Lecture 16: Leviathan- Part 1 continued and Part 2
Outline of the Lecture
1. Review of Monday’s lecture: The scientific foundation of Hobbes’s political
a) Euclidian Geometry
b) Epicurean Mechanism
2. Hobbes on the nature of desire and human happiness
a) Desire as relative, inconstant, incessant
b) Ethical implications: no common moral language
3. Hobbes on power
a) Power as the means to the satisfaction of our desires
b) Power as a property of social relations
c) Social life as a ceaseless struggle for power
4. Hobbes on religion
a) The source of religion
b) Religious pluralism and its social-political implications
The Scientific Foundation of Hobbes’s Political Philosophy
In Geometry, mathematicians start from very simple propositions – propositions, which
everyone would agree, are obviously true – and from those propositions they are able to
demonstrate the truth of more complex and unlikely propositions. Hobbes wants to apply
the deductive method of geometry to politics.
• Hobbes is one of the first people who thinks its possible to make politics scientific
• He thinks geometry is so excellent because it’s capable of reaching complex
Hobbes needs something more than an account of the relationship between points and
lines and angles and planes; what he also needs is a basic hypothesis about the nature of
things, i.e. a theory of perpetual motion, within and without.
He thinks geometry is so excellent because it’s capable of reaching complex propositions.
• He needs an account of what is actually out there in the world.
• The hypothesis that everything including human sensation is caused by motion
• Our thoughts and sense expressions is something given by pressure exerted from
• All our phenomena’s can be explained as a result of the motion of material
• Hobbes world is a totally mechanistic world – movement can only move by acting
of one body moving another body – similar insight as Galileo; nothing moved
unless something else moved it
• Motion not rest is the natural form—everything moves until something stops it
• Hobbes dissolves political society into the motion of its parts. • Like a good scientist, Hobbes always thinks fundamentally physiological terms.
he is interested in the impact external motions (pulses of light, waves of pressure,
compounding of chemicals) on the internal motions that make up the human body
• Hobbes theory of motion within and without explain not only our sense
experience but also determines our desires and behavior as well
• Our appetites and aversions; these arise as a result of the operation and interaction
of these systems
• In order to understand human nature, we have to understand the nature of the
human world with the human body.
• Hobbes thinks of human life as a kind of perpetual motion, there is no end, telos,
final good or ultimate good. He has Aristotle’s ethics in mind.Aristotle describes
a condition in which our desires come to rest. Hobbes thinks of eudemonia as an
illusion and a deception that must be un-masked.
• He thinks its desire that dominant human life and that there is no sense in which
desire can come to rest.
• “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. 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)
• “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)
o We undertake action if we think it will gratify our appetites. The desire for
food is an innate desire. He speaks of desire and is careful to emphasize
our constantly for our appetites. They are constantly changing with us as
we are changing.
• Everything out there is motion.
• Where is free will? He’s removed it from his philosophy yet was writing in a time
that was when free will was high. This is why many of his books were burned.
• “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 idiocradic conception. They are
relative to the person using them. He treats moral terms in the same way as he
treats sense experience. We might think something is truthfully good in the same
way we think something is objectively bad.
• Thinking of things as objectively good is an illusion.
• Colour is not an objective property of the object itself, but an image of our
imagination. Aristotelians teach if something appears red to an observer than it is
red. But Hobbes objects this. Colour is a pulsive light exerting pressure on our
eyes, using internal and external parts; our eyes and our brain. • It’s the byproduct of the interaction of these two systems. This is why different
people perceive different colours. There is no transcending or escaping our own
senses. We can never know how the world really is because its filtered by the way
it appears to us.
• Moral judgment is a perception of feelings, which is why one person can think
someone’s good while someone else can think someone’s bad. It’s the opposition
of the person who perceives them. What individuals think of as good is what
pleases them and what’s good for them
• This is a fundamental problem because there is an absence of common moral
• “The desires of men are different, as men differ amount themselves in
temperament, custom and opinion; we see this in sense-perceptions such as taste,
touch or smell, but even more in the common business of life, where what on
person praises—that is, calls good – another will condemn and call evil. Indeed,
often the same man at differing times will praise and blame the same things.As
long as this is the case there will necessarily arise discord and conflict” (DCIII)
o There is never going to be an agreement about what is good because our
perception of the world is idiosyncratic.
o Different people will we satisified with different levels of power and
Hobbes’s Definition of Power
“The power of a man is his present means, to obtain some future apparent good “ (150)
“Natural power, is the eminence of the facilities of body, or mind: as extraordinary
strength, form, prudence, arts, eloquence, liberality, nobility. Instrumental are those
power, which acquire by these, or by fortune are means and instruments to acquire more;