March 14, 2013
The transfer of right, a covenant is made with the sovereign and another
cannot be made to follow another. Once they gave their power to a
sovereign, it cannot be taken back without the sovereign's permission.
A covenant with God cannot undo the sovereign's power either.
It is unjust to believe that a pact with God supersedes that of a sovereign.
The sovereign is the high priest, because he controls religious practice. There
is no free religious practice in Leviathan. The state has to control the doctrine
in all books before they're published.
Hobbes emphasizes that the sovereign cannot be punished because justice
and justice derive purely by the sovereign's will. He was authorized by the
people and the font of law, he is not beholden to the people.
These ideas are very illiberal. There is no possibility of appealing to any bill
or constitutional rights; ie religious freedom, no freedom of speech. The
rights begin and end at the sovereign's will. But by virtue of the contract's
making and natural right, the citizens can always appeal to a notion of self-
preservation: that first and foremost, people are allowed to defend
themselves from physical attack, even if the sovereign commands to have
On the one hand, an illiberal outlook with a strong state authority. But there
is also an idea of individual rights, to resist the power of the state.
He takes a stand on free speech and believes in censorship if it does in the
name of political stability. But freedom of conscience is encouraged.
The sovereign can punish the children of pride, ambitious people. The desire
for honour and glory among certain political elite poses a political problem,
but the sovereign has the power to make and unmake titles, and it is with
this that the sovereign controls these elements in society.
Hobbes does not envision a heartless dictatorship. Cruelty is against the laws
of nature. Cruelty and other acts of oppression is bad for the sovereign, it
weakens his position (as well as the nation, as well). Recommends charity,
punishment towards correction of the criminal rather than revenge
(promoting leniency where possible), tax on the rich.
Civil society, as long as peace is maintained, is better than the state of war --
the state of nature.
It's in the strength and vigour of the people that the sovereign has success.
Political difficulties arise not because of self-indulgence or corruption of the
sovereign but that the people are driven by self-interest and driven by their
The sovereign's limitations on his own self-indulgence will contribute towards
the glory and well-being of his state which will be good to him. What if the ruler is not a good ruler and doesn't listen to Hobbes'
His state will be a progressively weak state and it will be taken over.
Hobbes has very little to say about international relations. His view stems
from how he believes the state of nature exists.
Obedience of the people
Why should they obey the sovereign and his laws?
A community flourishes because the people obey him.
To disobey the sovereign means to contradict himself. Lawbreaking give rise
to a fundamental contradiction. He rationally made a promise to escape the