You are on page 1of 22

SOME REMARKS ON THE POLITICAL SCIENCE OF HOBBES1 Apropos the recent book by Mr.

Lubienski2

I. Today, when on the one hand one finds, largely widespread, the opinion that liberalism and liberal democracy have definitely gone bankrupt, and when, on the other hand, the idea of a complete reestablishment of the ancient forms of government that claim to be founded on a divine law, seem, as much as the Bolshevist doctrine, to appall the intellectual probity of a non-negligible number of our contemporaries, the attention of those that do not content themselves with half-solutions necessarily must carry themselves toward the political science of Hobbes. First, because Hobbes was, as M. Brhier3 says, absolutist without being theologian, and even, we will add, without being theist or religious in general. Next, because the rigueur and result of his thinking, which is not denied even by his most resolute adversaries, guarantees that the solutions that he proposes are not half-solutions. Just or not, the modern critique of the liberal doctrine, exerted today a little everywhere, radically modifies the situation of liberalism. Because it is the first time that one oppose something to it that is not simply a reactionary critique, nor an immanent critique as is that of socialism that, in arriving at results radically opposed to those of liberalism, nonetheless accepts without discussion its fundamental principles. Today, liberalism, if it still wants to maintain its positions, must, more than ever, find a radical
1QuelquesremarquessurlasciencepolitiquedeHobbes,inRecherchesPhilosophiques (1933:2),60922.TranslatedfromtheFrenchbyMurrayS.Y.Bessette.NotetheFrenchtextisa translationbyAlexandreKojveoftheoriginalGerman,whichcanbefoundinLeoStrauss, GesammelteSchriften,6Bde.,Bd.3,Hobbes'politischeWissenschaftundzugehrigeSchriften,Briefe,m. SonderdruckvonBd.1frdieSubskribenten,ed.HeinrichMeier(Germany:Metzler,2001). 2Z.Lubienski.DieGrudlagendesethischpolitischenSystemsvonHobbes.Mnchen,Reinhardt, 1932. 3EmileBrhier.

justification for its ideas: an obligation that it has never experienced in the course of its history. Because in its beginnings it could if not with right, at least with success make an appeal to certain fundamental premises that formed the basis of the religious tradition that it combated. It [held] these principles in common with its adversary, and thus rendered the latter vulnerable to its attacks. But today and it is a result of the victory of liberalism its principles are no longer accepted as evident, of the sort that liberalism can no longer call for them vis--vis those of its new adversaries. Now, when it seeks to find a radical justification for liberalism, thus without having recourse to open or dissimulated borrowings from the religious tradition, one sees that one is again led back to the political science of Hobbes. Because [609] Hobbes was the first to give such a justification, and he gave it with a radicalism that has since never been equaled. At first glance, this assertion appears paradoxical, but it is truly only at first glance. In effect, if one looks closer, one finds in him all the premises and all the assertions the most characteristic of liberalism. It will suffice, for the moment, to recall the following points: the egalitarian principle is the basis of all of the argumentation of Hobbes; the natural right of which he speaks has all the characteristics of the imprescriptible rights of man; the opposition between the military state and the industrial state of human society, the last is the only one he accepts, is expressed in a sufficiently clear manner (cf. Elements, t. I, XIX, 2 and De cive, V, 2 with De cive, I, 2, and XIII, 14); he rejects, directly from the egalitarian principle, paternal power over the child to the benefit of maternal power, in admitting as his premise, the absolute legal equality of the two sexes; finally, his opinions on lay marriage, on the abolishment of the vow, his ideas relative to the organization of higher education, and last not least4 his critique of religion, all of this perfectly conforms to
4ThisphraseappearsinEnglishandisitalicizedintheoriginalGermantext.

the spirit of liberalism. The fact that Hobbes is a partisan of absolutism is not in discord with his liberalism, and does not render it suspect. This fact proves only that he well realized the force of the obstacles that liberalism had to surmount, obstacles coming not only from the ancient powers of the Church and feudal State, but also, and even above all, from human nature itself. Anyway it would not be difficult to find other examples that would prove that liberalism always returns toward its absolutist beginnings each time that it sees itself seriously menaced or obliged to struggle against a violent opposition. Hobbess absolutism is in the final analysis nothing other than militant liberalism in statu nascendi, that is to say liberalism in its most radical form. Hobbes is, therefore, truly the founder of liberalism; and this is why all those who search for either a critique or a radical justification of liberalism necessarily must return to him. Now, in being the founder of liberalism, Hobbes all the same is not a liberal in the proper sense of the term. It is also why he can open more possibilities that do not contain liberalism properly speaking and which could have a positive value even if liberalism properly speaking effectively had, as its adversaries claim, gone bankrupt. The actuality of the political science of Hobbes will become, we believe, more and more evident. It does not suffice to say that we could learn something in making Hobbes the object of our study: Hobbes has to teach us something of which we are in need. He can serve as our teacher and teach us important truths, of which we are in need today and that we cannot find in any of our contemporaries. This imposes on the interpretation of his [611] doctrine the duty to watch over with the greatest care that opinions that dominate or that tend to dominate actually are not introduced tacitly in the thinking of Hobbes. For such an alteration of the historical given would deprive the study

of the politics of Hobbes of the importance that it could justly have in view of elucidating the political doctrines of the day. Therefore, it is precisely in supposing that the politics of Hobbes has a value eminently actual that we ought to demand that it be analyzed with all scientific exactitude possible, without any rapprochement with modern doctrines: this could only lend to confusion. Consider from this point of view, the recent book by M. Lubienski (Die Grundlagen des ethisch-politischen Systems von Hobbes, Mnchen, 1932, Rienhardt) leaves from the beginning a favorable impression. It suffices to page through it convince oneself that it was written with a purely scientific intent. It leaves from the beginning the impression of solidity and of independence. In these conditions one voluntarily believes that the author will realize what he promises us, to know how to give an absolutely novel solution, which will differ in large part for the results acquired up till now (15), to the central problems in the interpretation of Hobbes. To be able to judge of the novelty of his solution, one must keep present the spirit of the current interpretation of Hobbes; and to be able to recognize if the novel solution really has the value that its author attributes to it, one must specify the central problem in the interpretation of his thinking.

II. All those who have read Hobbes praise the rigor, the consistency, and the intrepidity of his thinking; and all those who have studied him have always been astonished by the numerous contradictions which one finds in his writings. Among his most characteristic theses one does not find many which are not, in fact or in appearance, directly or by the negation of its consequences, refuted in any one area in his writings.

One therefore needs a rule of interpretation that, in the frequent cases where the philosopher emits contradictory ideas, would allow the interpreter to decide which of the assertions that contradict each other express his true opinion. Now, one could believe that one has already found this rule in and by the first impression of rigor of the thinking of Hobbes, an impression that certainly is not absolutely false. This impression is founded on characteristic assertions of Hobbes, which must strike all his readers, which in consequence are universally known as Hobbesian, and which it suffices to reunite to see that they reveal a single fundamental conviction, perfectly clear and cognizant itself, that its a single elementary will which expresses itself in and by them. And this impression of unity and rigor is so strong that the observation of the frequent contradictions that one finds in the writings of Hobbes are powerless to change it. We are not afraid to reproduce one more time these characteristic assertions: the desire of power and honor, uninterrupted, insatiable, always increasing, again the desire of more power and honor, is the fundamental inclination of man; the beatitude is impossible; science has not intrinsic value: scientia propter potentiam; science is limited to the study of material and efficient causes; man is by his nature an asocial being; the state of nature is the war of all against all; the State is an artificial formation; the primacy of natural right, that is to say necessity, vis--vis the natural law, that is to say obligation; the coincidence of the social contract with the subjugation contract; the absolute sovereignty of supreme power, and the impossibility of a separation of powers; monarchy, the best form of government; the subordination of the Church to the State, thus of the eternal to the temporal. Analyze the one and indivisible conviction, of which results these assertions that is the unique task of the interpretation of the doctrine of Hobbes.

But it does not suffice for this interpretation to show the intimate relation that unites these characteristic theses; at no moment must one lose sight of the relation of these theses among themselves, such as that which was established by Hobbes himself. But, as soon as one begins to study in detail the arguments employed by Hobbes and it must well be done because it is precisely these arguments that reveal the manner in which he linked his ideas , the first impression, lively and gripping, of the rigor of his thinking and without which the analysis of his doctrine would be completely disoriented, is revealed to give us only one insufficient cannon. Because this impression does not permit us to decide which contradictory arguments must be considered as the most characteristic for Hobbes. One therefore has a need for a more concrete rule, better adapted to the particular character of the contradictions in question. Such a rule cannot be found except if the contradictions of Hobbes are typical and are not due to chance [haphazard]. One can suppose from the beginning that it is truly so, and the analysis confirms this assumption: the Hobbesian philosophy is determined by two contradictory tendencies, that Hobbes did not know how to reconcile, and which, anyway, cannot be. The interpreter must, therefore, make a choice: he must openly and expressly eliminate one of the two contradictory tendencies, in order to reestablish in the sense of the other tendency, and in basing it uniquely on this one the unity of the politics of Hobbes, that this last had seen without, however, the power to realize it entirely. Now it is clear that the interpretation must be based on the authentic tendency, characteristic for Hobbes, and abstracted from that which is only traditional, and which Hobbes opposed and from which he tried (with more or less success) to

liberate himself from, just as the proof the characteristic tendency, which is without a doubt, anti-traditional. The difficulty begins when one tries to define the traditional tendency and the original tendency. Mr. Lubienski, following other historians (32, note), admits that Hobbes had the intention to philosophize in the spirit of modern Galilean science, but he could not always realize this intention, because he was again imbued with the Aristotelian-Scholastic science that, moreover, he radically combated. But it is impossible to stop at this observation. Dilthey5 signaled the dependency of Hobbes vis-vis roman stoicism, and Mr. Lubienski underlines the dependency vis--vis Plato (see especially 222-228). What relation is there between these dependencies and the dependency vis--vis the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition? Does Hobbes return to Plato by opposition to the Aristotelian tradition? Does he truly return to Plato, or does he endure, only the influence of the platonic tradition? Has one, in general, when one begins from Hobbes and studies his relations with the tradition, the right to distinguish Plato and Aristotle? The series of questions that are posed here themselves, and that must be resolved if one wants to arrive at a coherent interpretation of the Hobbesian doctrine, easily could be prolonged. We will content ourselves to observe that Mr. Lubienski does not pose them. He asserts, on the one hand, that the dependency of the AristotelianScholastic tradition is responsible from rationalism of Hobbes, which impedes his naturalist and empirical-critical tendency from fully realizing itself, and he sees, on the other hand, precisely in the rationalism his dependency vis--vis Plato, without trying to elucidate the relation between these two facts.

5WilhelmDilthey.

The problem of the relations between the politics of Hobbes and the tradition, a problem the solution to which is the indispensable premise of the interpretation, does not lose with Mr. Lubienski the importance that befits it, because he thinks the faults that are due to the contradiction between the ancient and new ideas (sc. In the interior of the politics of Hobbes) are nothing but completely insignificant residues (33). We have no need of discussing in detail this opinion of Mr. Lubienski, which is not only materially false, but also, as it is easy to see in considering it more closely, incomprehensible. It suffices to signal that Mr. Lubienski on the occasion of the doctrine of duty, which is the central part of Hobbesian politics speaks of the continual hesitation of Hobbes between the objective and subjective foundations of morals, and he brings this hesitation back to the principal defect of Hobbes, namely to his attempt to reconcile the tradition and modern manners of seeing.

III. Mr. Lubienski purports to give an absolutely novel solution, in large part different from the results acquired hitherto (15) of the fundamental problems in the interpretation of Hobbes. He arrives at his solutions by placing the notion of duty at the center of his study, and by [614] showing the close relation between this notion and the principles of the mechanistic psychology of Hobbes (14). This positioning6 of the problem the interpretation7 of the politics of Hobbes as a naturalist doctrine of duty is without a doubt congruous with the sense of most of the express declarations of Hobbes on his intentions. But it is again evident that this does not constitute a guaranty, for it is strongly possible that the development of the politics of Hobbes refutes his intention. And

6ThewordintheGermanoriginalisBestimmungorstipulation. 7ThewordintheGermanoriginalisVerstndnisorunderstanding.

even in admitting that the task that Mr. Lubienski sets up is realizable, it must again be asked if the most authentic interpretation is also the most appropriate interpretation. Mr. Lubienski is ready to recognize with Tnnies8 that the researches (of Hobbes) relative to the natural sciences matured much later in his mind9 that his political and social opinions. Even in admitting that the ability with which he unites his final opinions with the psycho-physical elements of his doctrine assigns him the glory of being one of the premier representatives of the naturalist trend in ethics and political science (31), - it remains that he conceived of his ideas regarding man and the state independently of the natural sciences, and only after tried to deduce them from the latter. Is it no possible, as a consequence, to understand his political science completely independent of the subsequent naturalist deduction? Did he not himself expressly assert at many times the independence of political science vis--vis the natural sciences? This possibility becomes a necessity if one could show that the most profound anthropological and political ideas of Hobbes are violated rather than clarified by the subsequent naturalist demonstrations (without speaking of the fact that the naturalism itself is not, sum total, so natural that one ought not to ask which of its roots are not scientific but simply human). It is therefore, not as evident as Mr. Lubienski thinks that he must base the interpretation of the politics of Hobbes on the most mature writings, that is to say, in particular, on Leviathan (p. 15). Moreover, it is possible that the most mature treatment is that where the real roots of the new ideas on man and the State are the most cleverly concealed. Anyway, the univocal and precise texts that can be cited to support the attempt to understand the politics of Hobbes as a naturalist doctrine of duty are so numerous that

8FerdinandTnnies. 9ThewordintheGermanoriginalisGeiste,whichKojverenderedasespritinFrench.

one has in any case the right to try. And one must congratulate Mr. Lubienski for having posed his problem in a very precise manner. See now the fashion in which he treats it. His analysis of the fundamental principles of the system of ethics of Hobbes (46-68) culminates in the following result: for Hobbes the Good is the stimulation of life, while the norm of the universally valid morals is the conservation of life. This distinction implies the important statement that Hobbes obtains the principle of [615] the morals by the restriction of a more primitive fact, and that this one cannot serve as a base for the constitution of a universally valid morals (55). But one must ask firstly if one correctly reproduces the opinion of Hobbes when one says that the Good is the stimulation of life. Admitting that Mr. Lubienski has reason to say that for Hobbes the Good is not pleasure, not the conservation of oneself (50-57), that on the contrary Hobbes subordinates this sentiment of pleasure to another Good, to knowledge, to the stimulation of the vital movements (sc. localized in the heart), which pleasure but an indication. It must be said nevertheless that the precise expression: stimulation of the vital movements, employed by Hobbes himself, certainly signifies something other than the vague expression: stimulation of life, that one does not find in Hobbes in the sense that Mr. Lubienski attributes to him. The latter expression moreover is dangerous, for it can veil from one the necessity of deducing duty from pre-moral facts (what a naturalist theory of duty necessarily must try to do), since the stimulation of life can designate the ensemble of human activities, and thence all moral actions (62). Beginning thus from a principle that is not truly a naturalist principle where therefore does it dispense with the essential task of a naturalist ethics. One thus has all the more the right to assert that, according to Hobbes, the Good is

10

the stimulation of the vital movements. Specified thusly, the assertion is in accord with all the fundamental texts. For if good is only that which stimulates the vital movements, then [the assertion] also says: all the true goods are sensible goods; spiritual goods are means of obtaining sensible goods (ad sensuale conducentia10), are vain, that is to say, identical to the pleasures of vanity. This opinion is clearly expressed by Hobbes in De cive, 12. (It is beginning with this passage, as well as that of De corpore, 16, that one must interpret the unique citation of Mr. Lubienski that appears to permit him to overshoot the definition of good as the stimulation of vital movements, namely the remark on the science in De homine, XI, 9; that, indeed, Mr. Lubienski himself implicitly admits cf. 241). Secondly, one can reproach Mr. Lubienski for believing he could define the Good, that is to say the true Good (53), before having determined the norm of the universally valid morals. Without a doubt, the question relative to this norm is not the first question of the ethics of Hobbes. But this does not mean that the first question of his ethics is the problem of the true Good. It clearly flows from a passage of the Dedication of De cive, cited by Mr. Lubienski (88), that the determination of the end of the cupiditas naturalis11 must precede the invention of the norm of the universally valid morals. Mr. Lubienski identifies, it is true, the true Good with the end of the cupiditas naturalis. But this identification, contrarily to what [616] Mr. Lubienski thinks (48), is not at all justified by the fact that desire is directed toward a good, for one must ask precisely if this good which is the end of desire is the true Good. Now, it cannot be contested that Hobbes answers this question in the negative. According to him (v. the

10Concerningusefulfeelings. 11Naturaldesire.

11

passage from De cive, Ep. ded., cited by Mr. Lubienski himself, 88, also see De cive, III, 31 s.), the cupititas naturalis is opposed to the ration naturalis12, which is solely capable of recognizing the true Good. Desire is in any case pre-rational. It is even the pre-rational fact, and, hence, pre-moral, par excellence, the restriction of which gives the norm of the universally valid morals; and it is from this pre-rational fact that one must begin in one wishes to understand well the manner in which Hobbes poses the foundations of his morals. When one asks what is the good that is the goal aimed at by natural desire, in other words: what is the natural ideal of happiness, one cannot but answer with Tnnies: this goal is the advance, with the fewest hindrances, in the acquisition of power and honor. Mr. Lubienski objects to this interpretation that the aspiration to power and honor is not in any case posed as the end supreme and in itself (60). In effect, the aspiration to power and honor is not, for Hobbes, the final end in itself; but advancing with the fewest hindrances in the acquisition of power and honor is the greatest good for natural desire, that is to say for natural man, to whom infelicitous experiences have not yet taught modesty (cf. De homine, XI, 15 with Elements, I, ix, 21 and Leviathan, XI, as well as with De cive, I, 2, note 1 and I, 4). The aspiration to a greater and greater power can equally, it is true, be truly good, that is to say reasonable. But this reasonable aspiration to power cannot be understood as reasonable only when the principle of natural reason, that is to say the norm of the universally valid morals, is elucidated. Reasonable aspiration is permitted aspiration, that is to say conformed to natural right (Leviathan, XI). A more thorough analysis would show in addition that according to the opinion of Hobbes natural desire is, at bottom, nothing other than a search for higher and higher honor, that is to say, along the Hobbesian conception of honor nothing other than
12Naturalreason.

12

vanity. The opinion of Mr. Lubienski according to which unlimited aspiration to honor according to Hobbes appears not in some men (61) comes from the erroneous interpretation of a passage from Leviathan, XIII, cited in its support. Furthermore, this view is clearly contradicted by the passage (Leviathan, XIII) in question, not to mention many other passages. Thirdly, we must oppose to the conception that Mr. Lubienski made the first principles of the system of ethics of Hobbes the following remark: in the opposition between the goal of natural desire and that of natural reason is reduced to the difference between the stimulation of [617] life and the conservation of life, the politics of Hobbes loses completely its proper tension. For when one replaces natural desire, which (as the comparison of the passage from De cive, Ep. Ded., mentioned above, with De cive, I, 12) is identical with the natural tendency of men to mutual harm, by stimulation to life, it becomes incomprehensible why, according to Hobbes, homo homini lupus est, why man is, as Mr. Lubienski says, an asocial being; and one comprehends it even less when, according to Mr. Lubienski, the tendency to the stimulation to life embraces all human activities and, thereby, all moral actions (62).

IV. Let us now pass to the analysis of the doctrine of duty of Hobbes (69-117), which forms, according to Mr. Lubienski himself, the central part of his work. Mr. Lubienski, like many other historians before him, distinguish within the doctrine of Hobbes a logical deduction and a psychological analysis of duty. The logical deduction shows in the conservation of life an absolute and irrefutable exigency of reason: man by his nature aspires toward the blossoming of life, and must, as a

13

consequence, aspire first to the conservation of life (cf. 56 and 69). But this explication is insufficient because it does not explain why the conservation of life is the duty of each man (109). It is the psychological analysis that is responsible for answering this more profound question. It results that duty is a hindrance; more exactly: a hindrance that is not effectively sensed but forecasts, as a consequence, a mental and moral hindrance (71-76 and 82; cf. above all 76: the forecast is already a factor of moral nature). It therefore must be said that duty is a moral obstacle (sc. = spiritual) that hinders in men the pursuit of their natural ends (73). This evidently signifies that duty is a constraint (84 and 118) or a psychic hindrance (82). The logical analysis did not take into account this element of constraint. Hobbes tries to link the two analyses of duty by asserting that man, effectively and necessarily, wants what he must will reasonably, to know all that serves the conservation of his life. But since the will of man, in fact, is not always reasonable, Hobbes is obliged to postulate, outside of the conscious will, very often contrary to reason, the existence of an unconscious will, presumptive (mutmalicher Wille), that is the true will, and always reasonable, of man (87 and 148 ss.). The remark of Mr. Lubienski on the presumptive will is fairly exact. Mr. Lubienski recognizes as well that the source of this opinion must be sought in the doctrine of Plato, according to which one never commits injustice consciously (149, note, where Mr. Lubienski refers in particular to Crito, 51, E). One can ask, however, if [618] Mr. Lubienski renders justice to Hobbes. He believes he is able to object that there are not, in reality, unconscious traits, unconscious will or unconscious desires (229). We would like on the other hand to emphasize in favor of Hobbes that, if Mr. Lubienski is correct, the attempt to render conscious this obscure

14

will (156), of enlightening man in regard to himself, would have no sense, because it would be superfluous. The notion of presumptive will cannot, we believe, be understood except as a part of the idea of an enlightenment philosophy: detached from this original foundation, it becomes incomprehensible and, as a consequence, easy to criticize. And it is because Mr. Lubienski comprehends neither the profound roots, nor the motives, no less profound, of the notion of a presumptive will, that the latter appears to him, in the final analysis, lie a fallback solution. According to him, Hobbes formulated this notion of a presumptive will because he wanted a contradictory attempt to reconcile the normative character of the natural law with a positivist comprehension of the world, the notion of duty with a deterministic conception of nature (196); in general, because he wanted to support modern principles, based on psychological experience and observation, with the aid of obsolete arguments and deductions (233). The notion of a presumptive will would not be necessary save that Hobbes wanted to reconcile the logical and psychological foundations of duty. We do not contest that there are sufficient texts that authorize the distinction between logical foundations and psychological foundations. But, as Tnnies already has demonstrated, Hobbes does not seek simply to reconcile the two foundations; he seeks to make them coincide. That is to say that the true thought of Hobbes cannot be understood beginning from a distinction between logical foundations and psychological foundations of duty. One cannot grasp this unless one ascends beyond this distinction.

15

According to Mr. Lubienski, the logical deduction of duty reduces to this: all good, as good for man, presupposes that man lives; as a consequence, the conservation of life is the first of goods. But there is no doubt that we cannot, according to Hobbes himself, be satisfying by this overly logical statement. The insufficiency of this demonstration which is said to be clear, according to which the conservation of life will be an absolute and irrefutable exigency of reason, becomes even more evident again once one reverses the question: is death the largest of evils? Hobbes does not answer in the affirmative so much as by making some important qualifications, because he knows that, under certain conditions, death can be considered as a good. The conservation of life, therefore, cannot be the norm of a universally valid morals. Hobbes nevertheless asserts that violent and painful death is in any case the largest of evils (De homine, XI, 6 and De cive, Ep. ded.). It is, therefore, not the conservation of life as such, but its defense [619] against possible attacks on the part of other men, which is the end that morals are, according to Hobbes, the means. It is because the law of nature, which has for content the conditions of the peaceful life, coincide for him completely with the morals (Leviathan, XV); it is also because in the catalogue of virtues established by Plato and Aristotle, he retains only justice, and does not acknowledge the others (for example, courage, liberality, etc.), that is to say, those which are not conditions of the peaceful life within society. (De homine, XIII, 9. Beginning from this passage and taking into account the general economy of the politics of Hobbes, the assertion of the existence of virtues other than justice, for example in De cive, III, 32, is explained by the not yet surmounted influence of the tradition.) Hence therefore: it is not the means of conserving life as such,

16

but the means of defending life against the attacks of other men, that is to say it is the conditions of peace and them only that form the content of duty. But why is it the duty of man to safeguard peace? It is the psychological analysis of duty that must answer this question. Mr. Lubienski debates the interpretation according to which Hobbes would have conceived the action determined by duty as an action determined by fear. Contrary to this interpretation, Mr. Lubienski asserts that, for Hobbes, the motives of duty and of fear differ absolutely (93). He remarks with reason that Hobbes, no less well than any other moralist, knew to distinguish between an action determined by duty and an action motivated by fear of punishment (113 s.). Mr. Lubienski distinguishes then in Hobbes to significations of fear: an intellectual signification and an affective signification. It is only with fear understood in the intellectual sense with which Hobbes identifies the consciousness of duty; and fear or care understood as such is nothing other than the voice of reason (94-98). Now, it is here that the true problem rises up, which Mr. Lubienski sadly does not pose: why does the word fear (metus), in its largest sense, mean in Hobbes simply the voice of reason? why does Hobbes call reason, as consciousness of duty, fear? Evidently because the rational consciousness of duty constitutes itself in and by the forecast of something terrifying, of the most terrifying thing there is, that is to say of violent death. We will not discuss this explanation of the consciousness of duty. Whatever its value is, it permits one to distinguish, just as Mr. Lubienski wishes, between action determined by duty and action motivated by the dread of punishment: duty and fear different between them like constant, astute, farsighted, fear determining the entire life, differs from shortsighted and momentary fear, Mr. Lubienski himself recalls anyway the

17

essential connection between the dread of violent death and the consciousness of duty. He says in effect: the threat of death forms a base [620] favorable to the constitution of a universally valid system (124). It is then the danger of death, and not, as Mr. Lubienski said elsewhere (113), the rational postulate of the necessity of the conservation of oneself that is the source of duty. The dread of violent death, there is the difference, the constraint sought by the psychological analysis of duty. But this fact, which, supposedly, is only searched for by the psychological analysis, differs not from that which occupies and in the same sense the logical deduction: the recognition of violent death as the biggest evil is necessarily the fear of this death; and it is why this knowledge is constraining. Thus there is, according to Hobbes, a single [seul] foundation of duty: the fear of violent death as a fear that determines man in his entire life. That is not to say that this fear is the only [seul] foundation of duty. The mediation between the fear of violent death and the consciousness of duty is formed by their mutual confidence. It cannot be a question, here, of developing the genesis of the consciousness of duty from the fear of violent death. This, in any case, is only possible if one strictly follows the signposts of Hobbes himself, which is to say if one grasps the general economy of his political science. This economy is completely ignored by Mr. Lubienski. He mentions, it is true, the fact that Hobbes distinguishes between natural right and natural law (84-86 and 157159). But, as it betrays already his incapacity, recognized by himself, to translate adequately these expressions, he has not understood the capital importance of this distinction. It is for this reason he can say that, according to Hobbes, the conservation of life is, at bottom, our first duty (71). For Hobbes clearly says that the conservation of

18

life is the content of natural right, which is to day that natural man has the absolute right, but not the duty, to conserve his life. Mr. Lubienski thus has not understood the manner of proceeding of Hobbes. For Hobbes deduces first natural right, which is to say that which man has the absolute right to demand, and only after natural law, which is to say that which man has the duty to do. It is thus entirely impossible to understand the doctrine of duty of Hobbes, if one does not distinguish clearly the deduction of natural right from that of natural law, and if one does not understand this first. For it is then impossible to understand the sense of the introduction, by Hobbes, of the distinction between the just and the unjust. Now, he introduces this distinction not only in the theory of duty, but already in the theory of natural right. Now, if one does not perceive that it is already natural right, and not only natural law, that possesses a moral character, one easily arrives at a misunderstanding of the very narrow deduction and as the differences of the three writings of the politics of Hobbes already prove very difficult from natural right. This is precisely what Mr. Lubienski does, in identifying the natural desire and the aspiration to the stimulation of life, which combine at the same time all the moral actions. The interpretation of natural desire, as the aspiration to the stimulation of life suffices therefore for rendering the comprehension of the politics of Hobbes impossible. In summary, we oppose to the interpretation of Mr. Lubienski the following two objections: 1) natural desire is, according to Hobbes, not the aspiration to the stimulation of life, but, as a deeper analysis shows, the desire of man to please himself in being recognized by other men as superior to them; in a word, vanity. 2) It is false to say that there is in Hobbes two different foundations of duty that are not united except subsequently; there is only one, which can be characterized neither as logical nor as

19

psychological: Hobbes sees the foundation of duty in the fear of violent death. Vanity and fear are the two poles between which, according to the doctrine of Hobbes, man moves in transforming himself from natural man into a citizen. By his nature, which is to say before all education, man is vain, dominated by the unlimited desire of a more and more complete triumph. To this unlimited desire is opposed, in limiting it, the fear of violent death: this brings back the natural maximal exigency of man to the reasonable minimal exigency, which wants nothing other than the conservation pure and simple of life. It is precisely this restriction that renders man capable of contracting obligations and that are therefore the source of duty. Vanity is more ancient than fear. But man only can live under the empire of vanity so long as he misunderstands his own forces and those of other men, so long as he does not know his true situation. Now he recognizes this when he finds himself in the presence of a violent death. Before the experience of danger, man lives in the world of his imagination, he lives as he dreams: he awakens, he regains consciousness of self, damnorum experientia13, in taking consciousness of the dreadful character of the real world. The fear of violent death therefore is nothing less than an obscure and blind dread, since it is on the contrary the only force that illuminates man and renders him lucid. It is in the opposition of vanity and fear that the character of the philosophy of Hobbes as an enlightenment philosophy is revealed. Vanity and fear characterize two contrary modes of the life of man. To vanity, to the attitude of physically mature man, but which nevertheless is a puer robustus14, corresponds the ideal natural happiness of man: the dream of triumph, conquest,

13Experientialknowledgedamns. 14Powerfulchild.

20

domination over all men and, by this, over all things. To fear, which properly belongs to homo adultus15, corresponds the attitude of defense, of the modest life, of toil organized in common. It is to this opposition, which has never been presented in so clear, so profound, and so sincere a manner as by Hobbes, that one must return to it if one wants to understand the ideals of liberalism and socialism in their shared fundamentals. Because all struggle against politics, guided under the name of economics, presupposes the preliminary depreciation of the primary. Now, this depreciation is effected in opposing, overtly or in a dissimulating manner, politics, considered as the proper domain of vanity, of prestige, of desire of domination, to economics, considered as the world of reasonable and modest work. It is thus a specifically modern attitude that is expressed in and by the opposition of vanity and fear (or modesty). This opposition appears at first sight as a secularized form of the opposition superbia-humilitas16. It has in any case as a foundation the Christian conception of life. It is beginning from this opposition that an epoch, which has lost faith, but which nevertheless is determined by faith, sees and understands itself. But this attitude, modern, and that, truly, is not only expressed in the writings of Hobbes, cannot be understood simply by beginning from this privative premise. The voice that leads from vanity to fear is the voice that guides from unconsciousness to circumspection, from the brilliant mirage of the political life to the truly good, accessible only to rational understanding. Which means: the opposition vanity fear is the modern form, determined by Christianity, of the opposition posed in a classical manner by SocratesPlato.

15Adulthuman. 16Pridehumility.

21

A true comprehension of the politics of Hobbes, a judgment founded and based on this, at bottom therefore is not possible unless one confronts it with the politics of Plato. Only then can we decide in the transposition of the antique ideas by Hobbes, determined, in fact, by Christianity, truly resting, as he affirms on a more profound understanding of human nature; it is only then that we can see what at bottom is this aspiration to profundity. Leo Strauss

22