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'


50 minutes


  • 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


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


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


  • 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?

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account