[hist-analytic] State of Nature: Methodological? Abstraction? Counter-Factual?
Baynesr at comcast.net
Baynesr at comcast.net
Sun Feb 14 18:42:35 EST 2010
MacPherson differs from most other commentators on Hobbes by
insisting that the state of nature at "initial position"
involves a preexisting society. He distinguishes three
different societies. What characterizes all of them are
certain market conditions. They are The Status Society,
the Simple Market Society and the the Possessive Market
Society, which is what we live in. His task is to provide
a motive for leaving the state of nature defined in these
terms, which are not a state of war in the sense traditionally
It is this third sort that allows for this possibility.
His details are reasonably persuasive but, more importantly,
insightful and original. They are useful to me because of the
interface with economics and, ultimately, distributive
justice. That's where Rawls and some game theoretically
oriented people will come in.
On possible worlds: take a look at how Kripke introduces
them. He calls it by "stipulation." I think that is how
he puts it but I don't have the book in front of me.
If I am right, Kripke is not stipulating a world but,
rather, abstracting worlds from the actual world. There
can, therefore, if I am right, only be as many worlds as
facts. Can't go into all that; I'm doing other stuff.
On Myth: I have to think about this a bit more. Keep in
mind that for Rawls the idea of a contract being formulated
and agreed upon is not a "myth" but a representational
device. There are other alternatives. I won't get into
that. The aspect of myth that interests me is what
Cassirer talks about in the Myth of the State. It's an
easy read. I'm gonna take another look at it. Poincare
made some "crack" about him not being such a good
mathematician. "Mathematician?" I thought. If Poincare
would call me a not so good anything I'd be flattered.
----- Original Message -----
From: Jlsperanza @ aol .com
To: hist-analytic@ simplelists .co. uk
Sent: Saturday, February 13, 2010 1:23:38 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: State of Nature: Methodological? Abstraction? Counter-Factual?
In a message dated 2/13/2010 3:51:19 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
Baynesr @comcast.net writes:
"Thus in the Rudiments the state of war is hypothetical
condition, got by a purely logical abstraction." (p. 28)
Thanks for the further quote from McPherson.
That's an interesting thought!
I would be interested to learn more about the different approaches here.
I always divided the approaches into
-- genetic: those who believe the state of nature did exist.
----- methodological: those who use it as a methodological device. Rawls ,
"veil of ignorance".
It's all pretty confusing, I know.
But I _am_ interested.
--- I am particularly inclined to regard those allusions as 'mythical' . A
'myth' may have 'educational' value, though (My recent invigorated
sympathies for 'myth' derive from Wharton's book on pragmatics -- new with CUP which
concludes with what he calls Grice's 'myth' about the origin of language.
[ Grice's myth: in the origin there was 'nature' . Only signs naturally
signifying this or that. In the state of our civilised states, it's all
---- I'm slightly confused by talk of 'counterfactual' -- in terms of
possible-world semantics. It seems to me that a true counterfactual , I mean a
genuine counterfactual (a subjunctive, or past subjunctive) conditional would
need to postulate something different from a mere reference to the _past_ .
I don't think the past is a different world, as we may say an irreal world
is a different world. Hartey used to say that the past is "a foreign
country" but that's different and just metaphorical).
---- I do like McPherson's idea that in Hobbes's counterfactual , it is not
men as having desires they might have had then back in the state of nature,
but as having desires as they have NOW, in this world, at this time.
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