POL200Y1 Lecture Notes - Philosophical Language, Informa, Authoritarianism

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11 Apr 2012
POL200Y1: Visions of the Just/Good Society March 1st, 2012.
Hobbes, Leviathan
- Great observer of human nature
- Aims to save us from ourselves by teaching our worst wounds are self-inflicted
- Bizarre mixture of familiar and strange: familiar conclusions supported by bizarre
arguments, bizarre twists to familiar conclusions, etc.
- Liberal argument for despotism/authoritarianism
Liberal argument: one that is rooted in the fundamental quality of all human beings,
and equal rights (politically)
New kind of despotism
- Thoroughly debunks NM’s prince and reinvents him as the faithful servant of the
people who owes his authority entirely to them, and concerns himself entirely with their
- He is more our sort of writer than NM
- Dedicatory letter:
endeavours in the work is to advance civil power/promote civil authority
speaks not to defend particular men in power but in the abstract of the seat of power
likens himself to the sacred geese of Juno who warned the defenders of invaders,
saving the city
not defending whoever is in power, just whoever happens to be there
vindicates every existing regime against its attackers external or internal
How can Hobbes evenly defend all regimes despite conflicting principles?
anticipates primary enemy to his work to be religion: Christianity
Leviathan: a giant sea creature, the greatest (biggest, most powerful) of God’s creation:
the most powerful of all beings except God. Leviathan is without fear and king
over all children (?)
Commonwealth is not a divine creation, but a human imitation: the means by which
humans (according to Hobbes) rival God: both are creators. The Commonwealth
is the human-created counterpart to God’s Leviathan.
Why is it necessary for us to create our own king?
NM: offers advice to princes; Hobbes offers advice to Leviathans
Prince is one individual, an outstanding man who stands out from the crowd,
where Leviathan is the sum: Leviathan is the crowd, is all of us. We have
met Leviathan and he is us.
The head of Leviathan is merely an office that can be occupied by one, few, or
many, a creation of the rest of us.
Democratization. Society is the joint enterprise of us all, and the existence of a
sovereign is merely the product of that enterprise.
Chapter 1
We are confined to the prison of the senses:
- All our mental processes go back to sense perception: we can’t get beyond those
sense perceptions
- We are experiencing the effect of something outside but we can’t be sure what it is
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POL200Y1: Visions of the Just/Good Society March 1st, 2012.
or that our senses are reliable: all we can conclude is that something is out there, there is
some motion that is acting on us, and we respond to that motion through our sense
- Our world is a world of shadows, of fancy and semblance, whose true character is
forever unknown to us
- Prison world: no knowledge of the world as it is as opposed to the world as it
appears to us.
- More drastic version of Plato’s Cave: no possibility of ascent to Truth. We all
inhabit this prison house of the senses; we must give up on the notion of understanding
the world as it really is.
Chapter 2
- Imagination is but decaying sense
- No possibility of thinking our way beyond the realm of sense perception
Chapter 3
- Two kinds of thought: guided and unguided (section 3, p12)
Unguided, without design, inconstant: thoughts wander as in a dream, without care of
Mere random association: some image leads to some continuous other image,
their relationship maybe relying on nothing order than chance.
Guided, regular train of thought: one informed by a desire.
Inspired by desire or fear, so it is strong or permanent
Policeman of the mind: what keeps our mind on a straight and narrow path: a
strong passion, a desire, or an aversion. Passion organizes our thoughts
into something other than mere daydreaming.
Implication: there is no serious thought for its own sake, all thoughts serve
some desire. Man is a needy, desire-filled being.
- Difference between men and (other) beasts:
Human beings are more than beasts: we can gather information based on cause and
effects and we can store this information for further use.
We imagine what we can do with something when we have it: we can reason both from
the effect to the cause and from the cause to the effect.
We ask ourselves, what else can we do with our tools? We are conscious of our
power as power.
Man is by nature the multi-tasking being conscious of his power: man’s consciousness
of his power magnifies his power.
Man alone is the power-seeking being.
Our goals aren’t qualitatively different than those of beasts, but we have the capacity to
multiply our power in the pursuit of those goals.
*but just because everyone pursues power doesn’t mean everyone wants to rule
Chapter 4
- Speech is the greatest of human inventions that dwarfs both writing and printing.
Speech is a human invention, not part of human nature
Function through which man is able to think and communicate: speech is the assigning
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