State of Nature Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson plan we will teach students about the complex philosophical term 'state of nature.' Through discussion and a debate, our students will understand what it is and how each philosopher viewed it.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will:

  • Know a bit about the philosophies of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Understand the philosophical term 'state of nature'

Length

50 minutes

Materials

  • blank maps of the Atlantic world (ensure you have one for each student)

Key Vocabulary

At the conclusion of this lesson, students should be able to identify and define the following vocabulary terms:

  • state of nature
  • social contract
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • John Locke

Curriculum Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6

Evaluate authors' differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors' claims, reasoning, and evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8

Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

Instructions

  • Instruct your students to read the lesson State of Nature: Definition, Philosophy, & Examples
  • Write the names of the three philosophers up on the board. Hold a short class discussion (5-10 minutes) asking your students to name the views they have just learned of each philosopher on the state of nature. Write appropriate answers up on the board under each name. Make sure you hold a detailed discussion on each philosopher and ensure students come to a consensus before moving to the next one. Some example discussion questions include:
    • What did Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau believe would occur in a state of nature?
    • How did Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau think the state of nature should be addressed by society?
    • What principles guided Hobbes'/Locke's/Rousseau's views of humanity?
    • What is the 'general will'? Whose idea was it?

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