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Hobbes' Leviathan - Essay Example

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In this paper, I argue that, according to Hobbes, certain passions which require us to seek peace, allied to our reason, which suggests to us the means of achieving peace, combine together to lead us out of the state of nature.
Leviathan, published in 1651, marked an important development in political philosophy, in that it introduced the most powerful version of the social contract theory into political discourse…
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Hobbes Leviathan
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Download file to see previous pages The problem, as he sees it, is that there is no overarching 'figure', a being or entity or idea with power to instill awe, to occasion obedience to a greater good beyond the three causes of perpetual war, which he sees as competition, diffidence [fear of attack], and glory [or vanity] [ch13, p2]. Consequently, the lives of people in such a state are famously described as 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short' [ch13, p3].
Hobbes appears to have been influenced in this negative characterization by the civil war raging in England at the time of his writing. He acknowledges that such a state may never have existed 'generally', but that it exists in places where the power to instill awe is absent:
Howsoever, it may be perceived what manner of life there would be, where there were no common power to fear, by the manner of life which men that have formerly lived under a peaceful government use to degenerate into a civil war. (ch 13, p4].
More notably, he argues that this state of perpetual conflict exists in societies, such as the native societies of America, where, according to his somewhat distant reading, there are no powers to instill awe and obedience.
Hobbes believes that humanity emerges out of this peculiarly solitary, untrusting state - in which justice, being a socially developed concept, does not yet exist (ch13, p4] - through a combination of reason and the passions. Hobbes asserts [somewhat contradictorily] that man's nature, besides being a cause of perpetual conflict with his neighbors, also inclines him to peace:
The passions that incline men to peace are: fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them. And reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace upon which men may be drawn to agreement [ch13, p4].
The 'articles of peace' here mentioned are further developed, in chapters 14 and 15, into nine 'laws of nature'. Of these, Hobbes places the one he considers most important at the head. This law states that 'man ought to endeavour peace' [ch14, p1], as far as he is able to achieve it - and failing this, should seek all the advantages of war. Man's natural diffidence, or fear of attack, as mentioned earlier, would best be assuaged by the creation of a peaceful estate, but if this cannot be created, then a preparedness for war, based on the idea that attack is the best method of defense, is the next best option.
Hobbes' second law of nature is central to his idea of man moving out of the state of nature into civil society, in that it involves a willingness to restrict individual liberty. He states it thus:
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 [ch14, p2].
With Hobbes' third law comes the important idea of the covenant - what we nowadays translate as 'ontract'. 'Men perform their covenants made', he writes [ch15, p1]. I take ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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