons are free to pursue their own interests and plans, free from interference. People act according to “laws of nature” which include moral equality and natural freedom. Society can exist and stay civil as long as people can work together to protect themselves and each other from those who do not obey the laws of nature. In the law of nature, natural moral principles that people are naturally inclined towards are implemented.
The basic laws stated in the law of nature were that man is God’s property, therefore one has the right to defend oneself from harm. It also stated that one has the duty to protect others from harm, therefore one is also obligated to punish those who cause harm. These views of the law of nature are partly stemmed from Locke’s belief in God and His creation of man and all things on Earth. The state of nature can lead to a state of war when a person tries to harm another with regards to their life, health, liberty, or possessions.
In the state of nature people recognize the law of nature and therefore do not harm one another. A state of war can begins when two or more men declare war on one another, by stealing from one another, or by trying to make one another their slave. Since in the state of nature there is no civil power to whom men can appeal, and because the law of nature allows them to defend their own lives, they may then kill those who would bring force against them. Due to the state of nature lacking civil authority, once war begins it is likely to continue.
This is one of the strongest reasons that men have to abandon the state of nature by contracting together to form civil government. Men enter into a political society because the wish to preserve their state of nature. Since in the state if nature there is no rule of law, their natural rights are not properly defended. Locke proposed the removal from the state of nature in the form of a representative democracy that would be charged with defending these rights.