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Lecture

PHL lecture, jan. 10.doc

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Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHL100Y1
Professor
Peter King

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Hobbes: Leviathan, Part 1 • Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588-4 December 1679) o Life and times  Scotland at war with rest of Great Britain  Lots of unrest politically  Wrote Leviathan to provide some sort of reassurance for the government o At last: philosophy written in English! o Materialist  Everything is made up of things in motion o The project of the Leviathan:  A) To establish a rational and secular basis for government  B) To assess political systems ‘scientifically,’ that is, through first principles  C) To identify the necessary features of government • Hobbes couches his project in terms of his scientific materialism, which, surprisingly, extends all the way to the mind-for Hobbes thinking is no more than rearranging parcels of matter: o See 5.1 for instance.  He dismisses Descartes’s sceptical worries in a single sentence (at the end of 2.5), and he takes scarcely longer with Aristotle’s view that human happiness consists in ‘contemplation’ (11.1), asserting instead that life is “a continual progress of the desire, from one object to another”  In short, Hobbes wants to make a fresh start in philosophy, which he takes to be an empirical enterprise • The technique Hobbes uses in the Leviathan is known as social contract theory o Its guiding intuition is that social institutions are the product of voluntary agreement among free individuals  Hence the scope and nature and even the extent of government, as a particular kind of social institution, should be understood by analyzing the agreements that would be so made o The conceptual connections here are as follows  Individual consent to such an agreement, the contract, is conceived as the basis for legitimacy, which is what gives a government authority-that is, the right to issue commands and in general create political obligations that are binding on its subjects  The function of social contract theory is theref
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