Political Philosophy: Unit 2 The state of nature

2.3 Introduction to the state of nature

Please read the introduction to the issues in the Wolff textbook, pp. 6–8.

This short selection introduces the idea of the state of nature and attempts to explain why it has been such an important issue. Please read it now.

Individual activity: quiz

On completion consider the question: Why have political philosophers wanted to understand what life would be like without the state, in the state of nature?

You may like to write down your answer. When you have done so, click on ‘Reveal’ to see the answer I have suggested:


By imagining what life would be like without the state, we will come to see why we have one, in particular:

  • what it is for
  • what problems it exists to solve
  • under what conditions it would be legitimate.

Don’t worry if your answer doesn’t match this exactly. It is important, though, that you understand why I have given the answer I have. If you don’t see this right away, take a look at the reading again. If you still don’t understand, or if you disagree, get on to the State of nature forum. Perhaps others will have similar concerns. This also applies to all the quiz questions that follow.