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Hobbes’ Leviathan. Overview Biographical/Historical Background Science vs. Prudence Goods, Power, and Felicity Natural Condition of Mankind Prisoner’s.

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Presentation on theme: "Hobbes’ Leviathan. Overview Biographical/Historical Background Science vs. Prudence Goods, Power, and Felicity Natural Condition of Mankind Prisoner’s."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hobbes’ Leviathan

2 Overview Biographical/Historical Background Science vs. Prudence Goods, Power, and Felicity Natural Condition of Mankind Prisoner’s Dilemma

3 I. Biographical/Historical Background Thomas Hobbes ( ) Lifetime that spanned the reign of Charles I, The English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, and the Restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II Entered Oxford at 14, graduated when he was 19, got a job as a tutor

4 I. Biographical/Historical Background In 1629 he travels to Europe and finds Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, becomes mathematics tutor to Charles II He reads one of the proofs and is astounded; has a “eureka” experience Recognizes the power of deductive methodology

5 I. Biographical/Historical Background In 1636 he reads and meets Galileo and becomes intrigued with Galileo’s law of inertia and believes that the laws of motion apply to the political world as well as the physical/mechanical world Begins to write a series of moral/political books, including The Elements of Law (1640), and De Cive (1642)

6 I. Biographical/Historical Background Leviathan was published in London in 1651 while he was in exile in Paris Soon after publication he flees Paris (the Catholics objected to its attack on the papacy) and resettles back in England Charles II is restored as king in 1660 Hobbes manages to live the rest of his life in relative peace on a government pension

7 II. Science vs. Prudence How do we approach our study of politics? Hobbes wants to develop a political science, so we need to understand his understanding of science Draws a distinction between prudence and science:

8 II. Science vs. Prudence Chapter 9: “There are of KNOWLEDGE two kinds; whereof one is Knowledge of Fact: the other Knowledge of the Consequence of one Affirmation to another…”

9 II. Science vs. Prudence “The former is nothing else, but Sense and Memory, and is Absolute Knowledge; as when we see a Fact doing, or remember it done: And this is the Knowledge required in a Witnesse…” In what sense is it “absolute knowledge”

10 II. Science vs. Prudence Earlier, in Chapter 8 he refers to this as prudence: “When the thoughts of a man, that has a designe in hand, running over a multitude of things, observes how they conduce to that designe; or what designe they may conduce unto; if his observations be such as are not easie, or usuall, This wit of his is called PRUDENCE…”

11 II. Science vs. Prudence Or, as he defined it in Chapter 3: “Prudence is a presumtion of the Future, contracted from the Experience of time Past”

12 II. Science vs. Prudence “The later is called Science; and is Conditionall; as when we know, that, If the figure showne be a circle, then any straight line through the Center shall divide it into two equall parts. And this is the Knowledge required in a Philosopher; that is to say, of him the pretends to Reasoning.”

13 II. Science vs. Prudence “Whereas Sense and Memory are but knowledge of Fact, which is a thing past, and irrevocable; Science is the knowledge of Consequences, and depedance of one fact upon another: by which, out of that we can presently do, we know how to do something else when we will, or the like, another time: Because when we see how any thing comes about, upon what causes, and by what manner; when the like causes come into our power, wee see how to make it produce the like effects” (Chapter 5). What’s the advantage of science over prudence?

14 II. Science vs. Prudence Think of Machiavelli’s Prince and the problem of fortune Each incident may differ in subtle but significant ways so that the lessons learned from one event may not in fact be the proper guide for another event The problem may not be fortune but a flawed methodology

15 II. Science vs. Prudence For Hobbes, science = sapience, which is certain knowledge The science which becomes our model is geometry Let’s look at Hobbes’ geometric politics

16 III. Goods, Power & Felicity 1.The world is in flux; i.e., things change and move; two types of movement: “There be in animals, two sorts of motions peculiar to them: one called vital; begun in generation, and continued without interruption through their whole life; such as are the course of the blood, the pulse, the breathing, the concoction, nutrition, excretion, etc., to which motions there needs no help of imagination…” (p. 272)

17 III. Goods, Power & Felicity “the other is animal motion, otherwise called voluntary motion; as to go, to speak, to move any of our limbs, in such manner as is first fancied in our minds…” (p. 272) If we look at voluntary motion, what motivates us to move? In other words, why do we engage in any of these voluntary acts?

18 III. Goods, Power & Felicity 2.Some reason exists to explain voluntary motion; something motivates us to move: “And because going, speaking, and the like voluntary motions, depend always upon a precedent thought of whither, which way, and what; it is evident, that the imagination is the first internal beginning of all voluntary motion…” (p. 272)

19 III. Goods, Power & Felicity 3. Some reason exists to prompt the imagination: DESIRE “These small beginnings of motion, within the body of man, before they appear in walking, speaking, striking, and other visible actions, are commonly called ENDEAVOR…” “This endeavor, when it is toward something which causes it, is called APPETITE, or DESIRE…” (p. 273).

20 III. Goods, Power & Felicity In other words, desire means some things exist which are good: “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.”

21 III. Goods, Power & Felicity What is missing in his definition here?  He’s not specifying the things which are good or evil (think of the Greeks/Aquinas)  In other words, he’s not saying that we all will or can agree on what is good or evil  He is saying that every animal and every person has some conception of things it wants

22 III. Goods, Power & Felicity In other words:  Good: things that are desirable  Evil: things that are undesirable  Contemptible: indifferent All of these are relational and selfishly (self- referentially) defined Each of us decides on our own what is good, evil, and contemptible

23 III. Goods, Power & Felicity 4. If we have desires, then that which allows us to reach those desires is what we call Power. “The POWER of a man, to take it universally, is his present means, to obtain some future apparent good; and is either original or instrumental” (p. 277). We can’t fulfill our desires simply by wishing for them More power is better than less power

24 III. Goods, Power & Felicity Felicity: “Continual success in obtaining those things which a man from time to time desireth, that is to say, continual prospering, is that men call FELICITY” (p. 276). Note it is continual success in fulfilling our desires Temporally extended (the desires exist through time)

25 III. Goods, Power & Felicity Means both that we will continue to desire things and that we will continue to need the means to achieve those desires We keep desiring things because life exists through time, but… “[t]here is no such thing as perpetual tranquillity of mind, while we live here; because life is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear, no more than without sense” (p. 276)

26 III. Goods, Power & Felicity In other words happiness, felicity, once achieved is not permanent, but an ongoing process:  Felicity “consisteth not in the repose of a mind satisifed. For there is no such finis ultimus, utmost aim, nor summum bonum, greatest good, as is spoken of in the books of the old moral philosophers. Nor can a man any more live, whose desire are at an end, than he whose sense and imaginations are at a stand.” Need to secure means for future happiness and fulfilling future desires

27 III. Goods, Power & Felicity “[T]he object of man’s desire, is not to enjoy once only, and for one instant of time; but to assure for ever, the way of his future desire” (p. 279).

28 III. Goods, Power & Felicity “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 divers men; and partly from the difference of the knowledge, or opinion each one has of the causes, which produce the effect desired” (p. 279).

29 III. Goods, Power & Felicity 5. Power is a universal drive: “So that in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire for power after power, that ceaseth only in death…” (p. 279). Why?

30 III. Goods, Power & Felicity “And the cause of this, is not always that a man hopes for a more intensive delight, than he has already attained to; or that he cannot be content with a moderate power: but because he cannot assure the power and means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more” (p. 279)

31 III. Goods, Power & Felicity In other words, because of the motion and flux of the universe (Point 1) – things change – we need to seek power continually, not necessarily because we want to improve our lot but rather simply to secure what we already have No one wants to regress

32 III. Goods, Power & Felicity This is no major difficulty if we all lived a Robinson Crusoe-esque solitary existence What happens if we take these features and combine them in a social animal?

33 III. Goods, Power & Felicity 6. People live near each other such that each of our activities influence those of our neighbors

34 III. Goods, Power & Felicity 7. People are by nature equal “Nature hath made men so equal, in the faculties of the 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 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.”

35 III. Goods, Power & Felicity “For as to 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 with himself.” In other words, we are all equally a threat to each other

36 III. Goods, Power & Felicity 8. We all regard continual preservation as a good thing Not necessarily the greatest good, but usually a good thing Suicide objection?

37 III. Goods, Power & Felicity What inferences, then, can we make from the preceding? Let’s take individuals constituted the way we have described and imagine what sort of social relations they would have if left to their own devices (that is, in the absence of political authority).


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