Locke, Nozick and the state of nature

Justin P. Bruner*

*Corresponding author for this work

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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Recently, philosophers have drawn on tools from game theory to explore
behavior in Hobbes’ state of nature (Vanderschraaf in Econ Philos 22:243–279,
2006; Chung in J Am Philos Assoc 1:485–508, 2015). I take a similar approach and
argue the Lockean state of nature is best conceived of as a conflictual coordination
game. I also discuss Nozick’s famous claim regarding the emergence of the state
and argue the path to the minimal state is blocked by a hitherto unnoticed free-rider
problem. Finally, I argue that on my representation of the Lockean state of nature
both widespread conflict and lasting peace are possible. This, I contend, is in line
with one popular interpretation of Locke (Simmons in Polit Theory 17:449–470,
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-726
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number3
Early online date20-Nov-2018
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • social contract theory
  • state of natre
  • locke
  • nozick
  • game theory

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