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chapter 13: The State of Nature 1 - Gershom Carmichael, Natural Rights on the Threshold of the Scottish Enlightenment: The Writings of Gershom Carmichael 
Natural Rights on the Threshold of the Scottish Enlightenment: The Writings of Gershom Carmichael, ed. James Moore and Michael Silverthorne (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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The State of Nature1
Natural and adventitious states
A state [status] is a condition of man considered morally, that is, a condition which involves certain rights and obligations, and which does so not merely with respect to an isolated act or omission but to a whole series of acts. In the previous book and in our notes to it, we outlined all the general sources of rights and obligations. The duties we present in this book are not inconsistent with those, but some of them have a special definition when they arise from the use of some of the sources surveyed to form a particular association or adventitious state. [II.1.1.i]
The natural state may be understood by the method of abstraction in which it is consistent with all adventitious states, or by the method of negation in which it is in some degree distinct from any and every adventitious state. Pufendorf’s discussion [of the state of nature] is badly confused by the lack of any such distinction. [II.1.2.i]
This twofold distinction applies to all three aspects of the state of nature enumerated in the last paragraph [i.e., with respect to God, to ourselves, and to other men]. Pufendorf is not correct therefore in employing only the method of abstraction in conceiving the natural state with respect to God, while he employs only the method of negation in considering each man’s relationship to himself and to others. It would be more correct to describe the natural state of man according to the method of abstraction (which can be described in general as a state of humanity as opposed to the life and condition of animals) as, in relation to God, a state of dependence, by which he is bound to acknowledge and worship him as his author. In relation to himself it is a state of normal self-love, by which each is bound to look after himself and to seek his own harmless advantage. In relation to other men it is a state of sociability in which each is bound to cherish the social inclination and a social life with other men.
If on the other hand, we understand the natural state by the method of negation, we must exclude from consideration some or perhaps all adventitious states. In this respect man’s relation to God in the state of nature is the condition of those whose knowledge of God is confined to natural means. More broadly, it is the condition of those in whom the innate evil of the soul has not been redeemed by divine grace. This is the meaning of the natural state which has been taken up by theologians.2 And though, so understood, it includes the evil which is adventitious to human nature, this state may be called natural inasmuch as it is with every man from his birth. The state of nature as it applies to man’s relationship to himself and to other men according to the method of negation is described by Pufendorf himself [in the following paragraphs].3 [II.1.3.i]
Titius remarks that the state of solitude is quite improperly called natural, that in fact such a condition is supernatural inasmuch as God has destined man for sociability. But natural is not meant here in the sense in which it coincides with connatural and is thus opposed to supernatural, but in the sense in which it is contrary to adventitious, and in particular excludes any assistance from other men or, extraordinarily, from God, toward a man’s development and cultivation.4 [II.1.4.i]
The emergence of the state of nature from the Adamic state
As long as the children remained in the paternal household [of Adam], even after they had attained the mature use of reason, it is credible to suppose that they agreed, expressly or tacitly, to prolong the father’s authority. [II.1.7.i]
[The emergence of the natural state] showed itself by obvious effects. It could not have failed to exist, unless abolished or prevented by some human act, and state of nature implies nothing more. It must have come about in the following way. When children were born to our first parents and to the patriarchs who succeeded them, they were incapable of directing their own actions precisely because they were infants. Although they were endowed with the same right of natural liberty as their parents, they were not able immediately to make use of it. As long as their reason remained immature, they needed to be directed by the intelligence and guided by the will of their parents. And when they reached maturity, so long as they remained in the father’s house or on his land (or even, from a sense of duty toward him, simply in the neighborhood), they could not have avoided giving him, by express or tacit consent, such government over themselves as at the time it seemed essential to place in someone’s hands over everybody, in order to preserve peace and provide security against enemies. Cf. Locke, Second Treatise of Government, secs. 73 ff.5
But that unity was dissolved when the father died, either because it had depended on a common owner (dominus) of lands which were now divided among many, or because it was rooted in some other way in the person of the father. Or, as was more often the case, the unity was dissolved by the sons’ leaving the parental home to make new homes for themselves, which they did not choose to subject to another man’s government, especially if they were far away. In either case, that was when the natural liberty of the sons began to assert itself, and that is how independent human societies appeared. [II.1.7.ii]
In the following passage [on the “nastiness” and “barbarity” of the state of nature] Pufendorf follows Hobbes, perhaps too boldly; certainly he has been criticized on this account by the distinguished Titius and Barbeyrac. I would not want to make my own criticism of this passage more severe than theirs; much less would I doubt that the condition of citizens under a government that is not utterly evil (for I dare not affirm more) is much preferable to the condition of individual men or even of individual families living in the natural state. But one should not conceal from the reader, as the Hobbesian words which Pufendorf adopts do, that the worst condition of the natural state is being compared with the civil state as it ought to be, rather than with the civil state as we find it all around us in man’s present fallen condition.6 [II.1.9.ii]
[1.] From the notes to bk. II, ch. 1, “On the Natural State of Man.”
[2.] In the theology of the Reformed in this era, the state of nature or fallen state followed the state of innocence and was succeeded by the state of grace and the eternal state. See, e.g., Boston, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State.
[3.] The condition of man in the state of nature, deprived of family, household, and civil society, was perceived by Pufendorf as above all a condition of weakness and poverty in the absence of any arrangements for mutual assistance. The condition of man in relation to other men was a condition of independence, with no subjection to a husband, a master, or a ruler, but also none of the benefits or the injuries which those adventitious arrangements provide (Pufendorf, On the Duty of Man and Citizen, II.1.4 and 5, pp. 115–16).
[4.] Titius, Observationes, no. 452.
[5.] Locke’s narrative of how it was possible “for the Father of the Family to become the Prince of it” is presented in the Second Treatise of Government, ch. 6, “Of Paternal Power,” p. 318.
[6.] Titius, Observationes, nos. 460, 461; Barbeyrac, in Pufendorf, Of the Law of Nature and Nations, II.II.2, nn. 6–16. Francis Hutcheson clearly had all of these references (and more) in mind when he declared that “not only Hobbes but Pufendorf himself has paid a penalty [for his views on the state of nature] at the hands of distinguished men, Titius, Barbeyrac, Cumberland, Carmichael, and above all the most elegant Earl of Shaftesbury” (Inaugural Lecture, p. 7).