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Lecture 5

Lecture 5 - Hobbes I

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University of Ottawa
Political Science
Sophie Bourgault

Feb. 24, 2014 HOBBES I. Life (1588-1679), method and basic project *beauty and dangers of Speech (ch. 4) • Collective freedom is one of the greatest political goods • Hobbes – both Machiavelli and La Boetie are wrong • The most sacred non-negotiable that politics and the state ought to provide is security of the person • This is what all rational human beings should want (security and peace) • Fear is essential to his political theory – one of the main problems of political life, but also the solution • Hobbes does not have many nice things to say aboutAristotle or the school-men – teachers of scholastic philosophy • Aquinas’marriage of Catholicism and philosophy is terrible according to Hobbes • Bad for spiritual and political life • Writing a political philosophy to last for all times (not just for his present situation) • His political project is largely a linguistic project • Asound political theory is one that clears up language of all absurdities • Security and peace require good, clear definitions • If all human beings could agree on the definition of justice, the soul, life after death, and God, then we might achieve peace • Hobbes was an atheist, but he does admit that religion matters for political power (won’t get into the details) • P. 16 – language distinguishes us from beasts and is the most noble and profitable invention • P. 17 – What is speech good for? (1) can be used to register our thoughts; to remember what we experience (2) allows us to communicate with one another; “we can show to others that knowledge which we have attained, and thus, we can counsel and teach one another” (3) we can have poetry, rhetoric, and books which all give us pleasure (4) we can have society, government, contracts, and peace; speech allows us to make known to others our wills and our purposes • Language is a tool, but it can also be abused – can lead to murder, factions, and civil war • P. 17 - Abuses of speech (1) when you are inconsistent with the meaning of words (2) individuals use language purposefully to harm another (insult) – do not grieve with speech, unless to correct and amend. (3) when human beings claim something to be their will, but it’s not actually their will (4) when men use words in a metaphorical sense and thus deceive others • If those metaphors are used towards the end of security and peace, then they are good (legitimate) • Hobbes’messages: (1) Language is fragile; it cannot by itself bind communities together (p. 81); nothing is more easily broken than a man’s word (2) Precisely because the abuse of speech can lead to the oppression of certain groups, Hobbes believes one of the key jobs of the sovereign is to clarify and enforce definitions • Everything is caused by, or derived from, motion • Everything moves, and will move forever, unless something stops it or hinders it – same thing with human beings • If it weren’t for walls (walls of words = laws) human beings would endlessly move and seek power • Offers a mechanical perspective of man • Ties science back to political philosophy • Egalitarianism – all human beings are fundamentally the same • “read thyself” – understanding yourself applies to all other human beings • The state is an artificial creation devised by human beings • Implicit assumptions: (1) Politics are not natural to us (2) The fundamental purpose of the commonwealth is to guarantee people’s safety • Politics will not make people virtuous, courage, or great – politics exists to ensure safety • Concerned with the comfort, wealth, and the riches of all members • Individuals create a covenant (agreement) to create a peaceful environment • Sovereignty cannot be divided – has military, political, and religious power • Pride is a problem II. Human nature: key statements (ch. 6-11) Laws of physics (matter in motion) deduce from there men’s passions (especially important is fear) deduce from there socio-political laws • Chap. 6 - Human passions are the cause of all voluntary motion • 2 types of passions: (1) those towards which we move (appetites) (2) those we walk away from (aversions) • Psychology at its simplest, we are attracted and move towards what we love and walk away from what we hate • Plato &Aristotle (reason on top over passions) • Hobbes – passion and reason are politically significant • Our reason is like a calculator – the addition and subtraction of appetites and aversions • Our will is what we are left with (p. 33) • All human beings essentially experience the same passions hope, fear, contempt, joy, etc.) but what varies greatly amongst us is the object of our passions • Socioeconomic factors do affect our desires • Physiology is not everything • Human desires can never be satisfied and our fears can never fully be put at bay • Life can never be without fear, passion, or reason • Tranquility of mind is BS according to Hobbes – one cannot minimize passion/fear • Objects of passion differ and even within the same person, the object of passion will vary according to their situation • For example, your definition of good: What you call ‘good’at 25 you will not call ‘good’ when you’re 65 • P. 28-29 – political morality: “these words of good and evil are only ever used with relation to the person…there being nothing simply and absolutely so, nor any common rule of good and evil to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves…those things are relative unless you live in a commonwealth…common rules regarding good and evil…outside of the commonwealth, there is no common good…but there is a common nightmare – a violent death” • Avoiding a violent death is the strongest, most universal passion that Hobbes sees in all men • We have to build a common wealth around this common passion • It’s on the basis of this common nightmare that we can derive an important observation about human nature – because all human beings fear death, because of this, human beings seek power – a perpetual passion for power until death • Power alleviates some of our fears (Chap. 10 & 11) • Power is man’s present means to obtain some future good • Why aren’t people ever satisfied with a certain amount of power? Because they believe that in order to secure what they presently have, they need more power (p. 57) • The object of man’s desire is to assure forever the way he has it now • We cannot all endlessly increase our power because there is a limited number of goods in the world (contrast with Locke – there is an abundance of resources) • We live in a condition of scarcity, not unlimited abundance – rewards are in limited quantities • Cohesion principle: everything is relational – all power and virtue is measured to what other people have and seek • Eminence (superiority) is derived from something inferior • If something isn’t recognized by others as powerful, it’s not powerful • Self-esteem is rubbish, the only esteem that matters is that of others III. The state of nature (ch. 13) Equality of ability  equality of hope (but scarcity)  Diffidence  war/conflict • The state of nature – the natural condition of mankind (compare Hobbes and Locke) • The way people behave without authority ruling over them •
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