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GV100 Hobbes

Hobbes and the State of Nature

Essay question: Explain the role of the state of nature in Hobbes
account of sovereignty.



Nature hath made

men so equal, in the
faculties of body and
mind (Hobbes, 86)

All can threaten each

others lives. Even the
weakest can kill the
strongest if he is

during the time men

live without a common
power to keep them all
in awe, they are in that
condition which is
called war; and such a
war, as is of every man,
against every man
(Hobbes, 88)

The three main causes

of quarrel are
competition, diffidence
and glory.
This is due to the
nature of men towards
wanting gain, security
reputation etc.
*Society is not natural,
war is natural. Very
harsh chaotic state of

description of
the state of
1) Men are

2) The state of
nature is a
state of war
of all against

3) Life is
poor, nasty,
brutish and

4) People have
a right of
nature in the
state of

And the life of man,

solitary, poor, nasty,
brutish, and short.
(Hobbes, 89)

The Right of nature

is the liberty each man
has, to use his own as
power, as he will
himself, for the
preservation of his own
nature (Hobbes, 91)

This is a result of being

in a state of war.
People do not enter
into contracts since
there is no central
power to enforce it and
there is no place for
industry and culture.
Primal state of
This as the most
important feature of
Hobbes theory, which
is the emphasis on
Natural Right and its
primacy over natural
* Natural law theory

5) Real life
instances of
the state of
nature exist.

savage people in many

places of America
(Hobbes, 89)

The notions of Right

and Wrong, Justice and
Injustice have no place.
Where there is no
common Power, there is
no Law: where no law,
no injustice. (Hobbes,

Law of nature: by
which a man is
forbidden to do, that,
which is destructive to
his life (Hobbes, 91)

That everyman 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 helps and
advantages of war
(Hobbes, 92)

6) There is no
justice in the
state of

which specifies what,

is right and what is
wrong and what we
must do and must
avoid doing.
Self-preservation takes
priority over all else,
and there is no
agreement over the
notions of good and
evil in the state of

Hobbess laws of
Law of nature

1st law of nature:

Everyman ought
to endeavor

2nd law of

3rd law of nature:


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 (Hobbes, 92)
That men perform
their Covenants made

Law of nature as rule

of reason

Problem is that the

right of nature leads to
There is a conflict
between the right of
nature and the 1st law
of nature.
Hard to endeavor
peace when selfpreservation is your
main right.

If a covenant is made
in that condition of
mere nature, that
covenant is void
because the suspicion
of non-compliance
cannot be alleviated.
For he that
performs first has no
assurance the other
will perform after.

Men, by creating the

Other laws:
faculty to
pardon, against
pride etc.
Exiting the state
of nature:

Fear of
violent death

End of the
th is security

(Hobbes, 100)
But when a covenant is
made, than to break it
is unjust: and the
definition of injustice, is
no other than the not
performance of
covenant (Hobbes,

The Passions that

encline men to Peace,
are Feare of Death.
(Hobbes, 90)

The final cause in the

introduction of restraint
upon themselves is the
foresight of their own
preservation, and of a
more contented life
(Hobbes, 117)

I authorize and give

up my Right of
Governing my selfe, to
this Man, or to this
Assembly of men, on
this condition, that thou
give up thy Right to him
and Authorize all his
Actions in like manner.
(Chap, XVI 87-88)

Formation of

commonwealth create
justice and injustice.
*This cements the
absolute power of the
Justice is none other
than obedience
Hobbes as intending
these laws or rather
moral precepts as a
means to make people
obey authority.

The agreement is not

with the sovereign but
between each one of
us to authorize the
- What we agree to do is
each to give up our
subjective right and
judgment and transfer
it to the sovereign.
- This will is legitimate
because it is ours!
Must be absolute (but
Locke disagrees).

Hobbes and absolute sovereignty

Essay question: Why does Hobbes claim that the powers of the
sovereign must be absolute?
Absolute unlimited
binding because it is legitimate
Sole authority, with no higher figure.
The sovereign and his characteristics:
1. Subjects cannot change form of Government
2. Sovereign power cannot be forfeited
3. No individual can judge the sovereign without acting unjustly
4. Whatever the Sovereign does cannot injure his subjects
5. Whatever the Sovereign does cannot be punished by subjects
6. Sovereign is the sole judge of what is necessary for peace of his
7. The Sovereign decides all questions of property
8. He is the sole and final judge on all controversies
9. He can declare war or peace when it suits him
10.He has sole power to choose all ministers
11.He decides all rewards and punishments
12.He decides all distinctions of honour and order
13.All these rights are indivisible




Reasons for
absolute power:
1) Unlimited
- powers over
many aspects

And though so
unlimited a power,
men may fancy many
evil consequences, yet
the consequents of the
want of it, which is
perpetual war of every
man against his
neighbor are much
worse (Hobbes, 144145).

The alternative to the

absolute sovereign is
returning to the state
of nature, which is a
state of war.
Hobbes asserts that
life under the
sovereign is always
better than that state
of war.
*Also the notion that
effective government
entails having powers
over many areas, in
order to procure
peace, which is the
end, to which men

2) Legitimate:
- It is absolute
because we
agreed to the
power when
we alienated
our right.
- It is our will
though it is
made out of
- Asserts that
children are
subject to the
same contract
master means
to be master
of all.

3) Single
- Against
divided rule
- Makes an
explicit case
for an
because of
it offers.

For both dominion by

institution and
acquired by force):
And this kind of
dominion, or
sovereignty, differ from
sovereignty by
institution, only in this,
that men who choose
their sovereign, do it
for fear of one another,
and of him who they
institute. (Hobbes,
The master of the
servant is mater also of
all he hath, and may
exact the use thereof:
that is to say, of his
goods, of his labour, of
his servants, and of his
children as he shall
think fit.
And in case the
master, if he refuse, kill
him, or cast him into
bonds he is himself
the author of the same
and cannot accuse him
of injury (Hobbes,

For what it is to divide

the power of a
commonwealth, but to
dissolve it; for powers
divided mutually
destroy each other.
Examples of

sought when they

entered into the
A limited government
as an ineffective
government, because
men are free to decide
for themselves again
which inevitably leads
to conflict and
reinstating the state of
Based on Hobbes
understanding of
freedom when we
make a choice.
Freedom is to be free
from external
according to Hobbes.
A free man, is he
that in those things,
which by his strength
and wit he is able to
do, is not hindered to
do what he has a will
to (Hobbes, 146).
Fear and liberty as
Fear and liberty are
consistent; as when a
man throws his goods
into the sea for fear
the ship should sink,
he doth it nevertheless
very willingly, and may
refuse to do it if he
will (Hobbes, 146)
As long as we
consented to it, we are
therefore bound by
that choice.
Fairly assertive and
biased argumentation.
He constantly returns
to this notion of the
fear of civil war, which
he believes having an
absolute monarch is
the best fence against
it because there can

Fourthly, that a
monarch cannot
disagree with himself,
out of envy, or interest;
but an assembly may;
and that to such a
height, as may produce
a civil war (Hobbes,
And whereas the
favorites of Monarchs,
are few, and they have
none else to advance
but their own kindred;
the favourites of an
assembly, are many.
(Hobbes, 132).
In Monarchy, the
private interest is the
same with the public.
The riches, power and
honour of a monarch
arise only from the
riches, strength and
reputation of his
subjects. (Hobbes,

be no
Notion that numbers
merely exaggerate the
existing human flaws.
Monarch is somehow
different from other
humans, where public
and private interest is
the same.

Reasons against
absolute power:
1) Against
- Unlimited
power is what
enables the
sovereign to
abuse it.
- Life under
sovereign can
be as
e miserable
than civil war.
2) Against
- There is no
free choice
because there
is only one
- Inability for

Lockes use of the

state of war. When
the sovereign abuses
his power, he enters
into a state of war with
his subjects.
No real means of
measuring whether life
under a tyrant is
better or civil war.
misery and mass
starvation in North
Korea vs. civil war
during the Arab
Unfair to see that as a
free choice because
there is no real
It is unfair to regard

one to opt out

(like the
forever tied to
that choice).

3) Against single
visible power
- Separation of
powers is the
current norm.
- Sovereign is
still a human.

death as a viable
Also unfair because
this is expected to
bind future
generations too, where
they have no means of
opting out. Lockes
tacit consent!
Though he is an
artificial person he is
still human, and
therefore fallible.
Democracy/having any
checks on his power
means being able to
minimize misrule.
Expediency in creating
laws not as important
as ensuring that those
laws are good laws in
the first place.
Hitlers Nazi
government was
arguable very effective
because he had
consolidated and
singular rule as Fuhrer.
Reversed separation of
power by merging
chancellor +

Hobbes and freedom

Essay question: Does Hobbes care at all about freedom?


conception of

A free man, is he that

in those things, which
by his strength and wit
he is able to do, is not
hindered to do what he
has a will to(Hobbes,

And therefore it may,

1) Freedom as
being free
from external

2) Liberty of

- Individual liberty
cannot be reconciled
easily with absolute
political authority.
- This is because
Hobbes political
authority is a function
of absolute political
obligation of subjects.
- As Hobbes justifies
continuing to disobey

subjects as
with the
power of the

and doth often happen

in Commonwealths,
that a subject may be
put to death by the
command of the
sovereign power; and
yet neither do the
other wrong (Hobbes,

State of nature
and freedom

Broadly, we
have a lot of
freedom and
y very little
Freedom to
take what is
required for
but little
freedom in
areas because
of the
e fear of

the sovereign, than

the absolute
authority of the
sovereign is
- People still reserve
judgment by
disagreeing with the
sovereigns decision.
- 2 possible outcomes
Cases in which subjects
are allowed to disobey: - A) False liberty If
If the sovereign
the power of the
command a man to kill,
sovereign is
wound, or maim
overwhelming, and the
himself; or not to resist
subjects disobedience
those that assault him
is duly punished.
yet hath that man
Nothing can come
the liberty to disobey.
from this supposed
(Hobbes, 151)
right to disobey.
If a man be
- B) Limited power If
interrogated by the
there are massive
sovereign, or his
rebellions against the
authority, concerning a
decision of the
crime done by himself,
he is not bound to
- Collective
confess it; because no
disobedience can lead
man can be obliged by
to the collapse of civil
covenant to accuse
himself. (Hobbes, 151) *Concur with Jean
Hampton on this

Some freedoms are
pre-political for other
Private property as
pre-political in Lockes
state of nature, as
opposed to Hobbes,
where it only exists
when the sovereign
dictates it so.

Hobbes vs. other
philosophers on
1) Locke
- Clearly
disagrees with
- Express vs.
tacit consent.
- Allows one to
leave the

2) Jean Hampton
- Hobbes is
inconsistent is
y arguing that
peace can
only be
secured by an
while claiming
that subjects
have a right
to selfpreservation.

3) Thrasymachus

Lockes main
challenge is Hobbes
notion of the absolute
Locke allows for the
dissolution of
government and
explicitly differentiates
between express and
tacit consent.
For Locke, we do not
fully alienate our right
to the sovereign, we
still maintain rights
over movable property
and can retain our
original liberty when
the sovereign abuses
his power and
launches us into a
state of war with him.
Jean Hampton has
argued that there is an
inconsistency between
Hobbes insistence
that peace can only be
secured by an
absolute sovereign
and his claim that
subjects in the
Commonwealth retain
a self-preservation
right that justifies
rebelling against the
sovereign when it is in
their interest to do so.
Because subjects can
legitimately rebel
whenever this action is
in their interest, the
Commonwealth is
effectively in the their
hands, rather than the
hands of the

Justice is
nothing but
the interest of
the stronger.

Reflects what
Thrasymachus said in
Book 1 of The
Republic, which is that
justice is what the
stronger dictates.
Doctrine of legal
positivism in any
legal system, whether
a given norm is legally
valid, depends on its
sources, not its merits.
The law is the
command of the
sovereign; hence the
sovereign can never
act unjustly.

Hobbes and Sovereignty by Institution vs. conquest

Kelly (2011): De jure authority follows de facto power.

There is a contradiction insofar as while in sovereignty by institution the

subjects covenant with each other to create a sovereign, while in
sovereignty by conquest the subjects do not covenant with each other, but
they do directly with the sovereign. That might be the contradiction
because the conquered people, first, do not have a real choice, since
they would have been killed otherwise, and, second, they are not giving
the opportunity as in sovereignty by institution to form a social contract
between themselves.

Institution: by explicit covenant or agreement; to escape so dreadful a

condition, people surrender their independence by entering into a
covenant to obey a sovereign power that will have the authority to make,
enforce, and interpret laws.

Fear of each other vs. fear of the sovereign: but both have the same
function to protect society and secure peace and both have the same
rights relative to their subjects.