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Catholic Dictionary

Term

STATE OF NATURE

Definition

The mythical condition of human beings before they were affected by civilization. This condition was idealized by many philosophers, e.g., Jean Jacques Rousseau, as a norm of what the human situation would be except for the corrupting influence of human education and society. It was used by some (e.g., John Locke) as an argument for humanity's original rights to liberty and equality, and by others (e.g., Thomas Hobbes) as proof for the need of a state to control the social instincts of human beings.