Rousseau and Hobbes conceptualize pre-societal human life in drastically different ways. While Rousseau idealizes pre-societal human life, Hobbes suggests that it was harsh and unpleasant. The main difference between Hobbes and Rousseau on the question of the state of nature is that Hobbes and Rousseau have very different conceptions of human nature. Hobbes sees the human nature evident in his society as indicative of human nature as it must have been in the state of nature. Therefore, in Hobbes’s view, if we were all taken out of civil society and thrown into the wild, our life would most likely be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” since there would be no civilization to curb our base and selfish desires.
In contract, Rousseau suggests that we are only selfish and evil because of the bad influence of society. Before we were corrupted by civilization, he imagines that human life was probably marked by peace and compassion. While Rousseau certainly seems to be more imaginative than Hobbes, there is no real way of adjudicating between the two, as neither have any scientific or archaeological evidence to support their claims. Rather they both make their assertions based on conjectures that are heavily influence by their own personal biases.