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Lecture 4

BF190 Lecture 4: Hobbes

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Brantford Foundations
Frank Cameron

September 28, 2016 Leviathan (1651) By Thomas Hobbes (1588) • Written during the English civil wars (1642-1651) • He argues for the necessity and natural evolution of the social contract o Social contract where individuals mutually unite into political societies, agreeing to abide common rules and accept resultant duties to protect themselves and one another from whatever might come otherwise. • Also says that rule by an absolute sovereign is the way to go. He uses the word Leviathan from the bible as an example of what a ruler should be. (Strong) Why would he compare it to that? So that the ruler could protect people from their own selfishness Social Contract Theorists: 1. Hobbes 2. Locke 3. Rousseau Laws of Human Nature • Humans’ natural condition is a state of perpetual war and fear and that only the government can hold it together. • Men are essentially equal in strength and intelligence. Even the greatest can be overcome • Men desire survival and comfort • Natural rights: freedom to do whatever you want. Killing someone in a state of nature doesn’t matter. No law = No consequences o Hobbes: Right political spectrum (Arguing it is important to have a ruler in place that will address the people who abuse one another) o When a ruler is selected he must rule with an iron fist. This ruler has absolute power • Individuals are motivated by fear of death and self preservation • Is there anything that we desire more? What might Kant or Socrates say? o Socrates: morals. Do what is right, this alone is more important than living The War of all against all • Conflict erupts for three reasons: o Competition over resources (taking away from others) o Fear of others (Protect your own) o Desire for respect (establish dominance) Life is nasty, brutish, and short • In the state of nature, constant war and threat of war prevents the cooperation required for civilization • Virtue is force and fraud. There is no justice • Everyone has the right to everything, even the use of another’s body, in the pursuit of self-preservation and comfort • In the state of nature, where it is war of every natural man against the others, no security is possible and life is full of horror Fear of Death, inclination to peace Natural laws: 1. Desire peace and defend yourself in war 2. Achieve peace by being willing to set aside some of your own rights in order that others will set aside some of theirs. Rational self-interest The Need for a Sovereign • The power of words is too weak to bridle the passions. Only 2 things can do so: 1. Hope for reward of glory, which only works for some 2. Fear of punishment The sovereign and the commonwealth o In a commonwealth, everyone makes a covenant with everyone else to give one individual or group (the sovereign) the right to represent them and enforce covenants Natural laws of civil society • Subjects cannot overthrow the sovereign because the sovereign’s will is their will • The sovereign cannot free its subjects because the covenant is between them, not with the sovereign • No protesting the sovereign chosen by the majority • No action by the sovereign is unjust, because the sovereign is the people and can’t do injustice to itself • The sovereign can't be punished. • The sovereign may prescribe certain knowledge or teachings What is Hobbes Known for? • One of the most well known English philosophers • Known for on how humans could thrive in harmony while avoiding perils and fear of societal conflict • He is a defender of political absolutism (He is a model of absolutism) o Has the capacity t
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