2 Hobbes’ question How is social order possible? Foundation of Western political philosophy, social contract theory, right of the individual.Materialism: human beings composed of matter and motion, obeying physical law.
3 Hobbes’ assumptions People have the capacity to reason They weigh the costs and benefitsThey consider the consequences of their actions
4 Hobbes’ assumptions, cont’d People are self-interestedThey seek to attain what they desireSecurity (avoid death and injury)Reputation (status)Gain (possessions)
5 Assumptions, cont’dTheir ability to attain what they desire depends on their powerBecause men want a happy life, they seek sufficient power to ensure that lifeAll men have a “restless desire for power”
6 Hobbes: New Approaches to an Old Problem Hobbes’ approach: a theory of political obligation grounded in human rationalityWhen is it rational for us as self-interested individuals to obey a ruler?When are we obliged to do so?The problem of conflict can be solved whenever we understand that our self-interest requires us to submit to a sovereign. Instead of attempting to educate human beings or to train their moral faculties, the point is to remember our rational self-interest.
7 Hobbes: New Approaches to an Old Problem Hobbes’ solution: we must learn to recognize that our obligations to obey the sovereign are rationally justified, and hence to respect the sovereign power“Internal” focusAssumes people are not educableAssumes a certain amount of rationality and self-interest
8 The State of NatureWhat is our natural condition? Are people naturally equal?Aristotle: No, some are masters and some are slaves according to the degree of rationalityChristian philosophy: yes, they are all equal in that all have an immortal soulHobbes: yes, they are all equal in one important respect: equality to killWhat do we mean by equality? What is the relevant respect that justifies equal treatment?Equality in what?when there is no common power to restrain them, they can all kill one another
9 Characteristics of the ‘state of nature’ People are insecure, and live in a constant fear of injury and deathThere is no place for industry, because the fruit of it is uncertainHence, no agriculture, navigation, building, culture, scienceLife is short and unpleasant
10 Equality Everyone is strong enough to kill the strongest Everyone thinks him/herself above average in practical intellectual ability (prudence)But prudence is merely experienceErgo, there are no natural distinctions distinguishing masters from slaves, or rulers from ruled
11 The State of Nature What is our most important natural desire? Aristotle: the desire to have a good lifeHobbes: the desire to avoid violent deathFirst part of the book a kind of psychology. To ask about our natural condition is essentially to ask about our most important natural desires.
12 The State of NatureDo our most important natural desires lead to social integration or disintegration?Aristotle: our important natural desires lead to the creation of small communities and then to larger communities. We need and desire to be with others.Hobbes: our important natural desires lead to social disintegration, given our natural equality in the ability to kill or be killed.Do our most important natural desires lead to social integration or disintegration, given our natural equality or inequality?
13 The State of NatureAre our most important desires naturally integrative or disintegrative?Is there any empirical evidence that could settle this question? E.g., Somalia vs. other countries.
14 The State of Nature Natural causes of conflict: Distrust: I do not trust you not to kill me, so I try to kill you firstLove of gain (a natural desire): I know myself equal to you, and I want your thingsLove of glory (a natural desire): I think myself (erroneously) better than you are, and think I deserve reparationNatural causes of conflict, i.e., conflicts arising naturally from the key desire of human beings to avoid being victims of violent death
15 The State of Nature Trust and cooperate Do not trust, attack We gain from cooperating: arts, sciences, etc.One of us gets killed, the other lives and takes your propertyOne or both of us may get killedThe natural desires of human beings would lead to a spiral of distrust; though there are many goods that could be obtained from cooperating, without a sovereign power, Hobbes argues, we can’t rationally cooperate
16 The State of Nature“In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (Chapter 13)
17 Rights Is there a right to self-preservation? How far does it extend? “even to one another’s bodies” in the state of natureThe justification of this right comes from the universal interest in preserving yourselfSo long as there is no assurance of security, everyone has a right to everything as he or she may judge to be necessary to protect him/herself against violent death, because everything may be useful to protect oneself against the possibility of violent death
18 Rights and justiceBecause everyone has the same right to everything, there can be no justice or injustice in the state of natureJustice is a human construction that we have to make possible
19 Rights and justice Is Hobbes right? Are there any places in the state of nature today?
20 Escaping the state of nature: the problem There is an empirical problem: states actually existThe problem is not only empirical but also normative: are we obligated to obey existing states?We can only appeal to what is rational for us to do, not to God or some other agencyWhy does Hobbes frame the problem as one of rights? The problem is not simply a rational choice one, solved perhaps through iterative cooperation; it is also a normative one.
21 How do we escape the state of nature? Could the problem be solved through the prospect of future cooperation?The stakes are always too high; death prevents future cooperationRepeated cooperation does not solve the problem of how we come to have obligations to the state
22 The sovereignHobbes’ solution: we all together transfer (most of) our right to everything to a specific person to act in our name to preserve ourselvesThis person is then authorized (we are its “authors”) to use all means necessary to preserve the peace (to use “us”)Some things we cannot transfer, like the right to defend ourselves if we are directly attacked (even by the sovereign)
23 The SovereignWhat is the sovereign made of? The sovereign is made of people!
24 The Sovereign Why is this a solution? The sovereign has enough power (all of us) to prevent attacks by any of us individuallySo, obligations that it was not rational to keep in the state of nature now become rational to keep.Note that we transfer our right tacitly whenever, having come of age, we do not make war on the sovereign, fearing the sovereign. Covenants made out of fear are just as valid as all other covenants.To be sure, the obligation does not extend to harming yourself. This creates problems for Hobbes later.
25 The Sovereign Why is this a solution? With the sovereign in place, what can be reasonably expected of others shifts: we can now expect that they will not attack us, so we can now speak of justice and injusticeIt is now generally rational to keep covenants (not just rational in some cases); this is enough to establish real obligations among people. Hobbes’ book is premised on the idea that all he needs to do is remind us of our rationality.
26 The Sovereign Why is this a solution? The act of transferring our right to everything to the sovereign creates a presumptive obligation to obey the sovereignThe obligation is nearly absolute, though, as we have seen, it does not extend to harming ourselves
27 The Sovereign The Sovereign is an artificial person It can be a single natural person (a monarch)Or a collection of people that can act in a unified way (an assembly)There is always a sovereign, for Hobbes
28 Sovereignty and political regimes For Hobbes, the most important thing is that there be a sovereign, not so much the form it takesFor Aristotle, the more important question is the form of governmentSo, though Hobbes prefers monarchy, he agrees that a rightful sovereign can be democratic. His problem is to ramind us of obedience
29 PoliticsFor Aristotle, the purpose of politics is to realize man’s highest goodThe best regime most fully realizes the highest good, but other regimes also realize it to a smaller extentFor Hobbes, the purpose of politics is to avoid the worst of evilsAny regime avoids the worst of evils (war)So for Aristotle the distinctions among political regimes are very important; not so for Hobbes. Hobbes prefers monarchy to democracy or oligarchy, but these distinctions pale in significance to having a state at all – that is the true achievement of politics.
30 Hobbes’ approach to the problem of conflict Hobbes wants to remind us that our obligations to obey the state are rationally justifiedThey are obligations (i.e., they apply generally)They are in accord with our self-interest, and in particular with our interest in avoiding violent deathConflict arises ultimately from error and irrationality, but it does not require extensive education to solve itFocuses on the internal problem of conflict, leaving the external problem unresolvedSo states are in the state of nature, without any justice etc.