Hauptli’s Lecture Supplement on Hobbes’ Leviathan For PHI 3601

     Copyright © 2013 Bruce W. Hauptli

I. Hobbes’ Life:

Thomas Hobbes was born in 1588.  His father was a vicar who, after a brawl in front of his church, left his children with his wealthy brother and disappeared.  From 1592-1603 Hobbes was a boarding student at a private school; and then he went on to Magdelen Hall [College], Oxford, from which he graduated in 1608.  He became a tutor to William Cavendish (the future Earl of Devonshire), and began a long association with that family.  In 1610 he took his pupil on a European tour where Hobbes learned that the Aristotelian philosophy he had studied as school was deeply flawed.[1]  Throughout the remainder of his life, Hobbes frequently traveled to Europe, and he found it prudent at a number of points in his life to live for extended periods in Europe (especially Paris) as his fortunes rose and fell in England. 

     During his first visit to Europe, Hobbes became familiar with the work of Galileo and Kepler, and this constituted a major influence upon his thought as he began to move away from the classical education and Aristotelian philosophy which he had learned as a student.  In 1629 Hobbes published a translation Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, hoping that it might teach his countrymen something during what were the troubled times which preceded the English Civil War [1642-1646 (Cavaliers—followers of Parliament) vs. Roundheads (Royalists)].  At about this time, Hobbes began a study of Euclid’s Elements.  This most probably was the pivotal event in his intellectual history, and he was so taken by this study that he adopted the rationalistic, deductive, methodology of geometry as the way toward truth (though he interposed elements of the “resolutive-compositive” methodology of Galileo and Harvey upon this view).  Hobbes came to believe that there was only matter in motion and that all things could be explained by a rigidly deductive system which was founded upon the study of matter and motion. 

     During his subsequent trips to Europe, Hobbes met with leading thinkers (he is one of the individuals who published “Objections” to Descartes’ Meditations in 1640-1641).  While Hobbes would have liked to offer a complete system of human knowledge which began with geometry, and moved up through physics and the other studies about the motions of simple objects, to knowledge about the most complex of objects (man in social groups and states), growing unrest in England led him to speculate at greater length directly upon the most complex of moving things: the nature of man and human society.  In 1640 he widely circulated his Elements of Law, Natural and Politic (first published in England in 1650 in two parts as On Human Nature and De Copore Politico [“Of the Body Politic”]) which argued that social peace is possible only with submission to a sovereign.  

     For various reasons, this work antagonized both sides in the coming Civil War, and Hobbes found it prudent to live in Paris for a while.  The English Civil War lasted from 1642 to 1646.  In it Cromwell led the followers of Parliament to victory over the Royalists; but there was almost as much dissension between the army and the Parliament as there had been amongst the Royalists, and while much of the country and Parliament wished to reunite itself with King Charles I and establish some new form of government with him at the head, Cromwell and the army then fought and conquered the lot.  The army set up a new Parliament with members which agreed with its orientation, tried the King, and, on January 30, 1649, executed him.  Cromwell became Lord Protector.  Following his death in 1658, Cromwell’s son served in this position for one year, and then a year of anarchy followed.  The Stuart line was then “restored” in 1660 when the son of Charles I (Charles, the Prince of Wales) was invited to become King of England (Charles II).  

     Near the end of the Civil War in 1646, the young Prince Charles of Wales (the future Charles II) arrived in Paris seeking safety after the Royalists had lost the Civil War (while his father remained in England as complex political intrigues unfolded between Royalists, Parliament, the army, Parliament, the Scots, and the Welsh), and he invited Hobbes to tutor him in mathematics.  This began a long association which can be, in part explained by the fact, noted in the Encyclopedia Britannica, that

...in 1642 [Hobbes] published De Cive [translated by Hobbes and published in England in 1651 as Philosophical Rudiments Concerning Government and Society], which expanded the argument of the second part of The Elements of Law and concluded with a section on religion that dealt more fully with the relation between church and state.  A Christian church and a Christian state, he held, were one and the same body; of that body, the sovereign was the head; he therefore had the right to interpret Scripture, decide religious disputes, and determine the form of public worship.[2] 

     In 1651 Hobbes published his Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil.  The first two parts (“Of Man,” and “Of Commonwealth”) developed his earlier ideas about the nature of human beings and of society; while the second two (“Of a Christian Commonwealth,” and “Of the Kingdom of Darkness”) contained his analysis of the Bible and attacked attempts by papists and Presbyterians to question the rights of sovereigns.  As Edwin A, Burt maintains in his notes to his selections from Hobbes’ Leviathan in his own The English Philosophers From Bacon to Mill:

by arguments chiefly based on citations from the Scriptures, Hobbes attempts to show that the Church is rightfully under the control of the state, and that, therefore, the sovereign has supreme power over the practices of his subjects in matters of religion.[3] 

In his “Thomas Hobbes,” Bernard Gert provides some helpful elaboration which puts the third and fourth parts in focus for us:

Hobbes believed that if one were forced to choose between what God commands and what the sovereign commands, most would follow God.  Thus, he spends much effort trying to show that Scripture supports his moral and political views.  He also tries hard to discredit those religious views that lead to disobeying the law.  I find no reason to doubt that Hobbes, like Aquinas, sincerely thought that reason and the Scriptures must agree, for both came from the same source, God.  But, even if Hobbes held genuine religious views, God still does not play an essential role in his moral or political philosophy.  He holds that all rational persons, including atheists and deists, are subject to the laws of nature and to the laws of the civil state, but he explicitly denies that atheists and deists are subject to the commands of God.  Since, for Hobbes, reason by itself provides a guide to conduct to be followed by all men, God as the source of reason is completely dispensable.[4] 

     While royalists might have generally liked the Leviathan, it included a discussion of those circumstances wherein individuals might transfer allegiance from one sovereign to another, and this they found intolerable.  Moreover, Hobbes’ attacks on the Roman Catholics raised many eyebrows in Paris, and while this work really offended each side involved the English Civil War as much as his earlier work had, he found it prudent to return to England in 1652 where he remained for the remaining twenty-five years of his life.  While Hobbes lived a secure life during this time, it was not one free of controversy.  As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes, it was in

...1666, when the House of Commons prepared a bill against atheism and profaneness…Hobbes felt seriously endangered; for the committee to which the bill was referred was instructed to investigate [his] Leviathan. Hobbes, then verging upon 80, burned such of his papers as he thought might compromise him....[5] 

Hobbes survived all such controversies, however, and was the most famous English thinker of the day outside England, and well known (though highly controversial) within England.  He died in 1679. 

     In his “Editor’s Introduction” to his edition of Hobbes’ Leviathan, Herbert Schneider argues that Hobbes was neither a materialist nor an atheist:

...Hobbes was a sober, pious person, who never broke with the Church of England though he had decided Puritan leanings.  His opposition to Arminianism and to freewill doctrine indicates his Calvinist leanings and his departures from Anglican theology.  Because of his independence he was accused by both Roman Catholics and Anglican High Churchmen of atheism, which was a stock charge brought against anticlericals.  But he was certainly neither an atheist nor a materialist.  He believed in the essentials of the Christian revelation and in the doctrine of personal salvation.  He wrote that he would never deny, even at a sovereign’s bidding if ever a sovereign were foolish enough to ask it, that “Christ died for my sins.”  Believing that all beings are “bodies,” he conceived of the “Body politic” as an organism, and he thought that God must have a body composed of some “ethereal” substance.  Hence he believed in “spiritual bodies” and distinguished sharply between corporeality and materiality.  The treatment of covenant theology in Part III of Leviathan is thoroughly Puritan, and in general Part II should be regarded as a secularized version of the English Puritan’s theory of a commonwealth.[6] 

On the other hand, in his A History of Philosophy, Frederick Copleston maintains that: 

Hobbes stresses the practical purpose of philosophy by citing his Concerning Body (1, 1, 6): “the end or scope of philosophy is that we may make use to our benefit of effects formally seen; or that, by application of bodies to one another, we may produce the like effects of those we conceive in our mind....The end of knowledge is power...and the scope of all speculation is the performance of some action or thing to be done.”[7]   

...for Hobbes philosophy is concerned with causal explanation.  And by causal explanation he means a scientific account of the generative process by which some effect comes into being.  From this it follows that if there is anything which does not come into existence through a generative process, it cannot be part of the subject-matter of philosophy.  God, therefore, and indeed all spiritual reality is excluded from philosophy.  “The subject of Philosophy, or the matter it treats of, is every body of which we can conceive any generation, and which we may, by any consideration thereof, compare with other bodies, or which is capable of composition and resolution; that is to say, every body of whose generation or properties we can have any knowledge....Therefore it excludes theology, I mean the doctrine of God, eternal, ingenerable, incomprehensible, and in whom there is nothing neither to divide nor compound, nor any generation to be conceived.”[8] 

He does not say that there is no God; he says that God is not the subject-matter of philosophy.  At the same time it seems to me to be a great mistake to represent Hobbes as saying no more than that according to his use of the word ‘philosophy’ the existence and nature of God are not philosophical topics.  Philosophy and reasoning are for him coextensive; and from this it follows that theology is irrational.[9] 

He makes it abundantly clear that theology, if offered as a science or coherent body of true propositions, is absurd and irrational.  And to say this is to say very much more than that one proposes to confine one’s attention in philosophy to the realm of the corporeal.[10] 

Your readings will not be sufficient to decide the issue between these two views of Hobbes, but as you can imagine, his views of the role of religion in the state were (and are still) a matter of some controversy.  Let us turn now to his views of man and the state.  

II. Introduction to Hobbes’ Social Thought: 

As noted above, Hobbes’ model of scientific understanding was geometry.  He believed that scientists and philosophers would uncover a picture of the world which accords with Galilean mechanics as they pursued their causal explanations.  The universal cause behind all events in the world (physical, chemical, biological, psychological, or political), according to him, is motion.  The “secondary qualities” we are so familiar with (color, sound, and taste) are held (with Kepler and Galileo) to be appearances of bodies whose real properties are extension, quantity, and motion.  Every real body has a determinate magnitude and is either at rest or in motion (and if it is moving, it does so with a determinate velocity).  The various particular sciences are concerned with discovering the laws of behavior of moving bodies, while “first philosophy” is concerned with the general theorems which are true of all actual bodies.  There is no room for teleology in this model, of course.  There is no purpose in the world, though there is lots of “endeavor.”  From his point of view, our goals, values, and ends are themselves driven by our nature (which is, of course, matter in motion). 

     “First philosophy” for Hobbes, then, is simply the understanding of the most general properties of bodies.  This area of knowledge would provide the basis for geometry (the study of simple motions—how figures are generated by motions), the theory of motion (which would consider the effects of bodies on one another), physics (which would study the effects of internal and invisible motions and lead to an understanding of sensible qualities), moral philosophy (the study of the motions in the mind), and civil philosophy (the study of the artificial state). 

     Ideally, there would be a hierarchically-ordered system of knowledge stretching from the nature of the simplest things (the smallest “bodies”) all the way to the characteristics of the most complicated systems of these simple things (societies).  The understanding of the simplest things would be arrived at by rationally “resolving” the more complicated things which we observe into their simplest constituents and developing an understanding of the laws of their behavior as simple things.  This would, in turn, lead to an understanding of how they “compose” themselves together into complexes, and, ultimately, to an understanding of how these complexes themselves behave.[11] 

     A thoroughgoing adherence to this methodology would mean that any understanding of society would have to wait until a thorough understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, and psychology, was available.  Hobbes maintains we need not wait for the completion of the whole “resolutive-compositive” enterprise before we can have knowledge of the political composites (men and societies) however.  Instead of awaiting a complete understanding in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and psychology, we could study civil society directly:

the causes of motions of the mind are known, not only by ratiocination,[12] but also by the experience of every man that takes the pains to observe those motions within himself.  And, therefore, not only they that have attained the knowledge of the passions and perturbations of the mind...from the very first principles of philosophy, may by proceeding in the same way, come to the causes and necessity of constituting commonwealths, and to get the knowledge of what is natural right, and what are civil duties....even they also that have not learned the first part of philosophy, namely geometry and physics, may, notwithstanding, attain the principles of civil philosophy by the analytical method....And, therefore, from hence he may proceed, by compounding, to the determination of the justice or injustice of any propounded action.[13]

     In his The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, C.B. MacPherson notes that Hobbes held that:

...the resolutive-compositive method which he so admired in Galileo and which he took over, was to resolve existing society into its simplest elements and then recompose those elements into a logical whole.  The resolving, therefore, was of existing society into existing individuals, and of them in turn into the primary elements of their motion.  Hobbes does not take us through the resolutive part of his thought, but starts us with the result of that and takes us through only the compositive part.[14] 

According to Hobbes, this direct study of “civil” science reveals that:

...the appetites of men and the passions of their minds are such, that, unless they be restrained by some power, they will always be making war upon one another; which may be known to be so by any man’s experience, that will but examine his own mind.[15] 

His introspective view of man maintains that it is the individual’s desires which determine what is good and what is bad:

368 ...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 contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them: there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves; but from the person of the man, where there is no commonwealth....[16] 

According to Hobbes, when we “resolve” social activities into the basic constituents we find that individuals seek to satisfy their own desires and define ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in terms of these desires.  Hobbes maintains that these terms have no significance when separated from individuals’ desires, and this means that the only constraints upon individuals’ actions are those provided by their lack of power to fulfill their desires. 

     In short, for Hobbes there are certain primary forces which work their effect on man and upon civil society: egoism, fear of death, and the need for security.  These basic forces are the foundation of both prudence and civilization.  Here we need to be careful in characterizing his view however.  There are two distinct types of egoistic theory which we must both distinguish and discuss.  Psychological egoism is a descriptive thesis—it claims that human beings are egoists.  That is, it claims that this description is a correct description of how we, in fact, act.  Ethical egoism, on the other hand, is a prescriptive thesis—it claims that human beings should behave as egoists.  That is, it claims that while we don’t always behave this way, we should do so.  Hobbes offers the latter sort of theory.  In the final chapter of his Leviathan, Hobbes maintains that:

from the contrariety of some of the Natural Faculties of the Mind, one to another, as also of one Passion to another, and from their reference to Conversation, there has been an argument taken, to inferre an impossibility that any one man should be sufficiently disposed to all sorts of Civill duty.  The Severity of Judgment, they say, makes men Censoroius and unapt to pardon the Errours and Infirmities of other men: and on the other side, Celerity of Fancy makes the thoughts less steady than is necessary, to discern exactly between Right and Wrong.  Again, in all Deliberations, and in all Pleadings, the faculty of solid Reasoning, is necessary: for without it, the Resolutions of men are rash, and their Sentences unjust: and yet if there be not powerful Eloquence, which procureth attention and Consent, the effect of Reason will be little.  But these are contrary Faculties; the former being grounded upon the principles of Truth; and the other upon Opinions already received, true or false; and upon the Passions and Interests of men, which are different, and mutable. 
And amongst the Passions, Courage, (by which I mean the Contempt of Wounds, and violent Death) enclineth men to private Revenges, and sometimes to endeavor the unsettling of the Publique Peace: And Timorousnesse, many times disposed to the desertion of the Publique Defense.  But these they say cannot stand together in the same person.[17]   

To which I answer, that these are indeed great difficulties, but not Impossibilities: For by Education, and Discipline, they may bee, and are sometimes reconciled.  Judgement, and Fancy may have place in the same man; but by turnes, as the end which he aimeth at requireth.[18] 

He points to a natural “contrariety” between reason and the passions, and to one between the passions themselves.  It is such conflicts that call out for a rational egoism.  If one simply pursues one’s desires, one’s life may be “nasty, brutish, and short,” and this result is not in one’s interest.  Thus egoists need to (that is, should) expose their passions and desires to critical reflection.  Here, first, it will be important to take a “long-run” perspective.  While the fulfillment of an immediate desire may be “good,” successfully concluding one’s endeavors to achieve such fulfillment might lead to death, and that would be terrible according to him.  Thus where there is such conflict, the egoist needs to be “rational”—she needs to assess which desires should be pursued.  Similarly, fulfillment of some of one’s desires may help (or harm) others without advantaging oneself, and in such cases the rational egoist should carefully consider the activity before endeavoring fulfillment of the desire. 

     According to Hobbes’ view, we find the egoists fearful and highly desirous of security because conflict is inevitable where individuals desire the same things.  While his account may seem to depend upon a scarcity of the goods desired, and while Hobbes believed that the goods we desire are indeed scarce; it is important to note that even where there is a plenitude of the desired goods, conflict amongst egoistic individuals may result.[19] 

     Of course, undisguised and unrestrained self-seeking leads to total social war, a condition which Hobbes calls the state of nature.[20]  It is the fear of this “condition” which leads individuals to adopt constraints upon their egoistic activities.[21]  Thus we form states and place constraints upon our egoistic natures for protection—we don’t want to be wronged. 

     How, then, do we form states?  Hobbes contends that the individual egoists will have to contract with one another to constrain their behavior.  Clearly, however, contracts between egoists will not be valid unless there is sufficient authority and power to hold the egoists to their promises; according to Hobbes, however, there will need to be unlimited (or absolute) power if egoists are to be held to their contracts. 

International politics provides a useful metaphor here, if the powers are to be held to their word, a super-power will have to be available to ensure compliance.  Why won’t treaties be sufficient in and of themselves? 

As C.B. MacPherson notes, Hobbes’ views of our obligations were radically new: 

in...deriving right and obligation from fact, Hobbes was taking a radically new position.  He was assuming that right did not have to be brought in from outside the realm of fact, but that it was there already; that, unless the contrary could be shown, one could assume that equal right was entailed in equal need for continued motion. 
This is a leap in political theory as radical as Galileo’s formulation of the law of uniform motion was in natural science, and not unrelated to it.  In each case a revolutionary change was initiated by a simple shift in assumption.  Before Galileo, it was assumed that an object at rest would stay there for ever unless some other thing moved it, and would only go on moving as long as some outside force was applied.... 
Hobbes’ reversal of assumptions was similar.  While it may be said that, from Plato on, rights and obligations had always been inferred from men’s capacities and wants, the inference had always been indirect; from men’s capacities and wants to some supposed purposes of Nature or will of God, and thence to human obligations and rights.  Men’s capacities and wants were treated as effects of the purposes of Nature of will of God; and the latter being treated as the cause of men’s capacities and wants, were assumed also to be the source of moral right and obligation....Instead of finding rights and obligations only in some outside force, he assumed they were entailed in the need of each human mechanism to maintain its motion.  And since each human mechanism, to do so, must assess its own requirements, there could be no question of imposing a system of values from outside or from above.[22] 

To assess this radically new view, of course, we must examine it, and we now turn to the text. 

III. Selections from Hobbes’ Leviathan:

Part I of The Leviathan: Of Man (1651):[23]  

Of the Interior Beginnings of Voluntary Motions; Commonly Called the Passions:  

368 Hobbes’ view of good: “but whatsoever is the object of any man’s appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good...these words of good, evil...are ever used with relation to the person that useth them: there being nothing simply and absolutely so....” 

370 Hobbes contends that there is no “absolute good” (no “summum bonum”).  “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....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 arises partly from the diversity of the 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.” 

 However, Hobbes contends, individuals are all properly characterized as having “a perpetual and restless desire of power and after power, that ceases only in death.” 

Of the Natural Condition of Mankind As Concerning Their Felicity and Misery:

In this Chapter Hobbes clarifies the nature of the atomic elements of civil and social entities—individual men (as they are outside any social or civil setting). 

371 Men are equal in nature. 

This equality of ability yields an equality of hope and makes men enemies to one another. 

372 State of war—the lives of individuals are nasty, brutish, and short. 

373 In this state nothing is unjust.   

Of the First and Second Natural Laws, and of Contracts:  

In this Chapter Hobbes clarifies the two fundamental laws of nature which he believes each rational egoist can come to recognize as applying to human behavior.  It is important that we recognize that, for Hobbes, these natural laws are arise from our nature, that they are not “externally imposed upon us, and that they are “binding” upon us (obligatory) because, as we can rationally recognize, the behavior they recommend is in our self-interest. 

In the state of nature “...every man has a right to everything; even to one another’s body.” 

-no security! 

First Law: “...and consequently it is a precept, or general rule of reason, that every man ought to endeavor peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all the helps and advantages of war.” 

-Note that this passage clearly indicates that Hobbes is offering an ethical egoism (rather than a psychological egoism)—he speaks of how people ought to behave (what they should endeavor to obtain) rather than how they do, as a matter of fact, behave.  He also indicates what people should do when they have no hope of obtaining the peace which they seek—we should accept, then, no constraints upon our actions as we aim to satisfy our desires (and should recognize that “the best defense is a good offence”)!  Now I believe that any reasonable moral theory must provide an account of why people do not do what they “ought” to.  Hobbes’ egoistic answer to this question has to do with what he takes to be our “thirst for power.”  Given our egoistic nature, we are sorely tempted to take a “short run view” which assigns primacy to fulfilling the “desires of the moment,” but this sort of behavior, when generally pursued, leads go the condition of a “state of nature,” which is not conducive to the satisfaction of our egoistic desires.  For this reason, as egoists, he contends, we should accept the constraints recommended by the laws of nature.   Rational egoists will accept the constraints, where others do so also, in order to increase the possibilities of satisfying their egoistic desires.  They do not do so as a matter of course (in the way that falling material bodies “obey the laws of gravity,” because of the strong and immediate pull of their desires and their “lust for power” (which is necessary for fulfillment of these egoistic desires). 

374 Second Law: “From this fundamental law of nature, by which men are commanded to endeavor peace, is derived this second law: that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.” 

On the renouncing and transferring rights. 

-the mutual transferring is called contract.  There are some rights one can not give away. 

-“Whensoever a man transferreth his right or renounceth it, it is either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself of for some other good he hopeth for thereby.  For it is a voluntary act, and of the voluntary acts of every man the object is some good to himself[24]...the motive, and end for which this renouncing, and transferring of right is introduced, is nothing else but the security of a man’s person, in his life, and in the means of so preserving life....And therefore if a man by words, or other signs, seem to despoil himself of the end, for which those signs were intended; he is not to be understood as if he meant it, or that it was his will; but that he was ignorant of how such words and actions were to be interpreted.” 

--“...the motive, and end for which this renouncing, and transferring of right is introduced, is nothing else but the security of a man’s person, in his life, and in the means of so preserving life, as not to be weary of it.  And therefore if a man by words, or other signs, seem to despoil himself of the end, for which those signs were intended; he is not to be understood as if he meant it, or that it was his will; but that he was ignorant of how such words and actions were to be interpreted.” 

-375 “...the bonds of words are too weak to bridle men’s ambition, avarice, anger, and other passions, without the fear of some coercive power; which in the condition of mere nature, where all men are equal, and judges of the justness of their own fears, cannot possibly be supposed.  And therefore, he which performeth first, does but betray himself to his enemy; contrary to right, he can never abandon, of defending his life, and means of living.” 

Of Other Laws of Nature:

In this Chapter Hobbes describes additional laws which rational egoists would all recognize. 

Third Law: “...men perform their covenants made....” 

-376 Justice and injustice arise in the social context: “…where there is no commonwealth, there is nothing unjust.”  . 

-“...where there is no commonwealth, there is nothing unjust.” 

377 The upshot of these natural laws:

-Hobbes: “Do not that to another, which thou wouldest not have done to thyself.” 

-the Christian version of the “golden rule:” “whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”  The text leading up to this in the Revised Standard Version is reproduced in Appendix I. 

--The two maxims are radically different.  The former implies an obligation to refrain from certain action because one wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end.  The latter requires positive action because one is to do things because one would like to be on the receiving end!   

“The laws of nature oblige in forto interno, that is to say, they bind to a desire they should take place; but in forto externo, that is, to the putting them in act, not always.”  This effectively indicates his ethical egoism—the “natural laws,” in and of themselves, do not guarantee egoistic actions. 

Part II of The Leviathan: Of Commonwealth:  

378 Of the Causes, Generation, and Definition of a Commonwealth:  

In this Chapter Hobbes explains why and how individuals join together in civil states (or commonwealths). 

Men join together and restrain themselves for preservation. 

-“For the laws of nature, as justice, equality, modesty, mercy, and in sum, doing to others as we would have done to, of themselves, without the terror of some power to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge, and the like.  And covenants, without the swords, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.” 

-“For if we could suppose a great multitude of men to consent in the observation of justice, and other laws of nature, without a common power to keep them all in awe, we might as well suppose all mankind to do the same; and then there neither would be, nor need be any civil government or commonwealth at all, because there would be peace without subjection.” 

--Why does this seem unlikely to him? 

379 “The only way to erect such a common power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort as that, by their own industry, and by the fruits of the earth, they may nourish themselves and live contentedly; is to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon some assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will....”  

-“I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man...on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him, and authorize all his actions in like manner.” 

-Thus we have Hobbes’ version of the “social contract:” “I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man...on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him, and authorize all his actions in like manner.” 

-Question: why not a restricted sovereignty?  In his A History of Western Philosophy: Philosophy From the Renaissance to the Romantic Age, A. Robert Caponigri maintains that the sovereign’s power is: “...in principle absolute and without intrinsic limit.  To recognize any limit in principle, would be to reduce the state to one among the contestants whose interests it is supposed to mediate.  At the same time, there is, due to the fact that the social compact by no means works a transformation of the constitutive egoism of men, a constant pattern of centrifugal forces, individuals seeking to evade the power of the state.  To realize the absoluteness which is proper to it in principle, the state must constantly seek to bring that centrifugal pattern firmly within the orbit of its actual power.  Similarly, the monarch, who stands at the center of the governmental structure of the state and embodies it must constantly seek the actual extension and insure the actual inclusiveness of his power.  It must have the sole power to resolve all contests between subjects; it cannot tolerate any contest of interest between itself and its subjects, individually or in any pattern of collectivity.  The state, in its idea, and the absolute monarch are completely and organically related and expressive of each other.”[25]   

(end of reading selection)

Appendix: The Revised Standard Version of Sermon on the Mount (abbreviated):[26]

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 

Blessed are those who morn, for they shall be comforted. 

Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven....  

So if you are offering your gift at the alter, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the alter and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift..... 

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 

Do not resist one who is evil.  But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if an one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if an one forces you to go one mile go with him two miles.  Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. 

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father.... 

Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  

Thus when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do.... 

Lord’s Prayer. 

Therefore be not anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. 

So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law of the prophets.    

Notes: (click on note number to return to text for the note)

[1] Cf., “Of Darkness From Vain Philosophy and Fabulous Traditions,” which is Chapter 46 of Hobbes’ Leviathan [1651].  This chapter is in Part III (“Of A Christian Commonwealth”) of the work, which is rarely reprinted now.  One readily available source for this chapter, however, is Leviathan, Parts I and II, ed. Herbert Schneider (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958), pp. 3-20. 

[2] “Hobbes, Thomas,” Britannica Online (http://www.eb.com:180/cgi-bin/g?DocF=micro/273/17.html, accessed 15 January 1999. 

[3] Edwin A. Burt, The English Philosophers From Bacon To Mill (N.Y.: Modern Library, 1939), p. 220, footnote. 

[4] Bernard Gert, “Hobbes, Thomas,” in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 1995), pp. 367-370, p. 370. 

[5] Ibid. 

[6] Herbert Schneider, “Editor’s Introduction,” to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan [1651] (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958), pp. vii-xvi, p. x. 

[7] Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy v. 5 (Pt. 1) (Garden City: Image, 1964), p. 13. 

[8] Ibid., p. 15.  The citation from Hobbes is from his Concerning Body (1, 1, 8). 

[9] Ibid., pp. 15-16. 

[10] Ibid., p. 16. 

[11] J.W.N. Watkins does an excellent job of explaining the “resolutive-compositive” methodology of Galileo, Harvey, and Hobbes in his “Philosophy and Politics in Hobbes,” Philosophical Quarterly v. 5 (1955), pp. 125-146.  Cf., esp. pp. 129-131.  Appendix III below further clarifies this methodology. 

[12] Meaning here the application of the “resolving and composing” method to minds and societies so as to integrate the physical, chemical, and biological elements to yield psychological and political understanding. 

[13] Thomas Hobbes, De Corpore [1655] (Chapter 6, section 7), cited from The Light of Reason, ed. Martin Hollis (London: Fontana/Collins, 1973), pp. 183-184. 

[14] C.B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 1962), p. 30. 

[15] Thomas Hobbes, De Corpore, op. cit., p. 184. 

[16] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan [1651], from selections in Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings (6th edition), eds. Louis Pojman and James Fieser (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2011), pp. 367-379, p. 368.  Further citations to this selection will be preceded by the appropriate page number. 

[17] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan [1651], “A Review and Conclusion,” from Leviathan, ed. by A.P. Martinich (Peterborough: Broadview, 2002), p. 523.  Martinich’s edition does not up-date the spelling and grammar, and thus gives us the flavor of Hobbes’ writing. 

[18] Ibid., p. 524. 

[19] Consider the behavior of children in a pre-school as they play with more building blocks than they can all use.  Such a case should ·help one see that conflict can easily arise even in situations where there is a plenitude of goods. 

[20] It is important to note that Hobbes does not believe that the “state of nature” is an actual social condition, or “state.”  In fact, it is the opposite of a civil society—a condition of anarchy wherein individuals would not be able to “socialize” with others because of their fear, lack of trust, and unbridled egoism.  In such a condition, even “families” are hard to imagine!  Here we see the effects of Hobbes’ “atomism”—his radical individualism.  For him the social contract constructs an artificial state.  It is built by atomic individuals for their own individual protection (and to enhance their own individual lives). 

[21] According to Hobbes, such constraints are rationally-dictated by self-interested considerations: without them we will live in perpetual fear for our lives, and we will not satisfy many of our desires. 

[22] C.B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, op. cit., pp. 76-77.  Emphasis added to passage. 

[23] The Leviathan, or The Matter, Form, and Power of A Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil  is composed of four parts: “Of Man,” “Of Commonwealth,” “Of A Christian Commonwealth,” and “Of the Kingdom of Darkness.”  The third and fourth parts argue that attempts by papists and Presbyterians to challenge the rights of sovereigns undercut social peace and stability. 

[24] In this passage Hobbes seems committed to a view we can call “psychological egoism”—this view holds that the object of one’s actions is always some good for oneself.  Note that he initially speaks, however, of “some good” which one hopes for.  It seems that individuals sometimes seek, hope for, or strive to attain goods which are not goods for themselves.  The psychological egoist doesn’t allow for this.  Cf., Joel Feinberg, “Psychological Egoism” [1958], the next reading, in regard to this.  Note, also, that Hobbes continues in this passage by offering a view we might call “ethical egoism”—a view which says that one should behave egoistically (he tells us that there are rights which we may not give up).  On this view, cf. James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy (N.Y.: Random House, 1986) which is on reserve in the library. 

[25] A. Robert Caponigri, A History of Western Philosophy: Philosophy: From the Renaissance to the Romantic Age (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame, 1963), pp. 289-290, emphasis added to passage twice. 

[26] The Bible (Revised Standard Version), Matthew 5 through 7.12. 

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