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Philosophy 2070E Lecture Notes - Thought Experiment, Infor, Fiduciary

Course Code
PHIL 2070E

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Wrote during the time of the English Civil War – conflict between royal and
parliamentary forces. The political strife was a cause for great concern. Hobbes’s work
can be viewed as a solution to the destruction of society caused by competition and
conflict between such powerful forces: Hobbes’s solution – the conformity of all wills to
the will of a solitary political body.
• State of nature as a hypothetical construct or thought experiment, intended to reveal the
conditions of humanity outside of civil government: To understand or justify why we
have something, sometimes it is appropriate to consider its absence
a) The purpose is to provide a justification for government and the kind of government
based upon necessity due to the natural condition of persons, whereby there is no industry
or technology, arts, science: where Hobbes famously says “the life of man: solitary, poor,
nasty, brutish, and short”
b) But justification, seemingly, is not exhausted by necessity… contracting government,
voluntarily entered into, plays a significant role in Hobbes account of the justification of
government – social contract theory
• Natural condition of person: Each pursues felicity or the satisfaction of their desires.
a) Persons are desiring machines – desires/fear appetite/aversion as the catalyst for all
intentional action
Right of Nature: Each person has the right to all things that they deem necessary for
their preservation and the right to and use of any means towards such and end.
• Natural equality – physical and mental equality – no one person naturally superior that
he/she does not need to fear others
a) Equality among persons is a descriptive claim (contrast with prescriptive claim about
how we should treat persons)
b) As we will see, with the 9th law of nature, Hobbes speaks of acknowledging the natural
equality of persons. This is a prescriptive claim; a prescription of reason (a moral claim
towards peace). The moral status of persons, however, derives not from any natural
condition, i.e. not from their statuses as persons, but only from reason’s prescriptions that
tend towards peace and self-preservation.
• Competition, diffidence [distrust], and glory as the basis for conflict
a) competition: scarcity of good necessary for survival
b) distrust: recognition that other persons have a right to all things as well
c) vain glory: to gain reputation
• The state of nature is a state of war – a perpetual state when every person seeks to fulfill
their own interests, governed by their own judgment of what is required towards that end.
a) Recall for Hobbes, war is not merely conflict, but the possibility of conflict.
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b) Weather analogy
c) Nothing is just or unjust in the state of nature
• Exit the state of nature is possible via a combination of particular passions (fear of death
and the hope for commodious living) and reason (the acknowledgment of laws of nature)
a) Exit from the state of nature must be possible by virtue of natural qualities of persons
b) As we will see, there may be a problem regarding the exit…
Law(s) of Nature: the natural condition of persons has each of them governed by their
own passions, desires and appetites, but persons are also governed by natural reason, and
the laws of nature are dictates of reason, where the end or goal of reason is self-
1st Law: seek peace when possible - use all the advantages of war when peace is not
2nd Law: be willing to lay down one’s right to all things insofar as others are willing to as
a) To lay down one’s right to all things is to renounce that right or transfer that right
b) Some rights or element of the right to all things persons cannot transfer or renounce:
the right to protect themselves
c) Mutual contract among persons regarding the renouncement or transfer of right to all
things – persons make a contract amongst themselves to limit one’s own liberty (or
right to all things) insofar and as much as every other person is willing to limit their
3rd Law: perform covenants made
• Mutual Contract
Contracts entail Covenants: Covenant is a promise to remain faithful to the voluntary
contract – the mutual contract – to renouncement (or self-imposed limitation) of the right
to all things
• Origin or foundation of Justice – but note that although covenants/contracts made in
the state of nature as a mean to exit such a state provides the foundation of
justice/injustice, to break a covenant in the state of nature is not to perpetrate an
injustice – see below, that without assurance that others will comply with the laws of
nature or perform covenants, one is not obligated to comply or perform: the reason
being is that persons are not obligated to, and are forbidden against, doing that
which is contrary to their own preservation.
a) To keep covenants is just, to break covenants is unjust
b) But, there is a difficulty… Prisoner’s Dilemma…
other defects other performs
you defect 4 10
you perform 0 7
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