Modeling the State of Nature

  • Models

Hobbes’ Leviathan is written in separate paragraphs. Chapters XIII (of the natural state of humanity, regarding their happiness and misery) & XIV (of the first and second laws of nature and of contracts) have all the information needed to model that natural state in an agent-based system that mimics the behavior that Hobbes uses to define it, thereby showing or not showing a situation that can serve as a demonstration of what Hobbes stipulated. Mister Node walks through chapter XIII and notes points of reference for making a model:

  1. Equal opportunities of individuals to claim an interest (necessity of life) despite individual differences in strength and intellect that are overcome by the use of (secret) tricks and of coalitions with whom they are in similar situations. Inequality in ability to act on the basis of scientific knowledge (on the basis of generally infallible rules) exists but is offset by a more important form of equality: the prudence – which can be nullified by another form of equality, the universal human characteristic to overestimate one’s own wisdom when making behavioral choices. (XIII: “Nature has made men so equal”)
  2. Equality of opportunities grows out of equality of expectations and hope for the fulfillment of the necessities of life. Therefore, individuals who need the same thing become each other’s enemies, who seek to eliminate or set aside one another. As a result, a successful individual will have to live in the fear that he will be driven out of his position by cooperating losers. And then the winner is equalized again in nurturing fear of the other. (XIII: From equality proceeds diffidence)
  3. There is no better way to combat that fear than by controlling the other or as many others as possible until no more threatening others are in sight. Therefore, the pursuit of power over others is legitimate. (XIII: From diffidence war)
  4. And that is why people only tolerate each other’s company when there is a power over them all. Otherwise, there is a state of war between each and everyone. (XIII: From diffidence war)
  5. In human nature we found three main causes of jealousy. First, competition; second, fear of violence; third, status. The first incites people to commit violations against others for money, the second for security, and the third for reputation. The first uses violence to make oneself rulers of the people, women, children, and livestock of others; the second uses force to protect them; the third uses violence that can be triggered by signals such as a word, a smile, dissent, or any other sign of underestimation, directly about his person or mediated through his family, friends, country, profession, or name. (XIII: From diffidence war)
  6. Without sovereign, man lives in the natural state (that is, the war of each against everyone or in expecting it), a state of fear, which has a duration, of expectations, such as the weather. (XIII: Out of civil states)
  7. The state of war between each and everyone makes man’s life lonely, poor, nasty, brutal and short. (XIII: The incommodites of such a war)
  8. The necessities of life and other passions of man are not in themselves a vice. Nor is passionate action, before there is not only a law that forbids it, but there is also an agreement appointing the one who can make laws. (XIII: The incommodites of such a war)
  9. There are many instances of people living in the natural state. (XIII: The incommodites of such a war)
  10. Sovereign authorities (“kings”) of states, because of their independent positions, are constantly jealous of each other and thus in a sort of natural state where they spy on each other and arm themselves, but these activities do not lead to the natural state within states because those preparations create industry for the people. (XIII: The incommodites of such a war)

What picture does this summary of Chapter XIII of the Leviathan of Hobbes evoke when we try to build a toy version of it? Mr Node wondered. Which (types of) states, countries, regions, parts, players, feelings, functions, transactions, props, periodic divisions are needed? What will the transitions from states of peace to and from states of war and from and to the natural state look like on a screen?

To be continued.

PS The Leviathan of Hobbes has been the subject of political-legal scientific debate for more than three and a half centuries. Mister Node once attended a session on Hobbes at an international conference on the philosophy of law in Frankfurt. It was mainly a kind of collective exegesis, about what Hobbes had (could have) meant by some phrasing and what not. In this way we do not get much further with legal science, Node realized. In trying to understand Leviathan as a kind of scripture, we enter the realm of religion and we leave science. Scientifically speaking, the Leviathan could have initiated a multidisciplinary research program. In this ambition fits the instrumental interpretation that was given here for the purpose of a simulation and that without doubt steps on every conceivable sensitive toe of driven Hobbes interpreters. Soit.