Lecture 17: Leviathan Part 2 Continued
Outline of the Lecture
1. Review of Hobbes so far:
a) Hobbes on the nature of things
b) Hobbes on the nature of human life: motion, desire, happiness
c) Hobbes on the nature of social life: the struggle for power
2. The state of nature
a) Its role and purpose in Hobbes’s thought
b) What is the state of nature like?
c) How do you get out of the state of nature? Laws of nature.
3. The emergence of civil society
a) The renunciation of our rights, and the transfer of those rights to the sovereign
b) Hobbes on authorization and authorship
Review of Hobbes
• The natural world and the human body are both in a state of perpetual motion. All
mental phenomenon’s’can be explained as the motion of material particles. He
explains a completely mechanistic world.
• There’s no world for anything in corporeal – ghost, goblins, souls
• Human beings are reduced to the affects of mechanical apparatus
• The interaction of internal systems with external motions
• Hobbes is always thinking in fundamentally physiological terms.
• Motion within and without is not only a thing of sense perception but these
motions are the source of our desires as well.
• Our appetites and aversions arise as a result of motion within and without. If life
is perpetual motion than it is is also perpetual and ceaseless desire.
• For there is no such things as a perpetual Tranquility of mind, while we live here;
because Life it self is but motion, and can never be without desire, nothing
without fear, no more than without sense” (129-130)
• There’s no telos or ultimate happiness, a state where our desires come to rest (like
Aristotle describes in the ethics) life is perpetual motion
• The contentment is all an illusion. It’s something that needs to be unmasked. If
there is no good in human life
• There is no end or something worth fighting for. Eudemonia is something used by
those with power to trick the rest of us into fighting on their behalf.
• If we can speak of the good in Hobbes its in a much more restrained sense.
Hobbes thinks of happiness as obtaining our appetite. Its success in perusing our
desires. But they never come to rest. Success is the fulfillment of the desire for
that moment. Life is perpetual motion and ceaseless desire.
• “Continual successes is obtaining those things which a man from time to time
desire, that is to say, continual prospering, is that men call felicity; I mean the
felicity of life.” (129-130)
• According to Hobbes, the appetites that dominate us are inconstant and
unpredictable. Desires are constantly in motion and changing. • “Because the constitution of a man’s body, is in continual mutation; it is
impossible that all the same things should always cause in him the same appetites
and aversions” (120)
• “Whatsoever is the object of any mansAppetite or Desire; that is it, which he for
his part calleth Good; and the object of his hate, and aversion, evil; and of his
contempt, vile and inconsiderable. For these words of good, evil and contemptible
are ever use with relation to the person that useth them: there being nothing
simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil, to be taken fro
the nature of the objects themselves” (120)
• Moral terms “good and evil” are a matter of idiosyncratic perception. Our
experience of the world depends on the medium through which we experience it.
This medium is through our minds and senses.
• There is no transcending of our senses. There’s no escape to some ultimate reality
or knowledge of the world how it is in comparison to how it appears to us.
• We each perceive things differently and react differently depending on our
physiological and psychological make up.
• Something is said as good it means its good for us. Something that’s bad is
something that’s seen, as it doesn’t benefit us.
• Power is the currency needed to satisfy our desires.All human relationships
however grandly they may describe themselves are relationships for power.
• “I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of
power after power, that ceaseth onely in death.And the cause of this, is not
always that man hopes for a more intensive delight, that he has already attained
to; or that he cannot be content with a moderate power: but because he cannot
assure the power and meant to live well, which he hath present, without the
acquisition of more” (161)
• Each of is compelled to continually compete for power against others. We want to
transfer the power of others to ourselves to make our power greater. We
participate in the struggle because we have to. There’s always someone out their
trying to get the better of us, so we’d better get the better of them first.
• Human life is never without desire.
Hobbes’s Argument So Far….
1. Life is perpetual motion, within and without;
2. Motion, within and without, gives rise to our desires
3. Our desires (like the motion that generates them) are inconstant, unpredictable
4. Power is the means to satisfy our desires;
5. Power is a property of our social relations, and is defined by Hobbes as the excess
of power we have over others;
6. Social life is a ceaseless struggle for power.
The state of nature…
• The social contract that ends the state of nature shouldn’t be thought of as an
agreement that actually took place. • If its not some past state of affairs, how should we think about the state of nature?
• “It may be perceives what manner of life there would be, where the no common
power to fear; by the manner of life, which men that have formerly lived under
civil government, use to degenerate into, in a civil war” (187)
o The state of nature is a possibility for the future. It would come about now
if there were no sovereign authority to keep us in aw. It would exist if
sovereign authority were to break down.
• The state of nature should be viewed as a possibility for the future. It makes better
sense of the text than the historical interpretation. We don’t need to the social
contract as made in the state of nature or whether its enough to change the state of
nature into a civil society, rather he wants to think of the social contract as
something that already exists.
• Given the normal conditions of human life, we all have good reasons to support
the sovereign that exists now.
• It’s an example of how we would live if our current system were to collapse. Civil
life would descend into a state of nature.Afearful possibility for the future.
What is the state of nature like?
• Astate of nature tends to pass over very readily into a state of war; the state of
nature is essentially a state of war. Note that, for Hobbes, a state of war consists
“not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; […] but in the known disposition
thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary” (186)
Why does he think that the state of nature is a state of war?
• 1 – natural human endowments, we like to think of our naturel endowments as
• We do have different strengths and differences in mind but his point is that our
strengths and intelligence are equal enough. Even the weakest can kill the
• When people feel threatened they are likely to attack one another.
• 2 —resources are scarce. There is intense competition for these resources. We
will always have desires that are ceaseless and limitless. We are driven by our
nature to stake out any resources needed at any given moment.
• 3 - natural human inclination to keep going, strive and avoid death. This is the
one thing we can all agree. No one can be understood to deliberately do anything
to take away his or her self-preservation. The desire for self-preservation is one
common thing in all human beings. Their preservation is good.
• The basic foundation principle he build his political science is the imperative of
self-preservation. People do do irrational things and people who prefer death over
disgrace for honor.
Self Preservation and the right of nature
We can all agree we all have rights to defend ourselves against attack. The right of nature
is “the liberty each man has, to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation
of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life”. (189) “And because the condition of man (in the state of nature) is a condition of war of
everyone against everyone; in which case every one is governed by how own reason; and
these is nothing he can make use of, that may not be a help unto him, in preserving his
life against enemies. It follows, that in such a condition, every man has a right to
everything; even to one another’s body” (189-190)
o Despite our initial agreement about the right of self-preservation, there is
sill a radical instability in the stat