An Introduction To Political Philosophy 10/23/2012 10:03:00 AM
Political power includes the right to command others, and to subject them
to punishment if they disobey.
A political philosopher must determine the correct balance between
autonomy and authority; determine the proper distribution of political
power. The State of Nature 10/23/2012 10:03:00 AM
Modern political institutions:
Central government, local government, the police, the law courts.
Institutions distribute and administer political power.
Strong government is essential to ensure that we do not lapse into the
war of all against all.
In the absence of government, human nature will inevitably bring us into
In reference to the theory of motion, we are always searching for
something, never at rest.
Human being seek felicity, continual success in achieving the objects of
desire. In the search of felicity, we are brought into war.
Our fear of death brings human beings to create a state.
To be assured of achieving felicity one must become powerful.
Everyones natural, continual, attempt to increase power will lead to
competition. Because there is a scarcity of goods in the state of nature,
two people who desire the same kind of thing will often desire to possess
the same thing and become enemies.
No one in the state of nature is invulnerable against the possibility of
attack. Whenever I possess what others desire, I must be constantly on
From these assumptions of equality, scarcity and uncertainty, Hobbes
believes that the state of nature will be a state of war.
People not only seek means of immediate satisfaction, but the power to
satisfy whatever future desires as well.
Hobbes sees three principle reasons for attack in the state of nature: for
gain, for safety (to pre-empt invaders), and for glory or reputation. At
bottom, Hobbes relies on the idea that human beings, in constant search
for felicity, constantly try to increase their power (their present means to
obtain future goods).
The state of nature is a battlefield.
A source of war is fear: the fear that others around you may not try to
take from you what you have. This can lead you to attack; not for gain,
but for safety or perhaps even reputation. Everyone is fighting in self-
defense. Natural Right of Liberty: In the state of nature there is no justice or
injustice, no right or wrong. Moral notions have no application.
Laws of Nature
1. Everyman out to endeavor Peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining
it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of Warre
2. Give up our right to all things, provided other are willing as well, and
each should be contented with as much liberty against other men, as
he would allow other men against himself.
3. Perform whatever covenants you make.
Following the laws of nature gives each person the best chance of
preserving his or her own life.
Individual Vs Collective Rationality
Collective rationality what is best for each individual on the assumption
that everyone else will act the same way; Laws of Nature express what is
Prisoners dilemma, where the individual and collective rationality
diverge, it is hard to achieve co-operation on the collectively rational
outcome. Every individual has an incentive to defect in favour of the
individually rational behaviour.
The Laws of Nature tell us that the state of war is not the inevitable
situation for human beings because another level of behaviour
collective rationality - may also be available.
The level of mutual suspicion and fear in the state of nature is so high
that we can generally be excused for not obeying the law.
The advantage of the state is that it creates conditions under which
people can securely follow the Laws of Nature.
The war in the State of Nature is self-fueling and self-perpetuating, as
reasonable suspicion of violent behaviour leads to an ever-increasing
spiral of violence. In this life there are no material comforts and source of
As no one can be sure of retaining any possessions, few will plant or
cultivate, or engage in long-term enterprise or plane.
No arts or sciences would flourish. Short lives would be lives without
anything worthwhile. Only way of subduing any power is through the exercise of a greater
Even if people did have a natural right to punish offenders, this would
rarely be used with any effect unless a single, stable, authority exists.
The State of Nature is a state of perfect freedom, a state of equality, and
bound by a Law of Nature.
A moral claim about rights: no person has a natural right to subordinate
No one naturally has a right to rule, no one has been appointed by God
for this purpose.
The Law of Nature is discoverable by reason. We are all creatures of God,
his property, put on earth as his servants. We must preserve the rest of
We have a clear duty not to harm others in the state of nature, except in
times of self-defense.
The State of Nature has a Law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every
We are given the liberty to do only what is morally permitted.
The Law of Nature, like all laws, needs a law-enforcer. There must be a
natural right, held by each person, to punish those who offend against
the Law of Nature. Each of us has the right to punish those who harm
anothers life, liberty or property.
Anyone who oversteps the Law of Nature must pay for their
transgressions. Those that break the law are a threat to us all, and will
undermine our peace and safety.
Thus, Executive Power of the Law of Nature allows law-abiding citizens
to band together with the victim to ring the villain to justice, as only
together they have the power to do so.
Also believes in the right to private property.
Even in the state of nature, there is an enforceable and effective moral
law, back by the natural right to punishment.
Nature has given things richly; there is a natural abundance of land, and
plenty of room for everyone.