An Analytical Summary Of Thomas Hobbes Leviathan Philosophy Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Philosophy|
|✅ Wordcount: 1203 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
This is the summary of chapters ten to sixteen of the landmark work of Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, written in 1651, two years after Charles I was removed and beheaded by the Parliament. These chapters lay the philosophical foundations for the rest of the book; reason the creation of a sovereign state and describe the best way to achieve peace based on Hobbes view of human nature. He also explains his view of human nature in detail.
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Hobbes starts by laying out a set of definitions. The reason for this, as he explains later, is that an argument without definitions and step by step logical analysis is nothing, but an opinion only. Man, according to Hobbes, has an insatiable need for power. Power, he says, is of two kinds: natural and instrumental. The former includes the faculties of the mind and body, whereas the latter depends on acquired traits or characteristics like friends or wealth. Hence, power is a means to an end. Worth is defined as the measure of power, and worth generally recognized is called dignity. To ascribe high worth to someone is honor him, and vice versa. Because worth, dignity and honor are all born out of the concept of idea power, appetite for power is central to manâ€™s nature.
However, this appetite is kept in check by its antithesis, fear- fear of pain and death. It is this fear that forces humans to look for peace. This meeting between power and fear to ensure peace is what Hobbes refers to as manners. What Hobbes aims to suggest, however, is the best point on the precarious fine line between fear and power that will actually ensure the peace that is longed and sought. Hobbes blames it on the lack of philosophical reasoning. Relying on custom or religion as to the true cause of something is the prime problem. Peace, without scientific reasoning will be fragile. Hobbes claims to possess the truth, which is Christianity. Therefore, he considers looking for causes of natural events in religion problematic, because lack of knowledge breeds fear and birth of false religions, angels and demons. In other words, ignorance leads to fanciful creations. Philosophy based on science, on the contrary, will teach us how to achieve stable peace.
Hobbes then explains the natural condition of mankind, and gives three causes of quarrel: competition, diffidence and glory. Men are in constant competition with each other, and when two people cannot share something, they resort to violence to resolve the conflict. He considers all men equal in the sense that even the weakest possesses the capability to kill the strongest, if not means of strength, then by means of secrecy or confederacy.
Hobbes then describes the state of nature. State of nature refers to the state of mankind in the absence of any authority or government, and the resulting social chaos that paralyzes the functioning of society. Hobbes says that in the state of nature every man will look for himself and such selfish behavior for personal pursuits will result in a condition called warre. Therefore, there would be no commerce, industry, arts or literature being developed in the state of nature. In such a society, life would be brutish, short and nasty. The state of nature, Hobbes explains, has had never existed in history, but the natives of the Americas dwelled in a close approximation to what the state of nature may be like. The state of nature is purely descriptive in nature, and not normative. In fact, Hobbes says that in the state of nature there is no concept of good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust.
Fear and reason are the two agents that make man escape this state of nature- fear instills in man a want to escape this state, whereas, reason shows the way as to how to escape this state. It is reason that provides the natural laws, which lay foundations of peace.
A law of nature affirms human self-preservation and condemns acts destructive to human life. It is different from governmental laws in that it is unwritten, and deduced by faculties of the mind. Hobbes proceeds on to explain the nineteen such laws. The first and the second fundamental law of nature form the basis of all the other laws. The first fundamental law states that man should seek peace and follow it, because to seek peace is to fulfill our natural right to defend ourselves. The second fundamental law states that we should give up some liberties against others- liberties that we would want others to absolve too. This giving up of liberties or transferring rights mutually that one may enjoy in the state of nature is what forms a contract, and also forms the basis of moral obligation. Despite all this, man will not give up the right of self preservation.
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The third law says that we need to adhere to contracts made, and this law is the foundation of the concept of justice. The fourth law says one should show gratitude towards those who form and remain bound by the contract; fifth law states that trivial discontent should not come in the way of the contract so as to break it; sixth law says that we must forgive those who have committed offences in the past; seventh law says that punishment should only be retributive; eight law says people must not make signs of contempt towards others; ninth law says that pride is harmful, thus avoided; tenth law says that one should retain rights, one would want others to retain; eleventh law says that judgments should be impartial; twelfth law says that indivisible resources should be shared; thirteenth law says that indivisible resources that also cannot be shared should be appropriated via a draw; fourteenth law says that lots either natural (eldest son or whoever gets it first) or arbitrary (random determination); fifteenth law says that individuals working for peace should be left in peace; sixteenth law says that disputes should be settled by an arbitrator; seventeenth law says that the arbitrator must himself not be a party in the quarrel; eighteenth law says that the arbitrator of a dispute should be able to be fair and impartial; lastly, the nineteenth law says that decisions ought to be made on the basis of facts and evidence, and the arbitrator must be fair in resolving controversies regarding them. This science of laws is known as moral philosophy.
Lastly, Hobbes describes the there are two kinds of persons- natural and artificial. A natural person is one like an author, who has control over his words. All natural men are therefore natural persons. These men make a contract to escape the state of nature by means of accepting the fundamental laws, which a higher authority will need to implement. This contract is basically representative of all the natural persons and ideally voluntary. Since this contract is representative, this contract is an artificial person. This forms the commonwealth.
The purpose of establishing a commonwealth is to protect the rights of all individuals, and to prevent a state of conflict. A commonwealth, which is the Leviathan, is a common power to which all individuals submit themselves, who defends their common interests. The sovereign, for Hobbes, represents an absolute power and unlimited authority.
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