Hobbes: Leviathan
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Hobbes: Leviathan

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Lecture slides from a course on Political Thought I taught back in 2003-2005. This deck deals with Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan.

Lecture slides from a course on Political Thought I taught back in 2003-2005. This deck deals with Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan.

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  • Learning Objectives: 1.) To understand Hobbes’s views on human nature as well as the nature of the social contract. 2.) To explain Hobbes’s notion of Leviathan.
  • Hobbes was known for his pessimistic view of human nature
  • “… the nature of man, consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary.”  p. 333 “ Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no justice.”  p. 335 Since men are created equal, they also possess the same hope of satisfying their desires - The problem arises when two or more men desire the same thing, which only one can possess - Hence, each will do whatever it takes to possess that object 3 Causes of Quarrel 1.) Competition The desire for gain Entails the use of violence to subjugate others 2.) Diffidence The desire for safety Entails the use of violence to defend one’s person, family and belongings 3.) Glory The desire for reputation Entails the use of violence to attain “trifles”
  • “ Leviathan”: metaphor for the monolithic character of the state Greatest political power: that which is compounded and united by consent Leviathan: “ One person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all, as he shall think expedient, for their peace and common defense.”
  • What is just and unjust are determined by the sovereign will. Hence, the sovereign can never be unjust More, the sovereign is above the law Subjects are bound to abide by the law with very few exceptions This is because they are indirectly the authors of the law, given that they are principals of the social contract Sovereigns are bound to make good laws: “…that, which is needful , for the good of the people , and withal perspicuous .”  p. 348 Laws must be enforced in order to be effective; hence the need for Leviathan
  • Leviathan may not be deposed without its consent - It is the legitimate government for so long

Hobbes: Leviathan Hobbes: Leviathan Presentation Transcript

  • LEVIATHAN
  • Overview
    • What is Social Contract Theory?
    • Who was Thomas Hobbes?
    • What was Hobbes’ view of man and the state of nature?
    • What is this thing Hobbes calls Leviathan?
  • The Social Contract
    • Political theory concerning political authority and legitimacy
    • Speaks of the basis for and scope of political power
    • Key Elements: the state of nature (and thereby, the nature of man)
  • Thomas Hobbes
    • Born in 1588, Died in 1679
    • Oxford-educated Englishman and political philosopher
    • One of the first social contract theorists
    • Famous work: Leviathan
  • The State of Nature
    • “ Homo lupus hominis”
    • The state of nature is a state of war: the war of every man against every man
    • Hence, life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
  • Human Nature
    • Man possesses natural desires and aversions
    • Man lives to satisfy his desires, which are insatiable
    • In particular, men desire power
    • Desire for power is the principal cause of difference among men
  • The Laws of Nature
    • Man is naturally averse to destroying his life
    • Man will be willing to lay down his right to all things if others do the same
    • Men perform the covenants they make with their fellows
  • Leviathan
    • Embodiment of the greatest political power
    • Arises when:
      • Individuals voluntarily renounce their right to all things
      • Individuals bestow power upon an individual/group of individuals to exercise authority over them
  • Leviathan (cont’d)
    • Leviathan (the commonwealth) possesses sovereign authority
    • The sovereign is the author of all law and the basis of all justice
    • Subjects are bound to abide by the law absolutely
  • Leviathan (cont’d+)
    • Subjects only possess liberty under the law
    • That subjects possess liberties does not diminish sovereign power
    • Under the law, everything is legal unless otherwise proscribed
  • Lessons
    • Governments arise voluntarily among men.
      • They represent vicarious consent from the people.
    • Governments are necessary to enforce order among men.
      • Hence they must possess power in order to keep such order.