Notes on Hobbes: Leviathan

‘State of nature’ = war. Man is always in a condition of war, everyone against everyone

War is a state of nature, nothing productive happens in war time and we cannot own things, only keep hold of them for as long as we can.

Wars happen for 3 reasons 1. Competition – two people want something only one can have makes them enemies 2. Security 3. Glory/reputation

Laws forbid things Rights are things you CAN do

He says it is a fundamental law of nature that everyman should endeavour peace and defend peace. (hypocritical/paradox? – defend peace with war?)

Words and action produce Bonds, which make the receiver fear ‘some evil consequence upon the rupture’.

The voluntary acts of every man are of some good to himself

The mutual transferring of Right, is that which men call contract. When it is not equal it is a Gift it is to gain reputation as charity or for reward after death. Men are freed of their covenants by performing or by being forgiven. He says covenants entered into by fear are obligatory, such as ransoms, he says they must be paid in return for the life bought.

When there is no common enemy people make war on each other for their own interests. We are the common enemy in Iraq – get oout!

Men have war and ants don’t becase: 1. Men continually compete for honour and dignity etc 2. The common good of ants is the same as the private good… but men go for private gain 3. Ants cannot reason like men. Men think themselves wiser to govern and rule etc, think themselves better than the rest, bringing it to civil war. 4. Men can use words to make good appear evil and evil appear good.. deceit etc. 5. Ants cannot tell the different between injury and damage and so as long as they are at ease they are not offended with their fellows, but at ease is when man is most troublesome, he loves to control the actions of the rulers. 6. Ants agreement is natural, but men is by covenant only which is artifical, so something else is needed, a common power to keep them in awe and direct their actions towards the common benefit.

This common power is formed when every man says to every man ‘I give up my Right of governing myself to this man (or this assembly of men) on this condition, that you give up your Right in the same manner’. This is called a common-wealth, soverign leader a ‘mortal god’. He has so much power and strength he can make peace at home and sent mutual aid abroad. He may use the strength and means of them all. He has Soveraigne Power.

The consequences are that the subjects cannot change the form of government. They cannot without the Monarchs permission return to a disunited multitude.

Problem: None of us in modern society decided to be part of this society, we were born into it, the contract was already made. We given gifts by the monarch (state) in the form of schooling, so we owe them, so we are obliged to stay (not that this is malicious, but it is a consequence). Hobbs sortof makes this ok by saying that anyone who tries to change the laws or who protests is unjust because they agreed on the covenant, but we didn’t, so we could say that is why we have the right to protest and change things because we were born into the covernent, unlike hobb’s example.

If he that attempts to despose his soverign is killed or punshed for doing so, he was the author of his own punishment, as being by the institution. And because it is injustice for a man to do anything that by his own authority is unjust, he is upon that rule, unjust. He says the sovereigns actions cannot be justly accused by the subject or he is only accusing himself, which is impossible. - soverign is unpunishable by the subject - Soverign has power to judge or constitute all judges of opinions and doctrines as a thing necessary to peace. It is up to the soverign to decide how much people can be trused when speaking to multitudes of people (censorship!) - Anyone who dares take up arms to defend or introduce an opinion is not in a condition of peace and instead in a state of fearing one another. - Soverign decides the laws about what goods the subject may enjoy and actions he may do without being molested by other subjects. i.e. property which in a state of war everyone has a right to everything, but in a sovereignty they do not. - “He that hath the Soverign Power is always Generallissimo” – control of army. - Control of honour and order

Negative side (not a problem with the theory, just a downside) – people have to give up some of their rights to be part of that society and obey laws they disagree with.

Covernants are words and breath and so have no force to contain, constrain or protect any man, but the soverign has a ‘public sword’ with the power of all the subjects ‘avouched by them all’.


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