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Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan, Chapters 7, 10, 13-15
Transcript of Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan, Chapters 7, 10, 13-15
July 17, Tuesday
state of nature
[Q] how do we understand "
" in this context?
-- whose state are we talking about?
-- what kind of a being is the
according to hobbes?
authorization/ authority and its possible implications
Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill (1651)
of the ends, or resolutions of discourse --
[Q] what is an end?
-- the end of science?
-- knowledge? prediction? inference?
what is, then,
state of nature: man's life -- "nasty, brutish and short"
[Q] what is liberty?
"all men, by nature, are equal":
every one has a right to every one and every thing.
[Q] is there a relationship between right and duty here?
politics & civil philosophy:
consequences from the institution of "commonwealth" -- the formation of the
-- (almost literally):
civil war in england - 1642-1651
oliver cromwell's personal rule (1653-1658)
objectives in reading this text:
-- the formation of a science of politics
-- understand the nature of "right," "duty," "law," and "obligation" --
-- the coming-to-be of a sovereign
-- the meaning of authority -- authorization ~ what it means to be an "author"
-- understanding of practical reasoning
-- a defense of absolute authority
-- "no law without awe" (Tedder)
body politic -- understood scientifically:
-- the object of this science: the human being
to see how the body works, we should look at its parts.
[Q] difference from plato's strategy?
-- who is the Leviathan?
-- an "artificial" man/being/sovereign.
"First, the matter thereof, and the artificer; both which is man." [Part I: Of Man]
"Secondly, how, and by what covenants it is made; what are the rights and just power or authority of a sovereign; and what it is that preserveth and dissolveth it." [Part II: Of Commonwealth]
*** question of the "body" -- how it can be preserved, and it can be dissolved.
Matter in motion
-- Explained “mechanically”: by transfers of motions through contact
What sense-perception is
: reception of motions from outside within an animal body. Produces a representation of an object and sets up further motions in the animal body.
-- Further motions --> imagination (“decaying sense”), including memory, the ideas we can put together at will, hallucinations, dreams, and understanding.
--And from this follow
all sorts of “animal” or “voluntary motions”
hobbes' basic metaphysics:
what there ultimately is in nature
--> only humans engage in reckoning of effects -- science.
the end of a train of thought may be a passion:
for X, or an
what motivates action.
ex. Yasemin in the morning:
I desire coffee.
I expect to have some coffee before I come to class.
My desire is future-oriented.
It will be satisfied in
(hopefully sooner rather than later).
[Q] when is my desire not satisfied?
business is important:
-- what differentiates human beings from other non-human animals, for instance?
-- a sense of future -- a sense of consequences.
and this sense is not merely prudence, based on past experience. your cat has a foresight that you'll feed her. but we reckon about the future. we plan.
this reckoning involves a combination of
our passion and our reason:
we want to preserve ourselves and continue satisfying our desires.
and so the story begins...
“continual success in obtaining those things which a man from time to time desireth, that is to say, continual prospering . . .” (leviathan, chapter 6)
[Q] what do we need in order to continue to succeed in obtaining our ends?
- POWER -
“felicity is a continual progress of the desire, from one object to another; the attaining of the former, being still but the way to the latter. The cause whereof is, that the object of man’s desire, is not to enjoy once only, and for one instant of time; but to assure for ever, the way of his future desire . . .” (leviathan, chapter 11)
. . . thus, it is
“a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.” (chp. 11, 61)
-- many further desires should follow from this
desire for power
(because they are
forms of power
), but individuals may fail to have an appetite for them because of ignorance, or strong contrary passions.
mostly differences in the “opinion each has of the causes, which produce the effect desired” – that is, “the assuring of a contented life.”
chapter 10: of power, worth, dignity, honour, and worthinesse --
[Q] what is power?
-- human power is the “present means, to obtain some future apparent good” (leviathan, chapter 10)
-- either original (natural) or instrumental (including artificial means)
--> “instrumental are those powers which . . . are means and instruments to acquire more.”
--> importance of artificial, instrumental power, the power of “strengths united”
to have servants is power, to have friends is power, eloquence is power, reputation of power is power, etc.
“The greatest of human powers, is that which is compounded of the powers of most men, united by consent, in
one person, natural or civil
, that has the use of all their powers depending on his will: such as is
the power of a commonwealth
. . .”
when there is no authority, no common judge of right & wrong:
STATE OF NATURE --> WAR
Consider the effects of letting humans run on their passions in a situation where there are only natural powers, that is, where there is no stable artificial, corporate power --> again:
“The state of nature”
-- rough equality in power
a thought experiment
(rather like a physicist talking about “frictionless planes”)
but, why? and how?
Archie and Bert (A and B) have been arrested for crimes they committed together. The state has evidence against both for one, fairly trivial crime and seeks evidence to convict them of the other, more serious crime.
To do so, the district attorney needs a confession out of at least one; so she offers each prisoner the chance to turn state's evidence and plea bargain;
what sort of conviction and sentence each prisoner will receive depends on whether that prisoner's testimony is crucial to convicting both prisoners.
the prisoners' dilemma:
(1) competition -- securing resources -->
(2) diffidence -- self-interest & conflict -->
(3) vainglory -- instability of desires
"that condition which is called a war; and such a war, is of every man, against every man."
What is a “covenant?”
An agreement or contract
where “one of the contractors may deliver the thing contracted for on his part, and leave the other to perform his part at some determinate time after, and in the meantime be trusted” (leviathan, chapter 14)
“ . . . or both parts may contract now to perform hereafter, in which cases he that is to perform in time to come, being trusted, his performance is called keeping of promise, or faith . . .”
For covenants to count, they must be
“Whensoever a man transferreth his right, or renounceth it, it is either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself, or for some other good he hopeth for thereby.
For it is a voluntary act:
and of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is
some good to himself
. And therefore
there be some rights which
no man can be understood by any words, or other signs, to have abandoned or transferred.”
If no rational agent would voluntarily agree to a covenant, then it is void. In particular . . .
“If a covenant be made wherein neither of the parties perform presently, but trust one another,
in the condition of mere nature
(which is a condition of war of every man against every man)
upon any reasonable suspicion
, it is void.”
[Q] what about the prisoners' dilemma?
“For he that performeth first has no assurance the other will perform after, because the bonds of
words are too weak
to bridle men's ambition, avarice, anger, and other passions,
without the fear of some coercive power;
which in the condition of mere nature, where all men are equal, and judges of the justness of their own fears, cannot possibly be supposed.
And therefore he which performeth first does but betray himself to his enemy, contrary to the right he can never abandon of defending his life and means of living.
” (leviathan, chapter 15)
So, in the case
“of promises mutual, where there is no security of performance on either side . . . such promises are no covenants”
(leviathan, chapter 15)
[Q] rights versus laws?
["can" versus "have to"]
force of words
being (as I have formerly noted) too weak to hold men to the performance of their covenants, there are in man's nature but
two imaginable helps to strengthen it
. And those are either a
of the consequence of breaking their word, or a glory or pride in appearing not to need to break it. This latter is a generosity too rarely found to be presumed on, especially in the pursuers of wealth, command, or sensual pleasure, which are the greatest part of mankind.
The passion to be reckoned upon is fear
” (leviathan, chapter 14)
covenants of mutual trust, where there is a fear of not performance on either part (as hath been said in the former chapter), are invalid,
the original of justice be the making of covenants, yet injustice actually there can be none till the cause of such fear be taken away;
which, while men are in the natural condition of war, cannot be done.
justice --> right & wrong.
civil power --> validity of covenants
[Q] versus plato?
so, they contact a third party, Clyde, and freely give Clyde their cache of heavy artillery on the understanding that Clyde will happily shoot either A or B should he default on the agreement.
Archie & Bert: maximizing self-interest is not working -- it becomes self-defeating --
-- let's change the outcomes:
[thinking that the human being always picks the lesser evil]
the general form:
a law of nature, lex naturalis, is a precept, or general rule,
found out by reason
, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same, and to omit that by which he thinketh it may be best preserved." (leviathan, chapter 14)
hobbes' "natural law":
“On the basis of the analysis of the “natural condition of mankind,” it follows “consequently it is a precept, or general rule of reason:
that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war.
The first branch of which rule containeth the first and fundamental law of nature, which is:
to seek peace and follow it.
sum of the right of nature,
which is: by all means we can, to defend ourselves.
" (leviathan, chapter 14, 80)
fundamental law of nature
, by which men are commanded to endeavour peace, is derived
this second law:
that a man be willing,
when others are so too
, as far forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it necessary,
to lay down this right to all things
; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself.”
--> transferring the “right of nature” to some thing or person is how a commonwealth can be established – by erecting a “coercive, civil power” that receives all the “rights” of individuals as a
“From that law of nature by which we are obliged to transfer to another such rights as, being retained, hinder the peace of mankind, there followeth a third; which is this:
that men perform their covenants made; without which covenants are in vain, and but empty words; and the right of all men to all things remaining, we are still in the condition of war.
” (leviathan, chapter 15, 88).
--> the fountain and original of justice.
covenant between subjects -- not between the sovereign and the subjects.
-- artificial, unequal power.
possible problem regarding
covenant --> commonwealth // constitution of a civil power -->
propriety --> laws --> (only then):
: not keeping to the covenant.
traffic rules, marriage laws, property laws, etc.
S says "drive on the right"
so, I shall drive on the right.
I drive on the right because S commands it.
"no law, without awe"
battle of naseby (1645)
[chapter 13 --]
before the names of just and unjust can have place, there must be some coercive power to compel men equally to the performance of their covenants,
by the terror of some punishment greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their covenant, and to make good that propriety which by mutual contract men acquire in recompense of
the universal right they abandon: and such power there is none before the erection of a Commonwealth. . .
and where there is no coercive power erected, that is, where there is no Commonwealth, there is no propriety,
all men having right to all things:
therefore where there is no Commonwealth, there nothing is unjust. So that the nature of justice consisteth in keeping of valid covenants, but the validity of covenants begins not but with the constitution of a civil power sufficient to compel men to keep them: and then it is also that propriety begins.” (leviathan, chapter 15, 88)
right of nature,
which writers commonly call jus naturale, is the liberty each man hath, to use his own power as he will himselfe, for the preservation of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life; and consequently, of doing any thing, which in his own judgment, and reason, hee shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto.
, is understood, according to the proper signification of the word, the absence of externall impediments: which impediments, may oft take away part of a mans power to do what hee would; but cannot hinder him from using the power left him according to his judgement, and reason shall dictate him. (chapter 14, 80)