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Colin Bird

on 19 March 2017

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Transcript of qweqwe

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes's context -- a time of
social, political and cultural uncertainty and ferment:

struggle to centralize secular power

the Reformation

Europe: a century of continuous war

Scientific revolution

Hobbes: linked symptoms of a crisis of authority. Uncertainty about the bases of religious, political and intellectual authority as the chief cause of the war and violence afflicting Europe.

Basic Hobbesian thesis: only a state with near absolute authority can put an end to these toxic and intractable disputes.

In advancing this thesis, Hobbes develops a comprehensive theory of the state.

Job 41King James Version (KJV)

41 Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?

2 Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?

3 Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?

Will he make a covenant with thee?
wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?

5 Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?

6 Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants?

7 Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?

8 Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.

9 Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?

10 None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?

11 Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.

12 I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.

13 Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?

14 Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.

His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.

16 One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.

17 They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.

18 By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.

19 Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.

20 Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.

21 His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.

22 In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.

23 The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.

24 His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.

When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.

26 The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.

27 He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.

28 The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.

29 Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.

30 Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.

31 He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.

32 He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.

33 Upon earth there is not his equal, who is made without fear.

34 He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.

opens with a very abstract discussion of the nature of the person, of knowledge and of the passions. Hobbes proceeds this way for 3 reasons:

1. Spread of skepticism -- intellectual ferment leads to general doubt about how know
, establish
claim, and about the status of sense-perception. Access to sense-impressions is in no doubt, but (what) do they represent? Descartes: is there anything there
at all?

2. The State is an agent (an 'Artificial Person'), so to understand it, we at least need a working understanding of what it is to be a person or agent.

3. Hobbes completely repudiates Christian/theist accounts of state authority, bc they are
'top-down' theories in that they regard State authority as ultimately coming from God. Instead, Hobbes insists that State authority must come
from below
, from the people.

But if so, then somehow
are the ultimate 'Authors' of the state; we are its 'artificers'; the State is, to put it in today's terms a 'social construct'.

So, we need a theory that explains in what sense, and on what basis, we Author the State. (Hobbes: State authority is really just our own authority over ourselves --> Rousseau, Kant)

This requires an account of the 'we' that Authors the state; we need SELF-KNOWLEDGE.
Hobbes rejects Descartes's response to skepticism: too metaphysically extravagant.

1. Descartes's argument appeals to claims about God; Hobbes always insists that God is unknowable.

2. Cartesian dualism is too mysterious for Hobbes. He replaces it with an extremely stark materialism. All there is = matter in motion, presumably subject to causal regularities that can be (at least provisionally) discovered scientifically

Hobbes assumes:

State authority is neither natural nor supernatural

State authority is artificially constructed by the people, from below.

Hence, the state must be analyzed as something WE create or author together ('We the people')

So, for H, a successful account of existing state authority must show both

(a) that YOU are a part author of the state, and that you should understand yourself as authorizing and participating in its construction

(b) that you somehow know that you and your co-authors authorize the state ON THE SAME TERMS

(b) is necessary because without that condition, citizens won't all be able to (know that they) agree about who has authority, when, under what conditions, subject to what constraints, etc.


NB1: Hobbes's objection to Christian/theist accounts of state authority is that they fail this test, because it is impossible for people to agree on what God has ordained]

NB2: Hobbes's argument (1)-(4) above is not meant to be a historical account of the origin of the state. It is supposed to be an argument that elicits from you a recognition that you (and I, and he, and she etc.) DO (now and always) authorize the state in the form he recommends. It is supposed to reveal something about you and your dispositions that you may not have recognized before.

This is an exercise in self-knowledge and self-understanding: Hobbes wants to show that you (all) are a part of the state and that the state is a part of (all of) you.

Nosce teipsum -- 'read thyself'

So you should think of Hobbes, in Part I ('Of Man') as holding up a mirror and asking:

when we honestly introspect, mustn't we all agree that this is what we are like?

Hobbes asks us to consider ourselves from two points of view:

1. what we are like regardless of our social circumstances

2. what we would be like, given (1), if we attempted to live together without the State

Hobbes: when we go through these two steps we find that we cannot affirm life without the State, and must affirm ourselves as members of a State with the properties he describes.

As to 1, Hobbes introduces you to a rigorously materialist portrait of yourself:

you are nothing except the physical matter that comprises your brain and your body

like the rest of the physical universe, you
are acted
by various physical forces
yourself are the site of internal 'motions' that themselves cause other physical effects

These 'internal motions' are of two kinds:

a. INVOLUNTARY (not involving the 'will'):
motion (respiration, blood circulation etc.) => science of medicine

b. VOLUNTARY (involving the 'will'):
motion (deliberation, choice, decision, passion) => ethics, political theory
Four key points about Hobbes on voluntary motion:

1. it is as much caused as anything else; Hobbes rejects the idea that the 'will' can be 'free' in the sense of 'uncaused'.

2. the causes of voluntary action are appetites and aversions

3. Our evaluative vocabulary (good, bad, evil, delicious, disgusting, right, wrong) reflects our appetites and aversions, and
nothing else

4. we can mutually understand each other as beings moved by appetites and aversions, and corresponding passions (love, hate, etc.), but we also know that these appetites etc. vary from person to person.

This introduces a radical psychological relativity that Hobbes thinks that, if we are honest, we must all concede.

We all know what it is to hate, to love, to want, to hope, to grieve, to delight, to be disgusted; but you and I hate, love, want, hope, grieve for, delight in, are disgusted by etc., different things.

Hobbes draws a vital inference: it follows that, left to ourselves, there is very little that we could all agree is good rather than evil
(here Hobbes, of course, is trying to model the religious disagreements he sees in his time)

But there is one appetite that you have and that you know everyone else shares with you:

The desire to preserve yourself

Everyone regards their own preservation as good. This much is universally true.
The Hobbesian 'State of Nature'

Given the portrait of ourselves Hobbes has painted, what would your life be like without the State?

Such a 'state of nature' would, Hobbes reasons, have the following characteristics:
1. rough equality of power
2. scarcity of resources relative to appetites
3. your own interests would be your overriding concern
4. everyone would seek to preserve themselves
5. everyone would be averse to disrespect/humiliation (the appetite of 'glory', connected to H's psychological relativism)

This guarantees that life in the state of nature would be violent, insecure and dangerous.

Note that, although the state of nature is (by definition) one without a STATE, that is
the same as saying that the state of nature would be
without politics

Unstable and violent as it is, the Hobbesian state of nature has a ruling ethic:

1. It is a regime of MUTUAL FEAR; you would know yourself to be united with everyone else in that attitude

2. It is a regime in which people would recognize certain natural rights:
a. the right to preserve oneself
b. the right to judge for oneself how best to do so

3. As a result it would be state of perpetual and unceasing WAR

A State of Nature

A picture of human life without the state

People in such a stateless condition would have good reasons to agree to establish a state on certain terms.
Social contract
Creation of a state

subject to the terms of the contract

authorized by 'the people'
Rawls's 'Original Position' is an adaptation of this strategy
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