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Hobbes Lectures

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Political Science
Rebecca Kingston

Wednesday, March 9, 2011: hobbes- The State of Nature I. The Human condition- four fundamental features: driven by passions; fragility of language; basic equality; relative scarcity of the goods we seek II. Imagining the worst: descent into the state of nature -getting to the state of nature: the logic of where our passions would lead us, introspection, and examples -characteristics of the state of nature: no established laws but only an unlimited right of nature; no justice or injustice; governed by a principle of fear -Hobbes response to possible objections to this picture of the natural condition of humankind III. Time to get out!- mechanisms of escape- a) laws of nature and b) the covenant IV. The Covenant- Leviathan ^ I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I What is the covenant? a) a legal pact; b) a psychological transferral; c) an ethical submission; d) a religious submission Why a covenant? Argument of the lecture: Hobbes provides a logically compelling account of the mechanisms by which we can assume the worst politically (without assuming the worst of human nature) as a basis for establishing a sovereign. We should consider the causes and mechanisms of the covenant as overdetermined, i.e. being necessary for a number of reasons that overlap in the same conclusion. It is particularly important to pay attention to the nature of the covenant. It is NOT a contract between people and their government, but only an agreement among individuals themselves to give up their unlimited right of nature. Leviathan is the result or outcome of this agreement, but itselfhimself takes no part in any agreement or contract. The sovereign (Leviathan) remains within the state of nature. Fundamental place of the passions We all experience the same emotions and passions, but we differ in what drives these emotions and passions Appetites and aversions Things that lead us to what we want vs. things that lead us away Many ppl have termed Hobbes a reductionist or a materialist Acknowledges that there are certain shared emotions and judgements about the world, that humans hold One is the fear of violent death something that we all share Related to that, is a desire for commodious living, i.e. something beyond the bare minimum we want to live well Last aspect that is important to this discussion about the passions, is that our desires lead us to want to acquire power Passions are very important and Hobbess account of the passions is important in terms of his radical departure of previous accounts of natural law Previous accounts did not have a place for human psychology
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