Nature Without the State: An Anarchist Critique of ‘Animalistic Evil’

Studies in the History of Philosophy 13 (3):63-79 (2022)
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I here present an anarchist critique of the idea of ‘animalistic evil’ and its common use as a justification for the State’s existence and use of force. On this view, ‘evil’ is a privation of morality, justice, and civilised behaviour. It is then identified with the ‘animalistic’ since animals are often thought to be defined by the aforesaid privation. I first clarify the idea of animalistic evil within the history of philosophy and science. Aristotle (384–322 BCE), Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), and Thomas H. Huxley (1825–1895) prominently argue that all that prevents humanity from devolving into animalistic evil, a state of violent and individualistic struggle for bare survival, is the power of State government to forcibly control the animalistic drives within its citizens. I subsequently pose two questions. (1) Is it justified to associate animal life with evil when this is (a) understood as a privation of a morality, justice and society and (b) characterised as an individualistic struggle for survival? (2) If this is not justified, what is the political harm of doing so? Building on the work of the anarchist thinker Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921), I argue that any conception of animalistic evil is unjustifiable, that it is a false justification for the State’s existence and use of force, and that the State, upon making the empty threat of animalistic evil, both violently harms individuals and impedes the socially beneficial practice of mutual aid.

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Jason K. Day
Université de Fribourg


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