An Analysis Of The Leviathan By Thomas Hobbes Assignment

An Analysis Of The Leviathan By Thomas Hobbes Assignment Words: 1877

This natural equality of man means that everybody has an equal lain on things: “From this equality of ability, airiest equality of hope in the attaining of our ends” (207). With this equality of ability comes no limitation, which is not necessarily a good thing. It prolongs a state of war and enhances the desire for the security of a commonwealth. In order to form a commonwealth based on the principles of liberty and freedom, Hobbes argues for the essential attributes of self-preservation- the right of nature, the 1st law of nature- the duty to seek peace and the 2nd law of nature- the duty to seek peace through contract.

The explication of Hobbes’ argument will be followed by my evaluation of Hobbes’ concept of freedom. Due to natural differences between men, the state of nature with no limitations on freedom is inevitably flawed. “For such is the nature of men, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves; for they see their own wit at hand and other men’s at a distance” (207).

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Humans, inherently selfish and self-concerned, utilize their absolute liberty within the original state of nature to their own benefit: “And room hence it comes to pass, that where an invader hath no more to fear, than another man’s single power; if one plant, sow, build, or possess a convenient seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared with forces united, to dispossess, and deprive him, not only of the fruit of his labor, but also his life, or liberty’ (207).

Natural Equality in the state of nature leads to the development of enemies and the likelihood of competition. Competition amongst differing desires constructs a diffidence, or distrust of one another in the state of nature. Distrust allows for the anticipation of the first strike from an enemy. The constant anticipation of conflict develops a war of all against all and essentially a state of war. Furthermore, due to man’s egocentric human nature, he will not be content with his own property and will desire another’s.

In effect, men become enemies until one of them is overpowered or subdued (207). Outlining the conflicting state of nature, or the condition of war, Hobbes realizes that because of the lack of a supreme arbitrator or law the notions of right and wrong do not yet exist: ‘To this war of every man, against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where no law, no injustice” (209).

In effect, the actions that men take against other men are not unjust because of the absence of written law to establish justice in the first place. Here, Hobbes presents the need for clarification of liberty in the commonwealth opposed to the state of nature. In accordance with the idea of justice in a commonwealth, law establishes men’s limitations to freedom. The constant fear of death enhances the desire for the security of peace: “The actions that incline men to peace, are fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them” (209-210).

Peace can only be achieved when impediments, drawn from mutual agreement, are placed on the liberty of men in the commonwealth. Men are dawn to seek peace through an agreement because of the right of nature. The right of nature is the liberty of self-preservation, or the preservation of one’s own life: “A Law of Nature is a precept or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that, which is destructive of his life, or take way the means of preserving the same” (210). In accordance with this right of self-preservation, Hobbes reasons the first fundamental law of nature.

This first Law of Nature states that, “we ought to endeavor our peace, as a far as one has hope of obtaining it; and when one cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of war” (210). This first law, abiding by the rule of nature that signifies self-preservation, calls for men to seek peace and follow it. Where peace is not feasible, men again enter into a state of war and have a right to everything for protection and self-preservation. The desire to seek peace is simultaneously an obligation and limitation to man’s liberty.

Derived from this fundamental Law of Nature is the second Law of Nature. This states 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’ (210). With this second law, Hobbes introduces the ability to seek peace through contract, or agreement. In the state of nature, man has a right o everything.

When moving from the state of nature to the commonwealth, all men give up this right to everything: “To lay down a man’s right to any thing, is to divest himself of the liberty, of hindering another of the benefit of his own right to do the same” (211). It is evident here that Hobbes’ conception of liberty is altered. In the state of nature, the freedom of natural equality and the lack of impediments defined man’s liberty. In the commonwealth, liberty is now defined according to the law. Liberty is transferred to the commonwealth in man’s hope of a reciprocated “good to himself’.

The mutual transferring of one’s rights is a contract that man voluntarily enters into. The liberty of a man, predetermined by the law, is also defined by the silence of the law. Through the establishment of the right of nature as well as the first and second laws of nature, Hobbes is able to reason the need for a commonwealth and furthermore, for an absolute sovereign to serve as the executive of the common will of the people. The political will of the people is the soul of the “Leviathan” and allows it to move.

The sovereign is granted power by the body, the commonwealth as a whole, and Anton be unjust because he is not bound to the contract that he executes: “Because the right of bearing the person of them all, is given to him they make sovereign, by covenant only of one to another, and not of him to any of them; there can happen no breach of covenant on the part of the sovereign” (223). The absolute sovereign is given the authority to ensure the security of the commonwealth. The importance of the decision to allocate their power as a body to one chief executive reties with the theme of fear.

Fear of death and of a return to the state of war convinces men to give up some of their liberty and redirect heir fear to one person, the absolute sovereign, instead of having to fear of a multitude of persons. Hobbes assembles this transition from the state of nature to the commonwealth with the knowledge that the absolute freedom that was present in the state of nature is lost. Instead, the natural equality that gave man the liberty to anything and everything is rescinded and transferred to the commonwealth, of the benefit of the whole. The absolute sovereign, in essence, takes on the responsibility of the will of the people.

In evaluation of Hobbes argument, the problem that I have is with the idea that liberty and necessity re consistent and therefore compatible: “Liberty, and necessity are consistent: as in the water, that hath not only liberty, but a necessity of descending by the channel; so likewise in the actions which men voluntarily do: which, because they proceed from their will, proceed from liberty; and yet, because every act of man’s will, and every desire, and inclination proceeded from some cause, and that from another cause, in a continual chain whose first link is in the hand of God the first of all causes, proceed from necessity” (230).

This theological perspective, even though its premises logically follow its conclusion, is unsound. The inability of Hobbes to make a clear distinction as to whether this necessity of God’s will is a general concept of human nature, or is subject to man’s action in the state of nature, makes his argument unclear. Hobbes attempts to take a mechanistic and scientific approach to determine liberty and then claims God’s will as supreme in order to define liberty. I do not agree that God is concluded as the superior being in the state of nature.

It would be rational to instead draw that the “cause” of men’s will and desire that influences their action is essentially human nature. Instead, Hobbes presupposes the acceptance of a common higher power that controls the liberty of men. In doing so, liberty is changed once again because it is no longer an enjoyed freedom. Instead, men are subject and limited to someone else’s will. Locker’s argument on the other hand, is able to better define liberty in his description of a perfect state of nature.

He makes a precise distinction between the state of perfect equality, where there is no supreme power that hinders liberty, as separate from the state of nature, where God’s will is implied (Locke, 244). In the perfect state of nature, Locke returns o this idea that there is no supreme power that places limitations of man’s liberty. Therefore, man’s actions are not the result of a necessity of God’s will. From Locker’s discrepancy, we can support the idea that Locker’s conclusion of the compatibility of freedom and necessity is unsound and needs further analysis and evidence.

Hobbes’ argument, however, was successful in creates premises, such as the right of nature and the first two laws of nature, that lead to a logical conclusion, being the necessity of an absolute sovereign to serve as the soul of the commonwealth. Men must submit to the laws and to the decree of the chosen override or return to the condition of war in the original state of nature: “Where man might without injustice be destroyed by any man whatsoever’ (Hobbes, 224).

This clarifies the idea that men give up some liberty for the benefit of security of his person and for appeasement of the constant fear of death. Locker’s argument parallels this aspect of Hobbes’ argument and therefore can be used to support it. Locke describes the necessity of political society being that, “God having made such a creature, put him under strong obligations of necessity, convenience, and inclination to drive him into society as well as fitted him tit understanding and language to continue to enjoy it” (Locke, 258).

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