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PHL lecture, jan. 12.doc

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University of Toronto St. George
Peter King

Leviathan 2: The Social Contract • Recall Hobbes’s conclusion, that in a State of Nature there would be a “war of all against all.” o This is clearly unacceptable to everyone, and everyone can see that everyone else thinks so too o How to escape the situation? • Hobbes begins his account in 14 by distinguishing between natural right and natural law o The sole natural right he recognizes in the State of Nature is that each person has the liberty to use any means possible to preserve his or her life (14.4)  This derives, at least in part, from the basic right to self-defence, and gets its unrestricted form due to the circumstances • Hobbes defines a “natural law” as follows (14.3): o A law of Nature is a precept or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life or taken away the means of preserving the same o So a “natural law” is a directive that a rational person would adopt, given the circumstances. o Hobbes argues that the most fundamental natural laws in the Sate of Nature are these:  1. Each person ought to try to attain peace in whatever way possible (14.4)  2. Each person ought to lay down his or her right to all things insofar as doing so promotes peace, allowing others the same amount of liberty (14.5)  Each person ought to abide by the agreement (i.e. the contract) so made (15.1) o These three laws sketch out how Hobbes will get around the war of all against all in the Sate of Nature. He reasons as follows  If each person were to agree not to attack anyone else, on the condition that everyone else agree likewise, then we should all make that agreement  But since “covenants without swords are but words” there needs to be some sort of common power that can enforce the agreement (14.8 and 15.3-4)  So the agreement has to set up an “enforcement agency” • A government • Hobbes’s full account of the social contract is as follows (17.3): o [The social contract] is the covenant of every man with every man, in such a manner as if every man should say to every man: “I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition, that you give up your right to him, and authorize all his actions in like matter.” o To make sense of this account we need to get a handle on Hobbes’s distinctions between authors and actors o But the key elements are in place, and the forcefulness of his approach should be apparent • On this reading of Hobbes, his account of the origins of political society is akin to one way of solving a standard problem of contemporary “game theory” known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma (which turns out to have wide application in social theory and economics) o Two prisoners suspected of jointly committing a crime are put into separate cells; o If both confess each will be se
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