POL200Y5 Lecture 19: Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapters 14–17

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23 Mar 2017
Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapters 1417
I. The Right of Nature and the Laws of Nature
We ended last lecture in a condition of nature
Gov’t is artificial, meaning there is a time where it doesn’t exist
State of nature seems to not be a nice place because it is released from any kind of
restraint from gov’t, then a condition of war most likely ensues
In this condition of nature, life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short
o Lock your doors, car locks, passwords
o Not that we are evil it is just that our passions need to be restrained
o There is no sin, just or unjust, until we have laws
o The way out of a state of nature is by consulting our passions and reasons
Passions: desiring commodious living, getting those things you consider good, want to
avoid violent death
o Commodious living is impossible in a state of nature and a violent death is
A. Articles of Peace
B. Right of Nature: Definition
To understand the laws of nature, we must begin with the right of nature
Begins chapter 14: the right of nature is liberty each one has to use his own power as he
will himself for the preservation of his own nature, doing anything in his own judgement
and reason
Definition: The liberty to use one’s power to secure one’s life
o Liberty being the absence of any external restraint
Right of nature belongs to everyone. In a positive perspective, it is a right to act
according to one’s own judgement and reason. The negative perspective is the right not to
be subjected to the judgment and reason of others.
In a state of nature/ in a condition of nature (absence of restraint) individuals have the
liberty to use their power as they deem necessary to survive
In other words, the right of nature gives the right to do anything and everything to
preserve oneself
o Including the right to harm when in danger, using force to avoid danger
Right of nature gives each individual the right of war, one can do anything in their power
that they deem necessary to defend themselves, this is giving everyone the right of war
against others
o But what one deems as necessary, another might not
Where there is no gov’t, there are no laws
C. Law of Nature: Definition
A law of nature is a general rule by which a man is forbidden to do what is destructive of
his life, to omit that
In a condition of nature, reason can produce a right and law
o A law being what we can follow to that end
In order to preserve yourself, follow these laws
Laws of nature are presets and general rules that help establish the rules of self-
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