PEOPLE AND IDEAS IN GOVERNMENT: THOMAS HOBBES

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					PEOPLE AND IDEAS IN GOVERNMENT:
THOMAS HOBBES
1. Who was Thomas Hobbes?
   A. Born 1588 in England

       Extraordinarily bright as a youth – He enrolled at Oxford at age 15


   B. Most famous for writing The Leviathan (1651) – Lev – eye – uh - thun

       Hobbes’s ideas influenced later thinkers, such as John Locke, who in turn
        influenced Thomas Jefferson and the writing of the Declaration of Independence

       Hobbes’s Leviathan is one of political theory’s masterpieces—like The Prince
2. Why Did Hobbes Write The Leviathan?

   A. To prove that human societies need a central authority to preserve peace & order

       Hobbes lived in 1600s England—a violent time, a time of great upheaval & war

           There was no stable government in England


           Society was splintering, dissolving into civil war; government could provide no peace or order


           Similar to the environment in Italy when Machiavelli wrote The Prince


           Thus Hobbes tried to demonstrate the need for a central authority that could squash discord
3. Hobbes’s Ideas: Human Nature
   Hobbes believed that conflict and war is the natural order of the world—that men
    are naturally drawn to competitive and destructive behaviors

       We see in Hobbes a parallel with Machiavelli: A realist or pessimistic view of human nature


       Hobbes had little faith in human nature and believed that only a government of absolute power
        (in Hobbes’s time, this would have been a king) could save society from self-destruction


       Hobbes attempted to prove his views on human nature with a concept called the ―State of
        Nature‖
4. Hobbes’s Ideas: The State of Nature / War

   A. The State of Nature and the State of War

       State of Nature = The condition man is in when there is no government, no effective government

           Analogy – Students in a school building with no principle, no teachers, nobody to enforce rules

           Analogy – England in the 1600s, with no government to provide order


       In the State of Nature, people’s desires, people’s competitive drives, and people’s distrust for each
        other lead to a State of War

           In the absence of rules and authority, people will dissolve into a chaotic state


       One of the most famous passages in all of political theory: ―In such a condition (like the State of War),
        there is no place for industry (productive behavior), because the fruit (rewards) thereof is uncertain, and
        consequently no culture of the earth (no cultivation of the land), no navigation, nor building. . .no arts,
        no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life
        of man (becomes) solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
4. Hobbes’s Ideas: State of Nature / War

                       State of Nature =
                        Society w/ no government, no
                        rules, no law, no central
                        authority


                        In other words, anarchy
4. Hobbes’s Ideas: State of Nature / War

   B. The State of Nature and the State of War

       Note: The State of Nature is NOT a real place—it’s an act of imagination

       Ie, Hobbes is asking us to IMAGINE a society in which there is no governing
        authority so that he can reveal to us the true character of human nature

           Left to our their own devices, we cannot get along for long; we eventually destroy each other

       Do you want proof that human nature is destructive?

           Why do men lock their doors at night?

           Why do men safeguard their valuables?

           Why do men arm themselves when traveling?

           We do all these things EVEN WHEN THERE ARE LAWS AND PUNISHMENTS FOR CRIME
4. Hobbes’s Ideas: State of Nature / War

   C. The State of Nature and the State of War

       The State of Nature becomes a State of War because. . .

           No man does the ―right‖ thing because he cannot trust the others around him to do the ―right‖ thing


   D. In summary. . .

       State of Nature = Society w/o Government = State of War


       ―Might makes right‖ in the State of Nature


       Hobbes observed that England in the 1600s was in a ―State of Nature‖
    4. Hobbes’s Ideas: The Social Contract

   A. What is the Solution to the State of Nature and the State of War?

       Hobbes says society needs a ―sovereign‖—a central authority w/ power to enforce rules and
        punish rule-breakers, so that men can live w/o fear of each other

       The sovereign guarantees the peace


       In order to create this central authority, men in society join together in a ―Social Contract‖

           It’s not an actual piece of paper; it’s just an acknowledgement between men


           The Social Contract = An agreement b/w men and a ruler, in which men consent to be ruled


           The Social Contract creates 2 things: The ruler himself, and an agreement b/w the people and the ruler that,
            in return for the ruler providing peace and order, the people agree to give up certain rights and freedoms
4. Hobbes’s Ideas: The Social Contract

                         The Social Contract =
                          An agreement b/w the
                          people and the ruler

                         The people consent to be
                          governed by the laws of
                          the ruler

                         The ruler provides peace
                          and order; the people
                          agree to obey the rules
4. Hobbes’s Ideas: The Social Contract

   B. Details of the Contract

       The ruler must maintain peace and order

           In fact, the ruler’s only duty is to protect citizens from violence and crime


           In providing this service, the ruler must apply the laws equally to all men


       The people must give their full obedience to the ruler

           The people give up all rights—for Hobbes, there was no room for freedom of speech and so forth

           The ruler has complete and unlimited power; his word is the final word—he is ―judge, jury, and
            executioner‖

           The best that people can hope for is to obey the law and be left alone
4. Hobbes’s Ideas: The Social Contract

   This is the meaning of
    Leviathan. . .
       Leviathan – ―Something
        unusually large‖

       Notice the ruler in the cover to
        Hobbes’s book:
5. In Summary. . .
   Here is what Hobbes did . . .

     He built a theory that (attempts to) shows why society
      must give up all rights and freedoms and submit to a
      government of absolute power

       Ingiving up their rights and freedoms, men receive, in return,
        a government that serves them by providing for law and
        order, thus protecting lives and property

				
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posted:12/5/2011
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