Hobbes: State of Nature and the Sovereign
January 14, 2014
The Natural Condition
• Hobbes discusses America (briefly), but claims that it is not exactly a historical
thesis – never actually happened universally. However, people do exist in this
condition in America.
• This brutal condition begins with the equality of all men – exists in both physical
strength and faculties of mind. From here stems the idea that all individuals have
the capacity for equal intelligence.
• The general condition of distrust arises amongst individuals. To achieve
individual security, one must anticipate and strike first.
• Desire for competition, distrust, and desire for glory are the principle causes of
• War (in the context of Hobbes) refers to the lack of assurance of peace – the
constant threat and/or will to die.
• Looking at Hobbes’ theory, Hobbes presupposes speech – necessary to successful
human existence and community.
• Hobbes compares selfpreservation to the covenant (Leviathan), creating the state
(compares it to the Bible).
• Sovereignty (for Hobbes) is very apparent in the individual – it is power. He is
the predominant theorist regarding sovereign power. It is the soul!
• Through the covenant, legitimacy of the sovereign is created and maintained.
• Individuals must create a sovereign so that we can be taken beyond this state of
suffering and misery.
• In comparing this to Aristotle, Hobbes disagrees (humans are NOT social and
political animals): our actions can only be directed by a sovereign that can block
our natural desires through fear.
• Artifice is significant in that community is not natural (for Hobbes) – we have to
create a state through Artifice (humans are not social and political by nature – it
must be forced/created).
• In the cover illustration, Hobbes articulates:
o The monarch is made of the sum of the people (all facing upwards). The
sovereign/leviathan is the sum of all individuals.
o The sword is reflective of the secular power – in combination with the
scepter, is symbolic of the unity of these two (secular and religious
o Reflective of the act of coming together to create the sovereign – a mutual
contract made between all individuals.
• How does H