Hobbes Views On Political Roles in Leviathan
The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states that the history ‘of political thought is replete with attempts to provide a satisfactory account for political obligation’ . Hobbes’s Leviathan epitomises this as he brings forward a rational argument for the existence of an absolute sovereign, as ‘political obligation’ is argued to be in the best interests of the subject. A strong political authority within this seminal text is argued to be a solution to the contemporary turmoil which existed in England contemporarily and as a force which is capable of preventing future chaos. Hobbes agues the importance of political obligation and an ‘absolute sovereign’ through his compelling theories and insights on the state of nature, the social contract, religion and freedom. In order to provide a strong and comprehensive account for the purpose of the Leviathan, this investigation will briefly explore the contemporary socio-political chaos which existed and use this as a foundation to explore Hobbes’s social and political ideas.
As Jean Hampton notes in Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition, ‘every political philosopher is influenced by the economic, social, and political events of their time, and Hobbes’s work was particularly responsive to the political turmoil of his day’ . Since his birth, Hobbes bared witness to civil war and social disorder, and his publications aimed to provide a philosophical explanation and a political solution for the contemporary chaos. Hobbes was born in 1588, shortly before the Spanish Armada were sent to attack England during the war with the Netherlands. During his early years, a civil war within France came to light amid the strong tensions between the Protestant Huguenots and the Catholic monarchy. During his adult years the ‘Thirty Years War’ continued to destroy Europe from 1618 to 1648, this was particularly an important event as it saw European nations battle over the power balance within the region and over religious disputes. Whilst this destructive battle continued, ‘England itself was plunged into civil war and disorder from 1642 to 1649’ as there was a deeply entrenched dichotomy between Parliamentarians and Royalists . Oliver Cromwell waged war against Ireland, Scotland and Holland during the years of his protectorship, and two other wars occurred between England and the Netherlands in 1665 and 1672 . It was amid these chaotic events Hobbes brought forward his compelling ideas on civil science and his defence of an absolute sovereign power.
The worsening political climate forced Hobbes to flee from in England to France in 1640. King Charles I ‘found himself obliged to stand by while his advisers were arrested and his regime denounced’ . This was a frightening event for advocates of absolute authority; Roger Maynwaring was executed under parliamentary order due to his preaching and commitment to the absolute power of Kings . Hobbes in a letter to John Aubrey stated that himself and Maynwaring’s views were similar and feared that he may experience the same punishment. In Brief Lives, Aubrey notes that ‘then thought Mr. Hobbes, ‘tis time now for me to shift for my selfe, and so withdrew into France and resided at Paris ’. He continued to work on the application of ‘scientific principles to civic life’ whilst in France. At this time De Cive was made and published in Latin in 1642, it was later published in English under the title Philosophical Rudiments Concerning Government and Society in 1651. In 1651 also, at a time when England was a republic, Hobbes returned from France and published his most seminal text, the Leviathan.
The Leviathan built on his previous ideas (brought forward in De Cive) as well as the existing philosophical defences for absolute rule. Hobbes felt a stronger need to confront the ‘conflict between Parliament and Crown’ due to the existing political condition of England . At this time, ‘the New Model Army had been successfully mobilised, the King had been executed, Parliament had passed acts to abolish the monarchy and the House of Lords, and Cromwell had established the Commonwealth’ . Amid this turmoil, great debates existed questioning ‘the legitimacy of regicide’, ‘the authority of Cromwell’s regime and whether it was right to take the oath of ‘engagement’ to be faithful’ to this authority . Quentin Skinner in Hobbes and Republican Liberty argues that these pressing questions caused Hobbes to make ‘subtle but significant changes’ . For example, Hobbes modifies his definition of liberty within the Leviathan. In De Cive, Skinner notes that Hobbes ‘offers a clear and simple definition of liberty’ in order to counter the existing ‘republican’ arguments against absolute government. Liberty is defined here as ‘nothing other than the absence of impediments to motion’ and ‘however absolute a sovereign power maybe, our subjection to it cannot be equated with servitude’ . This definition takes a subtle but evocative change in Leviathan, as Hobbes defines liberty ‘not simply as the absence of impediments to motion but the absence of external impediments’ also .
Skinner notes that this was an important historical moment as Hobbes distinguishes between liberty and power. Hobbes, as Skinner notes, identifies liberty to consist of ‘the absence of impediments to action on the one hand, and, on the other, the capacity to act’, in essence, intrinsic limitations such as fear, which leads to the submission to an absolute sovereign, may take away our power but only external obstacles can take away our liberty . This is a compelling understanding of freedom. It challenges the existing republican notions by offering an alternative understanding; ‘the presence of freedom is construed entirely as absence of impediments rather than absence of dependence’ .When considering the national and international conflict of the time, the denouncement of the monarchy and the development in Hobbes’s philosophy, it is clear that Hobbes’s aimed to ‘set out the rational grounds for obedience’ through the Leviathan . ‘Given this kind of violent turmoil, it is not surprising that a philosopher should come to hold a view of human beings as creatures who will, if unchecked, inevitably behave violently toward one another’ . This leads me onto explore this pessimistic view of mankind presented by Hobbes within the Leviathan.
Through the Leviathan Hobbes explores the physical and intrinsic characteristics of man and aims to provide an explanation for why these characteristics can lead to conflict within society. According to Hobbes, ‘analyzing the complicated physical structure of a human being helps us to understand not only how the parts of the human “engine” work but also what fundamental desires and motivations each human being possesses intrinsically, in virtue of the way one’s body functions’ . These ‘intrinsic motivations’ play an important part in understanding the purpose of the Leviathan as they lay the foundation for Hobbes’s ‘moral and political conclusions’, as Hobbes argues these natural characteristics have the capacity to lead to social chaos .
Power is an important concept which Hobbes explores within his analysis of mankind. As mentioned earlier, Hobbes distinguishes between liberty and power in that liberty is clearly absence from restraint and ‘the capacity to act’ . Power on the other hand equates to happiness as it is defined as the ‘present means to attain some future apparent good’ . This means that ‘power’ according to Hobbes is based on the ability to obtain what you desire; this is consistent with his views on happiness as he considers felicity to be the ability to secure the reoccurrence of pleasure:
‘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 forever the way of his future desire. And therefore the voluntary actions and inclinations of all men tend not only to the procuring, but also to the assuring of a contented life, and differ only in the way, which ariseth partly from the diversity of passions in diverse men, and partly from the difference of the knowledge or opinion each one has of the causes which produce the effect desired’ .
Here, Hobbes explains that felicity depends on the ability to secure the means of ongoing enjoyment. Hobbes means us to understand this as ‘a desire for personal advancement that is somehow biologically intrinsic and that is so strong in us that when we cannot see it satisfied by the reality of our own powers and abilities in the world, we lie to ourselves and inflate those powers and abilities’ .Despite the diversity in desires Hobbes identifies here, he claims there to be a natural desire for ‘a contented life’ which is ongoing. Within this theory a compelling distinction can be seen between the two forms power takes: ‘natural power’ being the abilities that one has to begin with such as ‘extraordinary strength, good looks, prudence, practical skill, eloquence or generosity’, whilst ‘instrumental powers’ are ‘acquired through the use of natural powers or through luck; they are means and instruments to acquire more, for example riches, reputation, friends, and the secret working of God which men call good luck’ . As mankind is regarded to have a ‘perpetual and restless desire for power after power, that ceseath only in death’, it is this pursuit of ongoing enjoyment which perpetuates competiveness amongst individuals within society . Hobbes argues this not to be a consequence of greed but claims this desire for power to indentify a natural need to ensure self preservation as there is a finite amount of recourses available which provide pleasure. Therefore, individuals are in constant competition to secure recourses. The identification and analysis of this characteristic shows the Leviathan to carry the purpose of indentifying the natural traits which contribute to social conflict.
It is important to note that there are important developments made within the Leviathan on humanity that build on the ideas from previous texts. Within the Leviathan, Hobbes ‘wished to make his account for conflict more plausible and persuasive’ . Through the idea of self preservation, Hobbes argues that men have the right to whatever they believe will secure self preservation, but is careful to note that this right will not extend over all things. This way of thought is noted to only occur after conflicts have begun; therefore enabling an individual to believe that he has a legitimate claim to entitlement after or during competitive struggles. This is important because once ‘people begin to claim this right, there is competition for every object and conflict between them can only escalate in frequency and intensity’ . Though this is different from his earlier notions within De Cive Chapter 1 (section 10) and The Elements of Law, as in the earlier publications, he suggests a natural claim of entitlement which immediately extends to all things. In The Elements of Law he claims that ‘everyman by nature hath right to all things, that is to say, to do whatsoever he listeth to whom he listeth, to possess, use, and enjoy all things he will and can’ . He continues to note that:
‘For seeing all things he willeth, must therefore be good unto him in his own judgment […] and we have made him judge thereof […] it followeth that all things may rightly also be done by him’ .
Hampton captures the problems with this premise and the need for adjustment in stating that ‘it is very strained to maintain that before warfare has begun every human being will conclude that all things in the world are useful to him in his efforts to survive, and thus that he should have a liberty-right to all things’ . The ‘advantage of his Leviathan account in Chapter 13 is that he [an individual] can start from a much more limited entitlement claim’, therefore advocating the more plausible premise of there being a progressive claim to things that are essential to one’s survival. This is a significant development in Hobbes’s political theory as it confirms that part of the purpose of Leviathan was to provide a more plausible account for desire and competition . This leads me on to discuss Hobbes’s state of nature thesis as this is synonymous with his understanding of mankind.
The state of nature theory is gripping because it not only builds on the natural characteristics of man put forward by Hobbes, but it also provides a rational account for conflict. The state of nature is a hypothetic political argument which Hobbes uses to emphasize the importance of an absolutist sovereign power. Without the presence of such a force, he claims that the innate desire for power and self preservation would lead to a state of progressively aggressive competition. This process would instil fear and paranoia within the minds of individuals causing them to be restricted by their fear of invasion:
‘In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’ .
Here, Hobbes suggests the existence of a liberal paradox within the state of nature. As individuals would be free to fulfil their desires without any political or legal restriction, there would be no constitutional form of protection in place to defend individuals ‘against a common enemy, nor against the injuries of one another’ . In essence, despite the fact that individuals would possess complete liberty to do as they please, they would be held back by the fear of others and the paranoia evoked by the absence of protection offered by political sovereignty. Meaning that fear of attack will prevent individuals from exercising their freedom. Therefore, the importance of an absolute political authority is connected to freedom within the state of nature as Hobbes explains that in order to receive protection from a common enemy or the ‘injuries of one another’, one must commit their ‘will’ to the existing political authority . This leads me on to explore the role of the absolute sovereign power as it is the natural characteristics of mankind, in having a constant desire for power, and the intensified competition within the state of nature which reinforces the importance of having strong political leadership within society.
On investigating the role of the sovereign power within the Leviathan, it is clear that the purpose of the text is to provide a convincing justification for political authority. As Skinner notes ‘Hobbes believed that in the Leviathan he had articulated a theory of political obligation capable of offering comfort to surviving royalists’ . Hobbes presents the existence of an absolute political power as a solution to social conflict and a protector from foreign threats. Hobbes argues this through his social contract theory. He claims that all individuals within a society must submit their liberty to the absolute sovereign power:
‘I authorise and give up my right of governing my selfe, to this man, or assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner’
On this point, Hobbes provides a convincing justification for political authority as he notes that ‘in the act of our submission consisteth our obligation and our liberty’ . In relating this understanding back to the liberal paradox stated earlier within this investigation, Hobbes shows that in the act of committing to political authority, individuals become free from fear and paranoia evoked by the state of nature. More importantly, we see that ‘the idea of consent as the only source of lawful government is fully compatible with a strong defence of absolute sovereignty and the duty of non-resistance’ . Here Hobbes argues that the act of authorisation begins with the individual submitting their ‘will’ to the sovereign power to obtain protection from the state of nature and to direct our individual aims toward a common benefit. The natural characteristics outlined by Hobbes come as a result of our liberty (that is freedom from intrinsic on external restraint); leaving individuals with the freedom to pursue their desires and compete against others, this process then sets a strong basis for ongoing conflict and quarrel. According to the Hobbesian social contract, this freedom must be submitted to the sovereign power to obtain social stability, as this process would then illustrate the submission of the ‘right of using their own discretion to secure their safety’ . Once this ‘transfer of right’ takes place, there are two specific obligations the people have to their representative(s) . Firstly ‘the duty to ‘own’ their actions and those of any third party for whom they may have been authorised to act’ and the other is ‘the duty not to interfere with the execution of their commission, since the right to act as they think best in discharging their task is precisely what has been voluntarily handed over to them’ .
Our liberty and judgment must be submitted to the sovereign, making the people of society the ‘authors’ of the sovereign’s actions, this would cause the sovereign to act toward a common benefit as it ‘gives them a single will and voice, thereby converting them into one person, the person of the state’ . The submission of the ‘will’ by the people to their sovereign power is the key component of the Hobbesian social contract as it also suggests that the more power given to a political authority, the further away society would be from the state of nature. Even though this great amount of unquestionable power being vested in the sovereign may lead to a tyrannical ruler, Hobbes firstly argues that it is better to be under tyrannical rule than be in the state of nature as actions are still made under a common benefit model and the people of society are responsible for the development of a tyrannical ruler due to Hobbes’s theory of ‘attributed action’ . The actions of the sovereign are ‘nothing more than the acts of the individual members of the multitude’; ‘they have the positive duty to ‘own’ whatever actions their sovereign may undertake in seeking their safety and contentment’ , therefore, if rebellion was to occur it would prove to be illegitimate and self-contradictory, ‘for they will be opposing themselves’ . These Hobbesian paradigms of the social contract, the state of nature and attributed action provide a compelling defence for absolute leadership. More importantly, it advocates the importance of the surviving monarchists and challenges the existing Parliamentarian cause by ‘invoking analysis of what it means to authorise a representative’ . Therefore, the purpose of the Leviathan was to provide a rational justification for absolutism and to provide a credible attack on the Parliamentarian effort.
This leads me onto discuss Hobbes’s views on religion, as some of the conflicts that occurred during Hobbes’s lifetime were motivated by religious means. Religious liberty for example ‘was a principle objective in the revolutionary programme’ during the English Civil War ; as Wood notes, his dedication to explaining the function of the ‘Christian Commonwealth’ within the Leviathan ‘reflects not only his anger at theological critics but, above all, his conviction that religion has been a major cause of civil war’ . For this reason Hobbes’s ‘main objective in the discussion of religion was to demonstrate that true Christianity requires obedience to a secular authority’ as ‘a man cannot serve two masters’, this is due to the fact that this could cause a subject to question the authority of an absolute ruler . Hobbes does not subscribe to the divine right theory. This is because he notes the process of authorisation to be the result of submission of the will by the multitude, rather than by divine appointment. Theoretically this religious premise contrasts with the Hobbesian argument. The divine right theory stipulates that the power of King has been given by God, and that ‘the subjects are totally subordinated to him as God’s representative on earth’, this means that the ‘ruler is God’s agent’ rather than the author of the multitude . In addition, this religious dynamic gives subjects the right to rebellion (if God perceives the ruler to be an unworthy agent) . Again, this theoretically contrasts with the Hobbesian argument; under Hobbes’s social contract model rebellion is noted to be self-contradictory and illegitimate. Therefore, conflicts driven by religious means are less likely to occur as subjects give up the right to rebel and submission to an absolute political authority takes precedence. Hobbes’s theory of authorisation and his non-subscription to the divine right theory presents the Leviathan as a demonstration of the importance of political obligation over religious commitment.
To conclude, the purpose of the Leviathan was to make a compelling justification for political authority. Arguably, the conflict which occurred during his lifetime inspired his political philosophy; hence his pessimistic view of mankind. Therefore, Hobbes can be noted to offer a solution to the contemporary turmoil through this seminal text. Hobbes’s theories of mankind are consistent with his social contract. His understanding of man, as a power hungry and competitive creature, needs protection from foreign threat and other members of society. The role of the absolute sovereign power is to offer protection in exchange for the submission of rights and judgment by the multitude. This process of submission authorises the political power and legitimises the state as they share one voice and one common directive, therefore reducing the chance of social conflict or rebellion as these rights have already been submitted. On analysing religion, the characteristics of man, the state of nature and the freedom, Hobbes was not only capable of developing an insightful defence for absolutism, but he was also capable of developing a compelling solution to social disorder.
Human Nature As Depicted in Thomas Hobbe’s Book Leviathan
Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651) is a critical work which argues that all men are united by their self-interests, and natural inclinations to acquire (the instinct of self-preservation and the desire for pleasure. Historically, leviathan commonly referred to a mammoth sea monster haunting the depths of the seas, mentioned in six passages the Old Testament of the Bible in Job 3:8, Job 40:15–41:26, Amos 9:3, Psalms 74:13–23, Psalm 104:26 and Isaiah 27:1. Depicted as a fusion of both dragon and serpent, the leviathan which mercilessly destroys so many creatures including mankind, is promised a merciless demise at the end of earth’s history. In Mesopotamian myth, the leviathan is represented as having seven heads and whose virulent enemies were the people of God. Strangely, Hobbes compares man’s own egoistic nature as a leviathan, relishing in dominion over other men he counts as his intrinsic property. He counts three major causes of conflict which stirs up war: competition, diffidence, and glory. Therefore, war is the natural product of man’s belligerence, his passion for self-aggrandizement, and his inclination to seem superior to others.
Laws and government are existent and in force to protect and curb these lusts of man. Lawlessness and the lack of a common superior power begets civil wars, force and fraud. “War of man against every man,” sums up man’s acquisitive and controversial nature in the name of service to his purposes. The motives of peace are judged as the fear of death and the desire to peace to gain materialistic ends and enjoy comforts. Absolute Monarchy is upheld as a regime which fosters relative peace and provides protection because The Supremacy of One counterbalances and checks the strivings of men among themselves for there is Another that surpasses them all.
The right of nature is identified as “jus naturale” is the liberty that each man possesses to protect himself from imminent danger or the right to self-preservation. The law of nature is identified as “lex naturalis” is the law which proscribes man’s self-destruction or which threatening his own existence. Therefore, man’s own security and safety are priority. Because of man’s contentious nature, peace is unattainable and war inevitable. Man’s conceding his right to defend himself or to use any means necessary to preserve his self and his interests can be a way to peace. Man’s right to self-preservation may be renounced or transferred; but it is in the transference of his right which most often redounds to his benefit and shows his own self-interest. Here, Hobbes alludes to the social contract which in effect transfers man’s natural right (or rights of nature) to a superior body to govern and rule such as a king or civil government.
Establishment of a common power aids to shield against foreign invasion and protects the compatriots from one another based on the “All against All principle.” Contract furthers the cause for common peace and safety and security even as the subjects transfer their rights. Commonwealth stands as the product of the voluntary surrender of the natural rights or (rights of nature/ laws of nature) to a common ruler or an assembly of governors where they are entrusted with the protection and security, peace and defence of all. As a consequence, the emergence of leviathan is described as the great monster (the civil governing body) in whom is united the amalgamation of the wills of a people and/or nation.
Escaping From The Nature Of Humans As Depicted in Thomas Hobbes Book, The Leviathan
In the Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes is describing what makes up the core conditions of human nature and the constant state of war people face with each other from living in a state of nature. The state that humanity lives in now has come about after struggling in a crude and primitive state of nature, where every human being is in conflict with each other for their very own survival. Humankind without a centralized government or community is always in a state of war or conflict with each other. In this state, humans are always surrounded by death, lacking the necessities that are crucially needed to survive, which prohibits their ability to live in peace and advance into a community or society. The only way for humans to escape a state of nature is by creating a social contract with one another to establish a community that can be civil with each other.
Hobbes also wrote about how all men are created equal by nature, and that every man can attain their needs either through physical conflict or “secret machination” with each other. One man can have more physical strength over another, but another may be stronger in mind with more intelligence; therefore every man is ultimately equal to each other. If a man is equal to another man from having equal talents and abilities, then man will never fully reach true equality with one another, leading to a constant state of war with one another. According to Hobbes “And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in a way to their end endeavour to destroy or subdue one another. And from hence it comes to pass that where an invader hath no more fear than another man’s single power, if one plant, sow, build, or possess a convenient seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared with forces untied to dispossess and deprive him, not only of the fruit of his labour, but also of his life or liberty. And the invader again is in the like danger of another.”
The nature of human beings is made up from three principal causes of conflict with one another which according to Hobbes is “First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly glory.” When humankind lives in a condition without a common goal or purpose, then they are living in a constant state of war that pits “every man against every man.” Whereby the war waged is not only actual physical confrontation with each other but also the will to live and survive throughout time indefinably. Since every man is an enemy to each other during a time of war, humanity is not able to flourish and progress. Hobbes painted a very bleak description of the effects from being in a constant state of war in the Leviathan when he said that “In such condition there is no place for industry, because fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor the use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no art; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Human Equalities According to Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes lays his political foundation on the explicit assumption that men are equal in strength and prudence. Strength refers to bodily strength, and it is equal among men because each individual theoretically has the capability of killing any other individual. Prudence is a sort of crude cause-and-effect reasoning that experience confers to people, and experience is gotten through “time, [and] equally bestowes on all men, in those things they equally apply themselves unto” (87). Finally, out of these two equalities he derives the “equality of hope in the attaining of our Ends” (87), which means that people have equal hope or ambition in attaining their goals. Despite the fact that he builds his philosophy on several basic equalities, he still advances arguments against Democracy and for Monarchy. Monarchy he defines in the usual way, as a government ruled by one man. Democracy is “an Assembly of All that will come together” (129); in other words it is an Athenian type of popular democracy, where any person with an interest may participate in the governing assembly. In considering the possibility of private interests superseding public interests, Hobbes’ arguments against democracy and for monarchy take into account equality of hope for attaining one’s ends, but his support of monarchy contradicts equality of prudence and his support of government by acquisition is inconsistent with equality of strength. Hobbes’ support of monarchy is consistent with his idea of equal hope, as he addresses private ambition in both monarchy and democracy. In Hobbes’ philosophy, people are equally ambitious; all people have equal hope in attaining their individual ends. Thus, both monarch and democratic assemblymen will necessarily be anxious to “procure the private good of himself,” and furthermore prefer to satisfy the private good over the public good. A concrete example he raises is the practice of enriching one’s flatterers and favorites at public expense, which both monarchs and assemblymen may do. Thus, Hobbes addresses equally the possibility of corruption in both forms of government, monarchy and democracy. However, his espousal of monarchy hinges on the argument that a monarch’s corruption will do less damage, because a monarch’s “private interest is the same with the publique” (131). After all, he argues, a King can only be rich if his subjects are rich. While this may be rationally true in the long run, one can hardly trust a monarch to be rational enough to recognize this fact. There is no reason not to expect a monarch to short-sightedly plunder his subjects for his own immediate gain, neglecting long-term stability. Furthermore, Hobbes argues that with the case of governing assemblies, the public good is not as aligned with the private good of the assemblymen. However, this argument seems to be directed more towards the Aristocratic form of government, where only a part of the populace may be admitted to the ruling assembly. In a Democracy as Hobbes himself defined it, anyone “that will” may participate in the assembly. In this case, the public good is always identical with the private good, for the rulers and the subjects are in fact one and the same. In addition, there can actually be no favorites or flatterers that try to curry favor with the assembly; all men can wield power directly from within the assembly itself. In addition, any excessive pursuit of private good is always subject to the scrutiny and veto of fellow democrats. Private interests are balanced against each other in a democracy in a way that does not exist in monarchy. Thus, although Hobbes’ arguments are consistent with his assumption that people have “equality of hope in attaining of…Ends,” his argument that private and public interests are best aligned in a Monarchy fails for its inconsistency with the structure of Democracy as he defines it. Furthermore, favoring monarchy over democracy seems to defy Hobbes’ assumption that all men are equal in Prudence. For Hobbes, Prudence is the process of learning from one’s experience: “Sometime a man desires to know the event of an action; and then he thinketh of some like action past, and the events thereof one after another; supposing like events will follow like actions…Which kind of thoughts, is called…Prudence” (22). It thus seems odd that he would rather entrust the commonwealth to one person, whose prudence we would have no especial reason to trust, than entrust the commonwealth to a multitude of people’s various prudences summed together. After all, if “Prudence is…contracted from the Experience” (23), then surely many people’s experiences added up would be more useful in judging what decisions to make. Hobbes’ answer to this objection would probably be akin to his argument regarding “Reason,” a higher and more infallible version of Prudence: “No one mans Reason, nor the Reason of any one number of men makes the certaintie; no more than an account is therefore well cast up, because a great many men have unanimously approved it” (32). In other words, just because a lot of people agree with something doesn’t make it right. Instead, a “Judge” or arbitrator should be chosen by dissenting parties to settle disputes. In a democratic government one has the option of abiding by the assembly’s majority instead of submitting to the judgment of a single arbitrator (or monarch). There is no reason to suppose that the arbitrator’s prudence would be superior in Hobbes’ world of equal prudence, so bringing in a monarch is as illogical as bringing in an arbitrator. One might actually argue that in fact, the more people approve an account, the more likely mistakes will be corrected, and the more likely it will be correct in the end. Otherwise, there would be no logic in double-checking accounts. Thus, in light of equality of prudence, a democracy would seem to be more favorable. There is one loophole by which Hobbes’ defense of monarchy may be brought into alignment with his equality of Prudence. The definition of Prudence also specifies that men are only equal in “things they equally apply themselves unto” (87). That is to say, a person who applies himself to ruling may be as good at ruling as a carpenter who applies himself equally to carpentry is at carpentry. Thus, if Hobbes could have proposed some sort of mechanism by which a monarch would apply himself to leadership and ruling and therefore gain Prudence in it, then it might make sense to entrust ruling to a professional ruler rather than carpenters, bricklayers, and people in general. Without such a mechanism, however, entrusting governance to a monarch who could devote himself to anything else betrays Hobbes principle that people are equal in Prudence. Finally, Hobbes’ justification of sovereignty by acquisition really amounts to justifying monarchy by force and violates his original principle of equality of strength. Hobbes outlines two ways a commonwealth might be established: either through institution or through acquisition. If people were really equal in strength, as Hobbes says, the state of nature and perpetual anarchy would last forever until people realized that their best interest was peace and agreed to come together to institute a government. Endorsing a government instituted by an assembly where a “Multitude of men do Agree, and covenant, every one, with every one, that to whatsoever Man or assembly of Men, shall be given by the major part, the Right to Present the Person of them all…every one, as well as he that Voted for it, as he that Voted against it” (121) would be akin to endorsing democracy. No matter what the final form of the government becomes, the institution of it was through a democratic assembly and vote. The other option is establishment by force, which is “when men singly, or many together by plurality of voices, for fear of death, or bonds, do authorize all the actions of that Man, or Assembly, that hath their lives and liberty in his Power” (138). However, one must note that there can be no such thing as commonwealth by acquisition in the case of Democracy. In a Democracy, all people can participate equally in the government, so there cannot be a political distinction between conquering people and vanquished people. If, hypothetically, a Democracy were to conquer another people, and then let the “vanquished” people participate in the democratic assembly, then those people would immediately gain power and therefore not be the vanquished any longer. Only in the case of Monarchy or Aristocracy can one man or assembly of men subjugate the non-governing peoples of a commonwealth. Thus, in justifying the two ways commonwealths are created, Hobbes’ is really drawing a line between monarchy (or aristocracy) acquired by force, and democracy as represented by the democratic process of commonwealth creation. In Hobbes’ world, monarchy is at least just as good as the democratic process, despite the fact that supporting a monarchy acquired by force violates the principle of equality of strength in a way that supporting a commonwealth by institution might not. Hobbes paints commonwealth by acquisition as equally legitimate to commonwealth by institution, because in both cases, people consent to be governed because they are afraid, either of a particular Man or Assembly, or of each other. However, one person forcefully extracting a people’s consent to dominate them clearly depends on his strength in a way that the democratic process does not; the would-be monarch and his forces must have greater strength than the people he’s trying to conquer. If people truly had equality in strength, then no such conquering should be possible; someone should always be able to assassinate the would-be monarch. On the other hand, the democratic process is consistent with equality of strength since every person’s vote is equal as their strengths are supposed to be. As noted before, supporting monarchy by institution would be equivalent to supporting democracy since institution is through a democratic process. Thus, supporting a monarchy by acquisition violates Hobbes’ principle of equal strength in a way that democracy, or even monarchy by institution, does not. If we allow, as Hobbes suggests, that a commonwealth covenanted by force is as good as democratic agreement, then we negate the stated principle of equal strength and there would be no limit to the number of legitimate covenants that could be contracted by coercion of the stronger over the weaker. Hobbes advances a number of other arguments in favor of monarchy over democracy, such as the facts that a monarch cannot disagree with himself and assemblies are subject to inconstancy due to fluctuating attendance. However, these are more structural arguments and do not especially touch on the underlying principles of equality of strength, prudence, and hope, and thus we will not touch upon them here. His most specific and major argument in favor of monarchy is consistent with equality of hope, because he at least considers equally the possibility that monarchs and assemblymen might favor their own private interests over public interests, despite arguing illogically that public and private interests are more aligned in a monarch than in democratic assemblymen. However, his endorsement of monarchy calls into question whether trusting governance of the commonwealth to one man’s experience over a multitude of people’s experiences is consistent with the idea that people are equal in prudence. Finally, his argument that a commonwealth by acquisition, which logically applies only monarchies and aristocracies, is just as good if not better than a commonwealth by democratic institution is not consistent with the idea that people are equal in strength. Since commonwealths were commonly acquired by force, one must call into question Hobbes’ entire assumption that people are equal in strength. Without that key assumption, covenants might always be established by domination of the stronger, and Hobbes’ entire philosophy degenerates into the maxims of “rule of the stronger” and “might makes right.” References: Hobbes, Thomas. Tuck, Richard (ed). Hobbes: Leviathan: Revised Student Edition. Cambridge University Press: 1996.
Leviathan and the Personal Fears of Hobbes
The philosophy of Thomas Hobbes is perhaps the most revolutionary and unique philosophy of the seventeenth century. Hobbes had a unique view of the world in all its components: society, politics, physics, religion, and nature. Unlike his contemporaries, Hobbes was able to fuse these otherwise divergent philosophical sciences into one innovative philosophy. Hobbes is considered one of the greatest philosophers of all times, and rightly so. Many of his political and social theories still apply. While his attempt to explore science essentially failed, his ideas concerning its importance and relevance to other elements of life prevailed. His analysis of Christianity and other religions boldly contested beliefs during his time and influenced the development of religion in the future. Hobbes’ most enduring theories concerned problems in political and social order. He explored the easiest path to peaceful coexistence among all humans and how humans could evade civil conflict. Hobbes’ conclusions to these arcane questions were rooted in his own personal fears and his belief that fear itself was the most important psychological factor in maintaining civil and social peace. Much of Hobbes personal fear is a result of the times in which he lived. On the day he was born in 1588, the people of England learned that the Spanish Armada was sailing back to England to attack. Upon learning of the ominous day of his birth, Hobbes supposedly said, “fear and I were born twins together.” Leviathan was written to some degree out of Hobbes’ fear of the unstable political condition in England during the time he was writing. Hobbes wrote Leviathan in the years between the English Civil Wars and it was actually published during the years of the Commonwealth. In the years Hobbes was writing Leviathan it became known that Parliament was soon going to order the execution of Charles I. Since Hobbes was a Royalist and avid personal advocate of Charles I, and even tutor of his son, future-king, Charles II, Hobbes felt he was in danger of persecution. To escape persecution, Hobbes fled to France where he spent the next eleven years. Hobbes lived in one of the most tumultuous times in British history. The unrest in Britain had many components: political, religious, economic, and militarily fragmented. Parliament was in aggressive conflict with the King, Catholics and Protestants were openly persecuting one another, British citizens protested for more equitable division of wealth, and various geographical regions with conflicting beliefs in each of these categories were challenging each other. Perhaps the universal instability straddling all sectors of life drove Hobbes to create a philosophy that dealt and ultimately synthesized each of these problems into a single set of beliefs. Hence, Hobbes’ conception of Hell on Earth in Leviathan as social and political unrest makes sense in the context of the times, as Hobbes had to deal with both on a regular basis. In addition to his volatile surroundings as an inspiration for his most renowned work, other philosophers and philosophies around his time influenced Hobbes. Hobbes reacted vehemently against the scholastic tradition that had emerged during the middle ages and the political ramifications of its widespread acceptance. Hobbes first encountered scholasticism in his Jesuit secondary where students were taught to employ reason only for the goal of strengthening faith in God. Hobbes particularly resented scholastics’ insistence upon religious authority in government. As a philosopher many years later, Hobbes completely overturned this philosophy in his frequent assertions that theology should be kept separate from politics, especially in determining authority and political policy. Scholasticism compelled Hobbes to construct a more feasible antithesis. Thus, his emphasis on excluding God from the process of reason and philosophy emerged. Another of Hobbes’s major influences was the newly developing scientific method that favored deductive reasoning rather than Aristotelian inductive reasoning. Hobbes fascination with geometry and the simultaneous reemergence of it as an important science also shaped his method of reasoning and thinking. Hobbes placed great emphasis on working from basic first principles (established by God) to complex conclusions. Hobbes’ mechanistic approach to reasoning is apparent throughout Leviathan; for example, the entire text is written like a geometric proof. The first chapter establishes first principles and appropriately examines the very nature of ideas; the ideas become progressively more complex and layered as the book progresses. Significantly, every principle established in Leviathan depends on the foundations established by prior principles. Hobbes builds from human perception based on the law of inertia and a materialistic perception of the universe. He then discusses the “desires” “appetites” and “aversions” linked to these very perceptions as the instigative actions to all of voluntary and involuntary human behavior. From these causes of human behavior he finally moves to the probable relations between humans and their broader societies. Mechanics of the Mind In the first portion of the first book of Leviathan, Hobbes examines the mechanical processes involved in human thought. He proposes that sensory perception triggers the imagination which then activates a “train of thought.” One of the first points Hobbes makes is that humans acquire knowledge of the external world through:The external body, or object, which presseth the organ proper for each sense, either immediately, as in the taste and touch; or mediately, as in seeing hearing and smelling; which pressure, by the mediation of nerves, and other strings and membranes of the body, continued inwards to the brain and heart, causeth there a resistance, or counter-pressure, or endeavour of the heart to deliver itself, which endeavor, because outward, seemeth to be some matter without.This is to say that the tangible objects of the universe engage the senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste), which initiates a chain reaction of motion until eventually the sensory perception becomes an intangible idea or feeling in the brain or heart. This process centers on Hobbes’ borrowed theory that once an object is in motion, it remains in motion until it encounters some sort of hindrance. Once the feeling reaches it’s final tangible destination, the brain or heart, it has no other materialistic thing to transfer its motion. This hindrance of physical inertia results in the transfer of motion from the sensory perception into thoughts, or imagination. Hobbes explains this process, “imagination therefore is nothing but decaying sense…the decay of sense in men waking, is not the decay of motion made in sense; but an obscuring of it.” He provides an example to clarify his theory. Hobbes suggests that vision or image persists in the mind (distorted in the imagination) even after the “sensory apparatus” (eyes) is blocked. Therefore, the immediate motion of the image coming into contact with the eyes is still in motion as mediate motion traveling through the imagination. Continuing the transfer of motion, over time, this visual figment of the imagination becomes a memory. The imagination resulting from initial sensory perception becomes an understanding. For example, an eye perceives a daisy, the organs of the eye relay this to the frontal lobe of the brain, which evaluates the significance of the image and finally stores it as a memory according to its significance to the perceiver. The feelings, correlations to other understandings, connotations, etc. associated with the obscured version of the original image are the understanding. Hobbes notes that animals and humans alike have the mental capacity for understanding. “For a dog by custom will understand the call, or rating of his master.” The point of distinction between the mental capacities of animals and humans is the human’s ability to understand his purpose for recalling the vision, as well as the conceptions and thoughts he previously and presently associated with the vision, as well as the sequence of thoughts that led him to recall the image and the sequence of thoughts that followed the recollection. Hobbes calls this sequence of thoughts the “train of thought.”Hobbes defines “train of thought” as “that succession of one thought to another” which he refers to mental discourse. He then goes on to describe the benefits of mental discourse. Remembrance, or “calling to mind” allows man to reconstruct the path to his desired ending point, not just that which he desires. Prudence allows man to avoid repeating the same mistake twice since he is able to recall the cause and consequences of that mistake from a recalled train of thought. Finally, the ability to recall a train of thought defies metaphysics: ideas can become infinite. Hobbes theory on the origin of thought follows a geometrical, deductive thought process. His argument reads like a flow chart; each conclusion depends on the conclusion established prior to it and the validity of each conclusion depends on the validity of each prior conclusion. Essentially, Hobbes suggests that thought comes from imagination, which comes from sensory perception, which comes from some material object in the external world. His entire theory depends on the concept of sustained motion and his assertion that matter cannot move itself. However, there is one major hole in this theory that Hobbes cleverly evades: what is the initial motion and what triggers the initial motion. He addresses this later in his book he suggests that these “first principles” are set into motion by the hand of God who then leaves all subsequent action up to the transfer of motion by material collisions in the external world. This first section of Leviathan is important as a foundation for the rest of the book. It ingeniously sets up his favored way of thinking and reasoning by providing an example within the philosophy forcing the reader to think deductively. In order to reach the conclusion, the reader must first comprehend the deduced conclusions along the way. Also, Hobbes method of reasoning is significantly centered on the existence and importance of the natural world and human ability to perceive it. After all, without the natural world and humans’ subjective perception of it, there would be no thought process at all. This philosophy of the mechanics of the human mind is an interesting fusion of natural science, biological science, and psychological science, all dependent on one another for the conclusion. Speech and the Foundation of Civil Peace: Unanimous Approval Hobbes’ next section addresses verbal discourse (naturally, a logical transition from the discussion of mental discourse). Hobbes suggests that speech was invented as a continuance of the transfer of motion, to put mental discourse into verbal discourse. He introduces two benefits of this transferred motion: 1) “the registering of the consequences of our thoughts” which may have otherwise been forgotten. The assignment of words to “imaginations,” “understandings,” “memories,” “trains of thought,” and conclusions functions as “markers” for recollection and effective communication. 2) “when many use the same words, to signify, by their connexion and order, one to another, what they conceive, or think of each matter; and also what they desire, fear, or have any other passion for.” In this case, words are called “signs” to represent ideas. Once again, the law of inertia applies; trains of thought are transferred into words that are then transferred into verbal dialogue that initiates an entirely separate train of thought in another mind. The most significant idea of this portion of Hobbes’ philosophy is the notion that those in communication must understand words by common definitions or else they are rendered ineffective and misdirect the transfer of motion. Next, Hobbes describes four uses of speech and four abuses of speech. The uses of speech are: 1) they allow humans to record knowledge which adds to the acquisition and preservation of arts. 2) Humans are able to communicate this knowledge. 3) Humans are able to communicate intentions or needs and are thus able to educe help. 4) Humans can amuse each other by playing with words. Hobbes next warns about the potential abuses of speech: 1) potential for careless signification; definitions may shift if words are used improperly or out of context. 2) There is danger in using metaphors; when words mean or represent other words it can be used a tool of deceit. 3) It can be used in a lie or trick against other humans. 4) It can be used to hurt other humans psychologically. The nature of speech and how it used, for good or for evil, depends on “names and the connexion of them.” Consistency in the definitions of words is extremely important to Hobbes. About the necessity of definitions he says, Seeing that truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations, a man that seeketh precise truth had need to remember what every name he uses stands for, and to place it accordingly, or else he will find himself entangled in words, as a bird in lime twigs, the more he struggles the more belimed. And therefore in geometry, which is the only science that it hath pleased God hitherto to bestow on mankind, men begin at settling the significations of their words; which settling of significations they call definitions, and place them in the beginning of their reckoning.Hobbes believes this system of using universal definitions as the cornerstone of certainty is justifiable on the basis that geometry, God’s most venerated science as apparent in nature, is based on accepted definitions. Because everyone agreed on them, there is no room for conflict or dispute. In this assertion, Hobbes now partially fills the hole he left in his first section on the mechanics of the mind; it becomes clear that precise definitions of words are the foundations of the first principles of every thought process. This section on speech also gives rise to another important premise: truth is a social construction. Since definitions are the first principles of every thought process, and society not only establishes the definitions of words but also approves them as a group; therefore, conclusions are valid because society creates them. Hobbes also sees positive political ramifications in this method of establishing words as the foundation of reason. Because society approves the definitions as a unit, they are making governmental decisions together in a productive, peaceful manner. Thus, the prerequisite for common approval of words as the foundation of reason leads to civil peace and productivity. However, this conclusion leads to another hole in his argument: how to achieve social consent of the definitions. Because Hobbes believes knowledge cannot be found through an exploration of nature due to the fact that nature is perceived subjectively by each individual, Hobbes eventually comes to the conclusion that definitions must be established by an arbitrator who he identifies later in the book. The institution of an all-powerful judge who has complete control over the foundations of reason is an extreme proposition. This notion of power concentrated in a single person or group of people becomes a substantial part of Hobbes’ evaluation of society and politics. Reason Reason, one of man’s only abilities superior to animals, becomes another of Hobbes’ key investigations. According to Hobbes, “Reason…is nothing but reckoning, that is adding and subtracting, of the consequences of general names agreed upon for the marking and signifying of our thoughts.” Science is explored through reason; knowledge is acquired through science; truth is discovered through knowledge. In order to get to truth, one must perfectly engage reason to first obtain knowledge. Thus, the purpose for engaging reason is known: in pursuit of certainty. Reason, like science, is a geometric process. The use and end of reason, is not the finding of the sum and truth of one, or a few consequences, remote from the first definitions, and settled significations of names, but to begin at these, and proceed from one consequence to another. For there can be no certainty of the last conclusion, without a certainty of all those affirmations and negotiations, on which it was grounded and inferred. This process of geometrical reasoning with conclusions that have been deduced through a scientific process beginning at the foundation of reason, definition, and ending with a valid conclusion built on the conclusions established along the way. Hobbes arrives at Science through an intricate deductive, mathematical formula, By this it appears that reason is no, as sense and memory, born with us; nor gotten by experience only, as prudence is; but attained by industry; first in that apt imposing of names; and secondly by getting a good and orderly method in proceeding from the elements, which are names, to assertions made by connexions of one assertion to another, till we come to a knowledge of all the consequences of names appertaining to the subject in hand; and that is it, men call SCIENCE. By arriving at science through reason from firmly established definitions, Hobbes renders his philosophy incontestable. Since every step of his reasoning depends on the validity of the previous step, each step adds strength to his philosophy. Thus, once again, Hobbes proposes that this method of reasoning can lead only to civil peace since there will be no disputes. Since Hobbes’ greatest fear was civil war and political turmoil, this system of reason seemed the perfect remedy for a stable society completely dependent on social consent. However, as each of his arguments has the tendency to do, this argument contains a hole: the notion of an omnipotent judge as the supreme authority on the definitions of words, the foundations for reason and everything constructed upon reason, hints at totalitarianism and takes away from the autocratic, self-imposed government Hobbes previously hinted at. It also detracts from the humanism of all people; they have no control over the foundation of their thought process. As theologians point to God as the cornerstone of reason and knowledge, Hobbes points to this tenuous supreme governing authority. Nature of Human BehaviorNext, Hobbes explores human nature from a psychological perspective. He evaluates the internal drives of humans, the consequences of these drives, the resulting characteristics of humans from the consequences of these drives, and the implications these characteristics have on society as a whole. Hobbes begins this examination with an evaluation of the origin of motion in living organisms; he starts with a focus on animals. According to Hobbes, there are two types of motion in an animal: vital and voluntary. Vital motion involves uncontrollable biological functions such as blood circulation, gas exchange, digestion, etc. Voluntary motions include deliberate actions that the animal is aware of such as walking, eating, drinking, talking, fighting, etc. Hobbes refers to these conscious but habitual motions as “endeavors.” Hobbes’ purpose in this section is to determine the factors that drive these endeavors. “This endeavor, when it is toward something which causes it, is called Appetite, or Desire; …And when the endeavor is fromward something, it is generally called Aversion.” As in the argument on Mechanics of the Mind, appetites and aversions are products of material stimuli that come into contact with sensory apparatuses that transfer the motion of that collision into understandings and trains of thought. The train of thought that moves into appetite or aversion is precipitated by material kinetics of the external world when they come into contact with human bodies. Therefore, human nature is directly related to and dependent upon the eternally unremitting motion of the external world. Next in his process of reasoning, Hobbes further breaks down appetites and aversions into two categories: those “born within men” and those “proceeding from experience. ” Appetites and aversions born within men come from something “they feel in their bodies” such as “appetite of food, appetite of excretion, and exoneration.” Appetites and aversions proceeding from experience are a result of the consequences of the “trial of their efforts upon themselves or other men.” It is these appetites and aversions proceeding from experience, about which “we know not all, or believe not to be, we can have no further desire than to taste and try. But aversion we have for things, not only which we know have hurt us, but also that we do not know whether they will hurt us, or not.” Out of these relative unknowns come “passions.” Hobbes lists an extensive array of various “passions” such as cruelty, envy, kindness, natural lust, joy, and despair. He summarizes the consequences of these passions when he says, But whatsoever is the object of any man’s appetite 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. Out of these passions, man encounters a conflict: “when in the mind of a man, appetites, and aversions, hopes, and fears, concerning one and the same thing, arise alternately” man enters into what Hobbes calls “deliberation.” When a person deliberates on something, he or she enters into a train of thought with the object of judging something as good or evil and determining whether or not to action based on that judgment. The decision to take action or remain idle is called “will.” When a person delivers a final sentence of his or her judgment in a speech, it has the potential of resulting in science. When the discourse is put into speech, and begins with the definitions of words, and proceeds by connexion of the same into general affirmations, and of these again into syllogisms; the end or last sum is called the conclusion; and the thought of the mind by it signified, is that conditional knowledge, or knowledge of the consequence of words, which is commonly called science. He then warns that if the first principle of the reasoning is not by definitions then the conclusion is called “opinion” and is not considered scientific. Also, when reasoning begins with a person’s original definitions it is still not science. But if the person truly believes in the first principles it is called “belief” and “faith.” Belief is conviction in the person, and faith is in the truth of his message. Through this argument, Hobbes establishes that all knowledge, no matter how truthful in nature, is conditional if the foundations are not established in definitions agreed upon by all or established by the judge. Once again, Hobbes is proving the credibility of his method of reason; he rules out every other type of knowledge and path to truth except for his. His deductive systematic approach to reason is the only infallible way to attain actual knowledge and truth. Power & FearAside from a pursuit of knowledge and truth, Hobbes concludes that appetite and aversion have other, more significant consequences on human psychology and subsequent behavior. The strongest appetite of man is the appetite for power. Hobbes argues that pursuit of knowledge, pursuit of honor, and pursuit of wealth all collapse into the overpowering appetite for power. Hobbes divides power into two categories: natural and instrumental. Natural power is “the eminence of faculties of body, or mind: as extraordinary strength, form, prudence, arts, eloquence, liberality, nobility.” Instrumental powers are acquired power either through effective use of natural powers or through inherited fortune. These powers “are means and instruments to acquire more: as riches, reputation, friends, and the secret working of God, which men call good luck.” Hobbes asserts that the appetite for power through any means necessary is human nature and a practically irrepressible desire. His conclusion on power states, “So that in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.” The competition to accumulate the most power results in extreme means employed by humans. The behavioral consequence of this desperation results in fear. Fear is the antithesis to the appetite for power. Fear is the ultimate aversion. Fear of others’ powers is the only antidote to the appetite for power.Fear of death, and wounds, disposeth to the same: not for the same reason. On the contrary, needy men, and hardy, not contented with their present condition; as also, all men that are ambitious of military command, are inclined to continue the cause of war; and to stir up trouble and sedition: for there is no honour military but by war; nor any such hope to mend an ill game, as by causing a new shuffle. Hobbes concludes that appetite for power is the ultimate cause of civil disorder and the only solution to the problem is an appropriate implementation of fear. The constant struggle between fear and power causes men to want to escape their current predicament. According to Hobbes because appetites and aversion are part of human nature, they are inescapable, and thus, the people are trapped in a perpetual conflict between competition for power, fear of those in power, fear of those who want to steal your power, and fear of death by power-hungry men unregulated by governmentally instituted consequences to such action. Because appetite and aversion are mechanical components of human nature, and because resources for self-defense and power usurpation are limited, the natural result is violent war. Hobbes final point in this segment is that while people may differ in their natural powers, they each share one absolute power: the power to kill. Nature hath made men so equal, in the faculties of the body, and the mind; as that though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind than another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man and man, is not so considerable, as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit, to which another may not pretend, as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger within himself. The consequence of this equality is diffidence of one another among humans. They become skeptical of each other. Their ultimate endeavor becomes to destroy. Historian M.M. Goldsmith explains this dangerous, unstoppable continuance of motion, The consequence of natural equality is an equal hope in each man to attain his ends. Since desire in any man is in principle unlimited (even thought it need not be unlimited in fact) and since all men have equal hopes to attain their ends, whenever two men happen to desire the same thing that cannot both enjoy, they become enemies. In their competition to satisfy their desires, they endeavor to destroy or subdue each other. Hobbes states that when the only fear a man has is fear of another man’s power, he has nothing to lose in his attempt to rob him of that power by whatever means necessary. Diffidence eventually leads to war. And from this diffidence of one another, there is no way for any man to secure himself, so reasonable, as anticipation; that is, by force, or wiles, to master the persons of all men he can, so long, till he see no other power great enough to endanger him: and this is no more than his own conservation requireth, and is generally allowed. This inevitable state of war driven by the conflict between appetite and aversion of power and fear respectively describes what Hobbes calls the “State of Nature. It is important at this point in the treatise to reiterate Hobbes’ systematically deductive method of reasoning within his own text. The “State of Nature” or state of perpetual war and competition arises out of insatiable appetite for power and irrepressible aversion from fear of those in power. State of NatureAccording to Hobbes, the “state of nature” is natural condition of humans prior to organized society and government. Hobbes’ depiction of humans in this state is a rather pessimistic one; he depicts them as ruthless warriors independent of a cause or affiliation other than their own personal strive for power. During the time, men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in a condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man…. In such a condition, there is no place for industry…no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation… no Commodious Building; no instruments of moving…no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continual feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short. While Hobbes’ “state of Nature” is fictional, there are elements of it in real life. Civil War is a prime example of “State of Nature,” as is violent crime, and the imperialistic actions of super-states preying on the vulnerability of weaker states for their resources or other benefits. The only way out of the horrific state of nature is through two passions inherent in every man: fear and reason. Fear of oppression and of the power of others drives men to look for escape out of their hellish reality. Hobbes’ method of reason provides the fearful man with the means to find a way to escape. Again, Hobbes’ conclusions are open-ended. There always seems to be a loophole out of every definitive conclusion that leads directly into his next argument. Once the fearful man employs reason to escape the “State of Nature,” he must then employ reason once again to establish a reasonable foundation for peace. Hobbes’ next segment is on how that peace might be established and maintained. Natural LawHobbes explains the Laws of Nature as a “precept or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to 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.” Laws of Nature are different than laws created and enforced by governments; they needn’t be published and distributed. Laws of Nature are inherent in every human because they can be deduced through Hobbes’ process of reason. According to Goldsmith, “the laws of nature are a formulation of the best means to the end of each man who desires to preserve himself. They are not categorical imperatives but hypothetical imperatives: if you wish to preserve yourself, do this.” Hobbes’ presentation of the Laws of Nature in this way promote his method even further; he has given the fearful man an object, and if the man wants this object he has no other choice but to employ his method of reason. The fundamental Law of Nature comes from the fearful man in the “State of Nature” and his absolute and solitary desire to obtain and maintain peace. “Every man, ought to endeavour peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of warre.” The fundamental Law of Nature is to seek peace because the search for peace is ultimately the pursuit of self-preservation, our fundamental natural right as a human being. The second Law of Nature suggests that all humans must commit to certain mutual rights in order to escape state of perpetual war. An example of these mutual rights might be “if you won’t kill me, I won’t kill you.” This abidance of a mutual right is in effect, a contract. The contract serves as the moral basis for the rest of the Laws of Nature. Because the contract is for self-preservation and survival, it will work. The third Law of Nature is that “men perform their covenants made” because if every aspect of the covenant is not upheld, the covenant is meaningless and the fearful men have no escaped the state of war. The fourth Law is based on gratitude; it proposes that men show gratitude to those that uphold the contract in order to uphold its strength. The fifth Law states that men should be cooperative with one another; they should not squabble over minor issues. The sixth Law asserts that those in accordance with the contract should pardon offenders; if resentment or malice is harbored, men are driven towards deliberation and action on those feeling of ill will, which could easily jeopardize the peace in the community. “Pardon is giving peace; if we refuse to grant peace to those who want peace (the repentant) when we are secured (by taking caution), then we must be prolonging a war when this is no longer necessary.” The seventh Law states that criminals should be punished with appropriate punishment that matches the nature of their crime. The eighth Law proposes that no men should outwardly declare hate or ill will on another man. Again, this would weaken peace under the contract under the premise that men would become skeptical of each other. The ninth Law denounces Pride. “The question of who is the better man, has no place in the condition of mere nature; where, as has been shewn before, all men are equal.” Peace is based on equality and social consent; if a man has an over-inflated perception of himself, he must also secretly desire power on the basis that he feels superior. The tenth Law prohibits arrogance for essentially the same reason the ninth Law prohibits Pride. The eleventh Law promotes equity in judgment of others and demands impartiality in situations in which punishment may be required. The twelfth Law prescribes, “equal use of things common.” Therefore, one man does not have greater or superior resources than another man and thus, he is not at advantage to usurp power. The thirteenth Law declares that resources that cannot be shared should be awarded through a lottery so no person gets honor or credit for owning those resources. The fourteenth Law prescribes two ways in which lots may be acquired: through natural inheritance or through arbitrary, random determination. The fifteenth Law suggests that any many who promotes peace should be protected. The sixteenth Law declares citizens under the contract are subject to the arbitirement of the judge of definitions elected by social consent. The seventeenth Law states that no man is allowed to be his own judge because matters of discipline and regulation must be impartial in order to maintain peace. The eighteenth Law states that no man who has any reason or indication of partiality is allowed to judge. Finally, the nineteenth law states that every man has the right to a trial with witnesses and evidence to promote a fair trial with little dispute on the sentencing. The Laws of Nature are designed and implemented to ensure peace within the society. They are fair in nature because they are accessible by reason that everyone has, and in equal amount. The Laws are equally applicable to everyone in society except for the arbitrator who is exempt; however, the members who elect the arbitrator are aware of this and thus, do not object. Goldsmith suggests that Laws of Nature are only effective when, The actor (a) knows the laws of nature, i.e., he is rational and has discovered them, and (b) feels he is secure in following them i.e., he feels bound to follow them in this case. This is such a precarious situation that Hobbes thought it necessary that men create a situation in which no one can reasonably claim to be insecure, and everyone has a will to keep the laws because: (a) they are promulgated to all by their senses—they do not have to reason them out; and (b) private assessment of the situation is limited—a visible source of laws and punishments is established so that the men’s wills can be influenced by a visible human power. What is necessary is not that all men should hold the same values and have the same purposes, but that, whatever their values and their purposes, they should all be subject to the same law, a human law known to all (because publicly promulgated), and effective (because publicly enforced by human authority). The next step from here, according to Goldsmith, and the logic of reasoning, is the construction of a social order. Following his explanation of the Laws of Nature, Hobbes does actually create a rather elaborate blueprint for an idea, functioning government in which a central authority called the “sovereign” holds nearly all legislative, judicial, and executive power. While his influence on modern political and social philosophy is enormous, it has little to do with the success or practicality of the provisions outlined in Leviathan. Leviathan is clearly written out of fears resulting from the context of the times; the political persecutions and fragmentation, the social upheaval, and the economic instability struck fear in every British citizen’s heart. Hobbes’ heart was apparently much weaker than his cohorts. In the face of potential persecution, he fled to another nation to complete his work. However, Hobbes actions coincide with his political philosophies if applied to real life. Appetite for power and glory fueled the political turmoil between Parliament and King Charles I. Parliament employed whatever means necessary (execution) to subdue its competition. In the midst of the struggle for power, Hobbes, a fearful individual with no power or strength to combat Parliament, fled the “State of Nature” apparent in the power struggle of Civil War. Fear drove him to escape, and Reason (or his revolutionary ideas and insightful philosophies) showed him how to escape. He escaped persecution for his beliefs by moving to a country with a monarch at the head of government. Since Hobbes was a Royalist, his loyalties were welcome there, and he would be safe from the turmoil in his homeland. The concept of a “State of Nature” is fundamentally impractical. Certainly the Laws of Nature are good in intention, as they closely resemble the golden rule and commandments of Christianity and other religions, but the assumption that all men would cooperate under this intangible contract was absurd. If Hobbes meant for his readers to read the “State of Nature” as a metaphor or allegory, it is more feasible; however, this literary device defies his own laws against the use of speech and rhetoric regarding metaphors. For example, if his readers examined the political turmoil in Britain as a parallel to the “State of Nature,” their grasp on the actual desperation of the situation and the immediate danger they were actually in might be slightly exaggerated. Overall, Hobbes’ resolutions for the problems in his society were weak but his rhetorical style, unique approach to studying society and politics, and his unprecedented integration of deductive geometric reasoning to the pursuit of knowledge earned him enough credibility as a philosopher to outweigh his failures. His abstract analysis of human nature, human behavior, and his studies of society and politics from a psychological or sociological perspective were extremely insightful. His mathematical approach to reasoning actually does make quite a bit of sense. He, along with a few of his contemporaries, overturned the previous system of thinking based on Aristotelian inductive reasoning. Hobbes changed the way people think, analyze, search for truth, and address problems. His overly pessimistic view of human kind and anti-humanistic propositions for new government detracted from his overall ability to present meaningful conclusions to his stated problems. However, philosophers in the near future, such as Enlightenment philosophers, learned from his mistakes and altered the perception of human nature so that analysis and solutions to problems would be more practical. Hobbes’ influence on Western Thought is everlasting. I find it somewhat ironic that as I am concluding my own paper, I realize that the origin of my thought processes and deductive method of reasoning can be attributed to the philosopher I am actually trying to apply reason to. Works Cited1. Goldsmith, M.M. Hobbes Science of Politics. 2. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. 3. British Civil Wars http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/timelines/index.htm4. Diamond, Peter D. “The History of Political Liberty. From the 17th and 18th Centuries to the Present Day.” Humanists of Utah: 1993. http://humanistsofutah.org/1993/genjun1993.html5. English Civil Wars: 1640-146; 1647-1649; 1649-1651. http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/timelines/index.htm
Lock, Hobbes, and the Federalist Papers
The Federalist Papers, written by Jay, Madison, and Hamilton, were laid out in order to convince the individual states to ratify the new U.S. Constitution and defend a central government. Many times the words of these Founding Fathers echoed those of 17th century authors Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Federalist #10, #51, and #78, all bear resemblance to either or both of these philosophers, especially Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Hobbes’ Leviathan. Many of the essays found in the Federalist Papers are in one way or another based on these two gentlemen, and specifically these two works. In Federalist #10, James Madison addresses the problem of factions, and the problematic inability to dissolve these factions. He writes that factions are impossible to dissolve without taking away liberty, thus the best course of action is to take power away from the factions and attempt to control them. This is very similar to Hobbes’ view of the “state of nature”. According to Madison, a society with unchecked factions is likely to run rampant and wild, such as that described in Leviathan. Madison argues that factions exist to join people with similar passions or ideas and allows them to fight against what they consider wrong. Naturally, this causes animosity and warring between groups, because, according to Hobbes, “If any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in their way to the End, endeavor to destroy, or subdue one an other.” However, the liberty that allows these factions to exist cannot be taken away. Locke grants all the “natural rights” of “life, health, liberty, and possessions”, something which Madison agrees with and defends. The question arises of how to control these factions while still allowing them to have these “natural rights”. Madison’s answer, which resembles Locke, is to have a representative government. A government who gets its power from those it leads. Madison also argues that this government must be made up of a large number of people, so that it is “less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens.” Ideally, this representation of people will be prohibitive to Hobbes’ constant state of war and violence. Both Madison’s Federalist #10 and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government agree that in the natural state, factions or groups will emerge against one another, and the best way to control these groups is through a representative governing body, made up of enough people to remain impartial, so that any one faction cannot rise up and gain authoritarian power. Federalist #51 discusses the need for power to be separated amongst various branches of the government, so that one single group cannot rise up and gain total control. Madison states that by “so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.” Similarly, as Locke suggests, the government will only have the powers that the people give it. Should the government overstep its bounds and infringe on the natural rights of man, Locke gives the people the right to revolt, because the government has breached a social contract. By spreading the power out and only allowing the government to control that which it is given by the people, the possibility that one group will rise up is eliminated. Federalist #78, written by Alexander Hamilton, discusses the role of the judiciary and the need for a judiciary separated from the executive and legislative branches. Locke supports the development of a judicial branch. In his words, “Those who are united into one body, and have a common established law and judicature to appeal to, with authority to decide controversies between them, and punish offenders, are in civil society one with another: but those who have no such common appeal, I mean on earth, are still in the state of nature, each being, where there is no other, judge for himself, and executioner; which is, as I have before shewed it, the perfect state of nature.” Forming a judicial branch furthers the development of a “civil society” and takes people away from the “state of nature”. Hamilton also views the judicial branch as relatively harmless. He states the judicial branch is the least powerful because it cannot “attack with success either of the other two.” Hamilton proposes that the judicial branch will be the foundation of a limited Constitution. The courts can determine legislation as well as the acts of the executive branch to be unconstitutional, and therefore check the other two branches. This proposition would fall in line with Locke’s philosophy of keeping power spread thin in order to limit the influence of factions. Hobbes on the other hand would be less likely to support having a separate judicial branch. Hobbes declares “He therefore that is partial in judgement, doth what in him lies to deter men from the use of judges and arbitrators, and consequently, against the fundamental law of nature, is the cause of war.” Since the nature of man is greedy, selfish, and cruel, having an impartial judge becomes nearly nonexistent. However, this argument is defeated by Locke, whose separated powers prevents partial judgment. Throughout each of these three essays from The Federalist Papers, Hobbes and Locke’s influence is seen time and again. Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, took the different views of the state of nature and found ways to improve Hobbes’ “poor, nasty, brutish, and short” life, by incorporating some of Locke’s ideas to eliminate the state of nature. By limiting factions, spreading out power, and creating a separate judicial system, the Founding Fathers created a government that gains its power from those it governs and a government, as Locke says, that can govern itself first.
Melville’s Political Thought in “Moby-Dick”
Melville’s Political Thought in Moby-Dick Herman Melville was heavily influenced by the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Because Rousseau died in 1778, 41 years prior to Melville’s birth, Melville had access to all of Rousseau’s writings. Rousseau’s political philosophy evolved as he grew older and there is evidence of a tension in Moby-Dick between the earlier and the later philosophy. Rousseau’s early work discusses the ideal of the noble savage, which is epitomized by Queequeg. His later works, in particular the Social Contract, espouse the belief that all people must band together for the common good; this idea appears upon the Pequod as crew members must abandon differences such as race in order to ensure their own safety. While Melville is always vacillating between the two dominant theories of Rousseau’s philosophy, in the end, he seems to choose the latter. Queequeg, who epitomizes the ideal of the noble savage, and Ahab, who represents a savage in the state of war, both die. The character that portrays his early philosophy as well as the character that impedes upon his later philosophy are both killed. It is only Ishmael who survives; it is only Ishmael who unfailingly upholds the Rousseauean social contract. Melville was heavily indebted to arguably the three most influential 17th and 18th century philosophers: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. While Melville relied mainly on Rousseau, Rousseau was himself very reliant on Hobbes and Locke. In his early philosophy, Rousseau discarded the idea of original sin and believed that all people are born completely pure and free of sin. This was informed by Locke’s idea of the tabula rasa, which is simply a Latin phrase meaning “blank slate.” Rousseau took this idea to mean that one cannot come into the world with any prejudices or evil tendencies. In Ãmile, he writes, “Let us lay down as an incontestable maxim that the first movements of nature are always right: there is no original wickedness in the human heart. Not a single vice is to be found there which one cannot say how and where it entered” (Cook 1). Because humans must be inherently good, the corruption that is evident in the world must come from somewhere; Rousseau believed that society, education, and government were all corrupting forces. He explains in Fragments of Freedom that One of the greatest chimeras of philosophy is having to seek some form of Government in which the citizens can be free and virtuous by the force of the laws alone. It is only in the solitary life that freedom and innocence can be found, and we can be certain that the epoch of the first establishment of societies was that of the birth of crime and slavery. (Rousseau 12)It should be noted that he believes perfection only to be possible in the “solitary life,” as this will become important in developing his later ideas. Strife and corruption occur when there is an imbalance between desires and the ability to satisfy those desires (Cook 21). Society, government, and education were seen as causing, exaggerating, and exacerbating the imbalances between people’s desires and their ability to satiate their desires by giving them an increase of knowledge without an increase of power. Rousseau’s later philosophy was influenced by the work of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes believed that people are driven solely by self-interest and selfish pursuits. In his work Leviathan, Hobbes states: “it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.” Unless people give up certain rights to a governmental power, they have the ability to do whatsoever they please without fear of governmental repercussions. However, people become so protective of their rights without regard to the rights of others that every person is at war with everyone else. This is where Rousseau “set out in the Social Contract to reconcile [self] interest with freedom and common good” (McKenzie 209-210). By having people surrender certain rights and freedoms, they can all be better off. People will work to create a better society because it is in their best interest to do so. Also, people will only surrender their rights if there is a guarantee of protection, which usually takes the form of government. It should be remembered that Rousseau never abandons his ideal of the man in the state of nature; he realizes that the ideal can only exist in isolation. Since humans do not, by nature, live in isolation, they must work together, even if it is only for their own protection. The character that most clearly exemplifies Rousseau’s early philosophy in Moby-Dick is Queequeg. While other characters, such as Daggoo, Tashtego, Pip, and Fleece, also come close to typifying Rousseau ideals, none are as indicative of them as Queequeg. One of the ways in which Melville shows the nobility of the savages is through the juxtaposition of Christian-like and non-Christian characters. The term Christian-like is used because not all of the crew or background characters are necessarily Christian. They do, however, live in a predominantly Christian society and have been influenced by a supposedly Christian morality. While the Pequod has representatives of nations from around the globe, most of the Caucasian characters are from traditionally Christian countries, such as America and Spain. Because of this, they necessarily have been subjected to the morals and mores of their societies. Thus, they can be seen are representatives of Christian morality. The behavior exhibited by each of the groups rarely meets the expectations placed on them. Christianity, although its teachings are very peaceable in theory, is not the most peaceful religion in practice. However, one still expects Christians to act in a manner that is in accordance with their own professed beliefs. On the other hand, idol worshippers, such as Queequeg, are expected to be inherently vicious and carnal people to whom the concepts of compassion and mercy are completely foreign. In the novel, this is in direct opposition to the actions of the characters. For example, on the ship the Moss, which was taking Quequeeg and Ishmael to Nantucket, a young man was mimicking and making fun of Quequeeg behind his back. The young man “marvelled that two fellow beings should be so companionable; as though a white man were anything more dignified than a whitewashed negro” (Melville 76). Queequeg, realizing this, threw him in the air. He set him right again and did not give him another thought (76). This scene tells a lot about Queequeg and the westerners in this novel, most of whom have a tendency to speak before they think. The young man here is similar in many ways to most of the westerners in the novel. This scene foreshadows a more intense one between Daggoo and the Spanish sailor. He verbally attacks Queequeg unprovoked. Then, when Quequeeg gains the upper hand, he runs away to the captain. There is very little brave or noble about him. When Ishmael explains that the captain thinks that he meant to kill the young man, Queequeg scoffs and says “him bevy small-e fish-e; Queequeg no kill-e so small-e fish-e; Queequeg kill-e big whale” (76-77)! Having said that, not killing the young man shows that Queequeg does not hold a grudge and that he is capable of forgiveness, neither of which can be said about most westerners in the novel. It also introduces a theme that will be present throughout the novel – that is that people are conscious of their own inherent dignity and humanity, and they will respond when that dignity is encroached upon. While this is not necessarily a point taken directly from Rousseau, it derives from his political philosophy in that it speaks of the inherent nobility of the savages. Immediately following this scene, the main-sail breaks loose and knocks the young man overboard. Queequeg, after securing the main-sail, jumps overboard as well, recklessly ignoring the possible consequences to himself, and proceeds to save the young man. He does not think that he deservs any special merit for the saving of another life – a life that had moments ago insulted his own; all he asks for is some fresh water to clean himself off with. He lived the unspoken philosophy that, “we cannibals must help these Christians” (78). In just a few pages, Melville gives a sketch of Rousseau’s ideal. Queequeg is shown to be self-sacrificing, and he does what is right simply because it is right, as opposed to doing it for material or political gain. He is also ignorant, a positive trait from the point of view of Rousseau’s philosophy. Queequeg has a complete lack of scholastic knowledge; he knows enough to live without possessing unnecessary knowledge that would result in his having desires beyond his means of attainment. While it is an anthropological error to judge another culture by one’s own standards, this does not mean that it does not occur. On the social microcosm that is the Pequod, the savages are forced to keep company with a fairly homogenous, mostly western society. The westerners, even Ishmael, have a sense of their own superiority when they are exposed to the ignorance of the savages. For example, Queequeg related to Ishmael the story of the first time that he saw a wheelbarrow. Not wanting to appear ignorant, he lifted up the wheelbarrow and carried it. Ishmael responds, “Didn’t the people laugh” (74)? This shows that even Ishmael still retains some prejudices, even if they were unconscious. This example does not redound to any superiority on the part of the Christians. It actually works towards equality. Using another anecdote, Queequeg proves that the Christians would be just as out of place in his kingdom as he is in their realm. It is the story of a sea captain who unwittingly washes his hands in the punch at the wedding of Queequeg’s sister. Ishmael, in Rokovoko, would be no more or less out of place than Queequeg is in Nantucket. One’s being different is not an attribute that can be used as a value judgment. This is forward thinking on the part of Melville. Also, Queequeg is of royal blood. By having the heir apparent and last of a royal bloodline die, Melville could be expressing his preference for governments in which the power is not passed down through bloodlines. If Melville believes that all men are equal partners in the social contract then it would make sense that he would prefer a republic over a monarchy. In an ideal republic, all men have an opportunity, even a duty, to contribute to the well-being of all. In a monarchy, one family, one bloodline, is elevated beyond everyone else. In the ideal, one family or even one person has the burden of maintaining the well-being of an entire people while that very same people is excluded from the political process. Because of the absolute investment of power in a central body, corruption and tyranny can easily develop, while in the republic the power is dispersed among a larger number of people and leaves a smaller chance for oppression. It is not only the standards of American and Christian society that are placed on the savages, but their morality as well. Queequeg, who is the son of a king, came to Christian lands to learn how to make his people better and happier than they were. Upon arriving, though, he realized that Christians could be “miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father’s heathens” (72). The only reason that Queequeg does not return to his home is that Christianity has actually degraded him and he does not want to defile the pure throne of thirty pagan kings by having been so long in the company of Christians. As is evident during the scene at the Spouter Inn, Queequeg has been slightly civilized by living so long in the company of westerners. He has become civilized enough to be self-conscious, but still too much of a savage to know what to be self-conscious of. He gets undressed in front of Ishmael, but has to put his boots on under the bed. Society is acting as a corrupting influence on him. While he resists the corruption more than anyone else in the novel, it does not avail him. He dies. His death is equivalent to Melville’s resigning himself to the impossibility of human perfection in its current state. Rousseau necessarily came to the same conclusion since he went on to develop his philosophy further in the Social Contract. Man, because he is a social being by nature, cannot revert back to the solitary state of nature. Because of this, man is inherently incapable of being perfected After Melville gives up the pursuit of man’s perfection, he subscribes to Rousseau’s later philosophy. This is not, however, immediately apparent at any one point in the text. Melville is struggling with and vacillating between the two ideologies throughout the novel. It is only in the epilogue that it becomes clear that he has chosen the Social Contract over the idea of noble savage. One of the first key scenes in which the ideas of the Social Contract are identifiable is in Chapter LXXII. The belief that all people are dependant on each other is demonstrated in this chapter. It is shown that they are dependent on one another because they have surrendered their natural freedoms for their mutual survival. Queequeg has to descend onto the whale’s back. There is only a small portion of the whale above water, and he must manage to stay balanced on the whale and not fall into the shark-infested water or hit the ship a few feet away. To try and secure Queequeg, a monkey-rope is tied between him and Ishmael. That their fates are joined as one symbolizes how all people are dependent on each other (Grejda 97). Ishmael comes to a similar conclusion when he realizes that his fate is inexorably tied to that of Queequeg. He sees that no matter how careful he may be, a mistake made by Queequeg could result in his death. He follows the logical procession of this line of thought to its inevitable end: everyone is dependent on everyone else even if they are unconscious of that dependence (337). Ishmael is a perfect example of Rousseau’s philosophy. He shows that for the necessities of life, people are completely subject to the actions of others. One person’s mistake often influences more than himself. Also, Ishmael shows that humans can never be perfected. Near the end of his discourse, he seems to state that while a person may escape being influenced by the actions of others, one cannot escape them all. Humans are inherently social, but humanity never has and never can exist in a state where circumstances would allow for its perfectibility. If Queequeg is the personification of Rousseau’s idea of man in his natural state, then Ahab is the epitome of Thomas Hobbes’s. All of the men of the Pequod have entered into a contract, both literally and figuratively. They have surrendered their natural rights to Ahab, who is the common power that holds them in awe, for their protection. According to this social contract, Ahab has power over them so long as he uses his power for their benefit and protection. In his monomaniacal pursuit of Moby-Dick, Ahab has reverted back to the state of nature. The state of nature in the midst of society creates a state of war. Unbeknownst to the crew, with the exception of Starbuck, there is a state of war between the members of the crew, who are still participating in the social contract, and Ahab, who is not, because Ahab is only concerned with his natural rights to do as he chooses. He breaches the contract because he subjects the crew to his will for his own purposes as opposed to for their benefit. Starbuck is not the new ideal, but he comes more closely to it than anyone else in the novel. He picked up Ahab’s musket while Ahab was sleeping, decided that it was the best course of action because he would be saving so many lives, then he decided against killing his captain in cold-blood. He subjects his actions to the totalitarian will of Ahab (Melville 527-529). Starbuck would have been the ideal if he had had the power of Ahab. Without power, Starbuck’s righteousness is as useless as Queegqueg’s nobility – neither can prevent his inevitable demise. Also, if Starbuck had possessed the power to begin with, there would not have been the same opportunity for him to show his lack of resolve and ability to protect both himself and his fellow crewmen. As first mate, Starbuck is almost as responsible for the protection of the crew as Ahab. While his failure is not as overt as Ahab’s, it is still a failure. He cannot be the complete ideal because he did not fulfill his part of the social contract. In the epilogue, it is revealed that Ishmael is the only survivor of the sinking of the Peqoud. There is a twofold reason for Ishmael’s survival. Besides the obvious reason that someone must live for the story to be told, it shows the ultimate triumph of Rousseau’s later philosophy for Melville. Ishmael is the only true portrayal of the idea of the social contract. While it may be true that the savages contributed most to the society of the Pequod, they still represented Rousseau’s early philosophy for Melville. Starbuck came close to being the ideal, but he betrayed that ideal by consciously allowing the crew to perish in Ahab’s pursuit of the whale. Ishmael represents the idea of the social contract for several reasons. First, he understands it and is able to explicate it to a degree, as is evident in Chapter LXXII. Second, he does what he can and works for the protection of everyone. He does whatever is commanded of him by the higher power, which is in this case Ahab, often by way of Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask. This is a requirement of the social contract. If one’s rights are surrendered to a governmental authority, that authority now has those rights over its citizens and can force them to conform to its will for the protection of the whole. While the tasks that are given to him may seem trivial or menial at times, they are nonetheless tasks that must get done for the ship to operate smoothly and safely. Third, he recognizes, as the book goes on, that all people are equal. In the state of nature, they are inherently equal, as Hobbes says in the opening lines of Leviathan: Nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and m an is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he (Hobbes).If they are equal in nature, they must still be equal when they enter into a contract together. Ishmael undoubtedly has flaws – he is not an ideal and does not claim to be. However, he consistently does the best that he is able, is concerned about the welfare of his fellow beings, sees past racial lines, and remains unhypocritical. Ishmael grows and develops more than any other character in the novel, and yet the positive traits above remain with him at the end of the novel. He is still a flawed character, but he has worked through many of his flaws by the conclusion of the novel. No other character possesses all of the positive traits that Ishmael does. In short, Melville was struggling between two different philosophical ideas espoused by Rousseau at different points in his life. The novel shows a definite tension between the two ideas, both of which find expression at various points during the novel. The end shows that Melville finally chose the later of Rousseau’s ideas, which were developed in the Social Contract. This shows that all of society must live and work together for their own protection from each other. Queequeg’s death proves that Melville has abandoned the early philosophical idea of the noble savage; he has done so because of the nature of humanity, which prevents it from ever reaching that ideal state. Likewise, Ishmael’s survival shows the triumph and ultimate possibility of the social contract. The only reason that the social contract failed is because Ahab, who had the most important role in the contract, violated it. Violation and manipulation of the social contract can have disastrous consequences. Ahab’s breach of the contract is that which directly results in the death of the crew that he was supposed to have been working to protect. This is evidence that Melville realized that the social contract is possible, but it is only possible if all of its member adhere to the standards of that contract.Works CitedCook, Terrence E. “Rousseau: Education and Politics.” Journal of Politics 37 (1975): 108-129. 17 Oct. 2005. Grejda, Edward S. The Common Continent of Men. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat P, 1974.Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Oregon State University. 1 Nov. 2005 http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes /leviathanc.html#CHAPTER%20XIII>.McKenzie, Lionel A. “Rousseau’s Debate with Machiavelli in the Social Contract.” Journal of the History of Ideas 43 (1982): 209-210. 1 Nov. 2005
Social Fragmentation in the Leviathan: A Critique of Hobbes
Hobbes begins Leviathan, a primarily political work, with a description of man, whom he sees as an isolated unit, a mechanical automaton whose only connection to the outside world is through the senses. Even his thoughts are determined by external objects whose effect is translated by sensation, “for there is no conception in a manÃ¢s mind, which hath not at first, totally, or by parts, been begotten upon the organs of sense” . His view of men is similar to EpicurusÃ¢ conception of atoms, a theory in which the universe consists of indivisible, eternal particles whose endless collisions affect our senses and allow us to understand the world around us. Hobbes interprets this condition, the state of nature, as one of fear and uncertainty. There are no absolute moral standards because each person experiences the world differently, finds pleasure in different things, and judges them accordingly. Hobbes assumes that the reader will be convinced by his description of human nature; he challenges him to read his portrayal of mankind and “consider if he also find not the same in himself” . However, it is unavoidable that the authorÃ¢s ideas are fundamentally influenced by his own particular experiences. If human beings only arrive at understanding through sense and experience, then different conditions should require a different understanding. According to his own logic, HobbesÃ¢ theories only apply to the specific situation in which he lived. Perhaps his observations and conclusions would have been very different if he had lived in an era of peace and stability, rather than in the midst of a chaotic civil war.HobbesÃ¢ understanding of interactions between individuals is predicated on the assumption of complete self-interest. Above all else, men are concerned with their own preservation, and they enjoy dominion over others. He claims “men have no pleasure, (but on the contrary a great deal of grief) in keeping company, where there is no power able to over-awe them all” . Furthermore, there is no obligation, thus no inclination, to respect the rights of others in the absence of a higher authority to enforce the law, since “in such a condition every man has a right to every thing; even to one anotherÃ¢s body” . For Hobbes, right, wrong, and a sense of responsibility to others do not exist until the establishment of a contract. However, not everyone would agree that human nature is really so misanthropic. Within families, for example, individuals clearly do not behave as atomized units; each member is instinctively committed to the security of the others. Seeing that it is nearly impossible to survive, much less enjoy life alone, many would argue that compassion and concern in the welfare of others is as intrinsic a part of human nature as is the drive for self-preservation.At the same time, Hobbes claims that men are equal because of their similar passions and faculties. His proof that they are equally wise, for example, is that every man is satisfied with his own level of wisdom, which he defines as “not the reading of books, but of men” . However, the logic that supports this conclusion is unconvincing: “there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of any thing, than that every man is contented with his share” . It is just as likely that men are contented with what they possess when they are unable to compare it with what others have and cannot imagine having anything else. In any case, if men are equally wise, why should one man have dominion over others? ShouldnÃ¢t a leader with absolute power over his subjects have a superior understanding of men in order to properly represent them? The reader is thus left at a loss as to how the Leviathan deserves his authority.Hobbes tries to resolve this dilemma by claiming that the laws on which a civil society is based can only be understood with reason, a faculty that is “not born with us,” but rather “attained by industry” . For him, “a law of nature is a… general rule found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life” . It seems that such laws should be instinctive, or, according to HobbesÃ¢ logic, quickly discovered by experience. However, he supports his argument for an absolute leader who understands and enforces law and reason by declaring that “the laws of nature (as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and (in sum) doing to others, as we would be done to, of themselves, …are contrary to our natural passions” . Only with the faculty of reason can men understand the fundamental laws of nature, notably the directive to endeavor peace, which are otherwise unclear to them. Apparently, most men do not sufficiently develop their faculty of reason and are incapable of organizing themselves into a peaceful society without the constant threat of force, since they act according to their passions. However, it seems unlikely that a society could function only through the enlightened reasoning of an elite who can see the benefits of peace. A society that is kept in line through fear would quickly forget the conditions that led them to accept despotic rule in the first place, especially if they are forbidden to read history books. More plausibly, the whole of mankind feels naturally compelled to live together and maintain peace within a sustainable unit, at least.Even if the reader accepts HobbesÃ¢ conception of the state of nature, his description of a state organized around a Leviathan does not seem any less unattractive; he only offers the fear of punishment as a replacement for the fear of death. Hobbes himself says, “there are very few so foolish, that had not rather govern themselves, than be governed by others” . Fear of punishment is the only compelling force that makes contracts possible, thus allowing for the benefits of trade, commerce, and a comfortable, stable life. However, the absolute power of the Leviathan does not eliminate uncertainty; subjects are still vulnerable to the changing whims of the ruler. The only change is that uncertainty comes from one powerful source instead of the many weaker ones that constitute the state of nature. Moreover, the Leviathan will only enforce both ends of a contract when he chooses to do so. He may take no interest in a violation or could intervene on behalf of his own interests or those of a favorite subject. Not being bound by a contract himself, he can change the laws as he chooses. Locke justly criticizes this arrangement, stating, “much better it is in the state of nature, wherein men are not bound to submit to the unjust will of another…Ã¢? [Political Writings 268].HobbesÃ¢ description of the LeviathanÃ¢s rule is also inconsistent with his earlier statements. The rulerÃ¢s theoretical representation of all of his subjects seems impossible given the assumption of knowledge through sense experience. Though the people sacrifice their rights to him, there is no way that the Leviathan can have perfect knowledge of all of their opinions and wishes Ã¢” he may have none at all. If he is not accountable to the will of the people, how can he avoid ruling solely according to his own experience? In fact, the longer he rules, the more his experiences will be completely unlike those of his subjects. Eventually he would have a perspective that is completely cut off from theirs, since absolute power would eliminate the fear of external threat that would remain present in their lives.This dictator demands more than outward obedience from his subjects; he also requires the sacrifice of private property and even personal standards of morality. In a commonwealth, the subject has only the right to his life, since he has replaced his own will with the public one. Accordingly, Hobbes advocates strict censorship of the press, as well as books of history and literature in order to suppress the “seditious doctrines that lead to rebellion” . Subjects give up their freedom of thought in order to preserve the strength of the commonwealth, and they must accept that “the measure of good and evil actions is the civil law; and the judge the legislator, who is always the representative of the commonwealth” . Only the Leviathan can act according to the dictates of his own conscience. In this argument, Hobbes shows that he is undeniably a materialist. He is satisfied that a comfortable life is enough persuasion to justify surrendering the kind of individuality that Locke and most Americans today value so highly.Hobbes begins from such a pessimistic and chaotic view of man that it seems impossible to create any kind of order from his state of nature. How could one ruler subdue the varied and completely self-centered interests of an entire nation? The brutish man that Hobbes describes seems incapable of living in organized society, whereas the enlightened reader is disgusted by the idea of sacrificing all rights except that of self-preservation to another. Regardless, a close reading of the Leviathan reveals it to be closer to dark fantasy than to reality.
An Examination of Leviathan and The Second Treatise of Government
The focus of this essay is to examine the political theories of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke as presented in their books, Leviathan and The Second Treatise of Government, through the analyses of their definitions and uses of the terms: natural equality, natural right, natural liberty and law of nature. It is important to note that Locke and Hobbes each have a different conception of human nature which is reflected in their uses of these terms and in their political theories in the overall.Both Locke and Hobbes begin with the understanding that all humans are equal. Nevertheless, each one of them has a different conception of this equality and its implications on society. From Hobbes’ perspective people are all naturally equal, while some people are physically strong, others are more astute, so that there exists an equilibrium in the powerfulness of all people in a state of nature.1 From this assumption, Hobbes concludes that war is inevitable. When people who are equally powerful desire one thing they automatically become enemies and there is nothing to stop them from fighting with the knowledge that they each have equal chances of gain. On the other hand, Locke believes that humans are for the most part rational enough to recognize that they are all equal in human nature, and therefore, no one should violate another’s rights. In fact, he goes as far as to state that our natural equality is such an inherent part of us that it is impossible to completely give it up or have it stripped away from us by others. He also claims humans will love one another just as they love themselves, and that no one would harm another knowing that they are all equal; for to harm another is to bring suffering unto oneself.2Whatever their conception of natural equality and its implications on human behavior, both Locke and Hobbes believe that all humans have the natural rights to carry out all acts that preserve their life, and the natural liberty to exercise those rights without any restrictions. In Hobbes’ conception of natural rights, he even takes it a little farther in saying that anything that a person may define as an act of preservation of life and/or simply well being is also a right. Locke, nevertheless, specifically mentions that natural liberty is the freedom to be governed exclusively by the laws of nature and by nothing and no one else. Thus, in Locke’s perspective there are the boundaries of the laws of nature to be considered within natural liberty.Having established these notions of natural equality, rights and liberty, Hobbes concludes that in light of these rights and equality, mankind will never reach a state of security and stability. The first law of nature that he introduces declares that one ought to seek peace as long as he know that he can attain it. From this law, Hobbes derives the second law of nature, that as far as there is promise for peace then a person must cast away his “right to all things an be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself.” Thus, Hobbes claims that the only reasonable laws that people can follow to ensure their security and stability is to collectively set aside their natural rights and redefine their liberty in terms of what they will allow others, and in turn themselves. In these laws, Hobbes lays the foundation for the justification for an absolute sovereign power. In opposition, the laws of nature as Locke claims them are not only consistent with natural rights and liberty but actually mandate them. Locke’s first natural law is that humans must do that which preserves their life, and that which preserves mankind. Here Locke makes the basis of his political theory clear, by declaring that individuals in a state of nature have the power to create a structure for security and stability simply by exercising their natural rights and equality. Within this context, Locke includes the protection of one’s self and others from those who assume authority and impose ‘subordination’ among them. In this sense, Locke has entrusted every individual to enforce the laws of nature, thereby creating a framework for democracy.3
The role of fear in Hobbes’ political thought
Born on the day of the invasion of the Spanish Armada, Thomas Hobbes said himself that he was born a twin with fear. Living with the turmoil of the ongoing English civil war, Hobbes lived in fear and uncertainty. When he became convinced that the English parliament was going to turn against King Charles I, Hobbes fled to France, where he later wrote Leviathan, his most significant work, regarded as one of the most influential political and philosophical texts from the 17th century. In this work, and, more broadly, in Hobbes’ political thought, the effects of fear play an observably pivotal role in the formulation of his theories. It is clear that Hobbes perceives and applies fear, both as a catalyst of chaos and as a force of good. Referencing human nature, Hobbes argues that in the trivial anarchical society, people would live with constant fear, which in turn would make them conduct criminal acts for the sake of their own survival or wellbeing. He also underlines that a certain amount of fear for the Leviathan, the supreme ruler, is needed to create loyalty and to maintain respect. Therefore, fear plays a significant but versatile role in Hobbes’ political thought.
From the principles of self-preservation, and through his distinction between law of nature and right to nature, Hobbes founded the basic principles of his political thought. He expressed that the fear of death and compromise of personal safety, survival and security would surpass any other. From this premise, Hobbes then derived that the nature of mankind was brutish and individualistic, unless governed by a strong central power. Hobbes stated that in the chaotic anarchical society that would eventually emerge in the absence of such a governing central power, the life of men would be characterized by continual fear and would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes, 82). With an inherent scarcity of resources, a perpetual conflict would emerge, placing every individual in society against one another. Hobbes stated that this conflict would then be hard to end as no human possesses complete physical or mental superiority, and from an aggregate standpoint, humans are to be considered as very equal in strength and capacity. He furthers this argument by applying it to the honoring of contracts. Hobbes argues that in an anarchist society, contracts and covenants would not be honored, or would only be honored for a brief period of time. If either party would then suspect the other of planning to break the contract, they would act preemptively. Therefore, it is clear that Hobbes places significant value on fear and its effect in human decision-making, and attributes much of the tumultuousness and uncertainty to the prominence of fear, in the absence of a strong centralized ruling power.
Hobbes postulated that in order to maintain safety and peace, the people would need to sacrifice a number of freedoms and liberties, and to respect the authority of the Leviathan. Highly authoritative and omnipotent, the Leviathan is depicted as a leader that has an uncompromised legitimacy, so long as he serves to protect and govern his people, and as a leader who is free to govern in a manner of absolutism. Hobbes states that the order of the Leviathan should always be obeyed, lest it conflicts with personal survival, and unless the Leviathan no longer serves to protect his people. Therefore, it is clear that Hobbes holds that the people should, to a certain extent, fear their leader, in ways that solidify their loyalty to, and respect for, the Leviathan. Under the fear that they would be persecuted for uncivilized acts only acceptable under the rule of anarchy, the people would then refrain from committing these acts, and would be able to coexist. Therefore, it is clear that the Leviathan takes on an intimidating role as well, incentivizing people to obey the laws set forth. Hence the fear is redirected from the constant immediate fear of survival, described by Hobbes as an inextricable component of the anarchy, to the possible intervention of the Leviathan.
The concept of fear is illustrated in Leviathan as a tradeoff. By accepting the supreme and absolute rule of the strong central leader, the people can exchange the ongoing sentiment of insecurity and fear of survival for one of fearful respect for their leader. However, the fear of chaos and anarchy outweighs that of tyrannical rule, and therefore, according to Hobbes, it is logical for the people to support the rule of the Leviathan. So long as there is no immediate threat to survival, and so long as a governmental power can work to reduce this threat, then the rule of that power is legitimate, such is the perception of Hobbes. Therefore, it seems that Hobbes is keen to justify any power that actively works to uphold order and civilized customs. Perhaps this was inspired by the many years Hobbes spent living in the chaos of the English civil war. However, this pardoning and justifying view of the government and its power came to inspire the majority of his political thought. The question one can ask today however is how Hobbes’ perception would have changed had he formulated his theories in the context of today, with respect to the many instances of abuses of power witnessed over the past centuries after his death.
Works Cited Hobbes, Thomas, and Richard Tuck. Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.