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Stout Writing Assignment 1 Philo 130 02/09/2005 Thomas Hobbes in an essay the The Leviathan contends that there is an inevitable need for a sovereign power, or what we would call today the state. Hobbes argues that this is needed because the state of nature is inherently chaotic and dangerous. I will argue however that while Hobbes might be right on his issues about the state of nature, but his alternative is more dangerous and destructive. One would then conclude that the state of nature would be a preferable to Hobbes alternative because state conflicts are inherently going to be worse than the violence experienced in the state of nature if it at all occurs. Before we attack the arguments presented by Hobbes, we must understand why argues what he does. To do this we will look at the two main areas of his argument. First, his characterization of the state of nature and how it’s inherently violent and bloody. Second, we will look at what he argues is the alternative, the state, and how he contends the state should work. Hobbes argues that all people are equal. He contends that although someone might be stronger or more physically apt, that a person might make up for that with intelligence. He ultimately says that a person will use their different attributes to continue a person’s quest to accumulate property and increase their property amount. He argues that people as they age will ultimately become more knowledgeable and wise. So as people age and become intelligent to make up for their diminishing strength and continue to be productive. Hobbes argues that in the state of nature everyone has the right to everything because property rights are not something that can be enforced without a state to dictate that X person actually owns something in a legal sense. He also says that all people are rational and intelligent. This means they are going to pursue peace and self preservation. Reason seems to be the main reason why these characteristics are present in the state of nature or are present in a land without government. This land according to Hobbes is one filled with danger lurking constantly, which creates a culture that doesn’t CREATE INDUSTRY and creates a short and nasty life. (Blanchard, No Date) Hobbes says that there are three main characteristics in the state of nature. The first is that people seek peace but can use war to create that peace that is needed. He argues on the basis that it doesn’t make
sense for a group of people or a person to want to be in a state of war because of the danger to ones life and property. This also prevents people from becoming wealthier. Second, he argues that when someone treats you in a certain manner, that you should treat them in that same manner, and vice versa. This is the justification for as to why if you don’t kill them, they shouldn’t kill you. Thirdly, he says that we shouldn’t fight over small issues such as ones that don’t affect life or property. Hobbes says we should keep peace, and show gratitude towards others who keep peace also. While Hobbes thinks that these characteristics are present in the state of nature, he also argues that ultimately there are reasons as to why people will go to war. He argues that when the government is formed it will prevent the sources of disruption which are three, first, there is no justice, (Blanchard, No
Date Given) second, resources, and thirdly, power. Hobbes says that in the state of nature there is no
such thing as justice because its is every person for themselves and when it’s in that state there is no such thing as right and wrong because there are no laws. He says that force and fraud are the deciders of good or evil, (Blanchard No Date Given) a type of might makes right type of situation in the state of nature. He also argues that there are limited resources, and these resources are critical to a person’s survival. He says since it is critical to people’s survival that people will fight over these resources in order to survive because people will want the same resources. Hobbes also says that people want power in order to prevent future attacks, he says the way people go about this is by attacking one another until someone feels they are the lone power and no one will be able to match and challenge them for power. For those reasons Hobbes says that the state of nature will inevitably dissolve into a state of war, and that the best solution to prevent the wars from occurring are to create a sovereign power, or a state. He says that the state will operate through fear, it will have the ability to use armies and police to create a fear that will protect and ensure the contract is intact. Hobbes says that when the state appears and people create this state and sign into it that they must give up power to the government. He says that people when they enter the state should do whatever the state says and that the state should do whatever is needed to protect itself. Hobbes argues that the state can come together through force, in which control over the group occurs because they don’t resist or they all consented when they were invaded or when people come together and form a social contract.
Hobbes also says that people shouldn’t ever leave the state, they owe the loyalty, and should yield to the majority in the decision of who is the sovereign power. He says that the state shouldn’t have any problems because the state will control information and decide laws that will be enforced by helpers and advisors that the state will choose. With all that power the state should function properly according to Hobbes. Hobbes has obvious arguments, and for the purpose of this paper I will concede most if not all of his descriptions of the state of nature, but ultimately, his alternative is just a bad one, THE STATE IS BAD. Let’s first look at why the state of nature isn’t going to be that bad. The laws of nature dictate that its rational that a person wants peace and prosperity, this can’t be achieved during a war, so by his own logic a person doesn’t WANT to go to war. This means that although someone wants a lot of power, that a person wont go to war just to achieve that power, because it would take away from their own prosperity, as its hard to gain possessions when someone is in a state of war because the state will increase taxes in order to fun the war. Since money is a zero sum affair, it means that in order for the government to increase its funds, it must steal funds from the people. Not only is war a financial burden but also a mental burden, because when someone is so focused on the war they are unable to figure out how would be the best way to get rich. So, my argument is ultimately that war may break out, but only briefly, and the rest of the time the state of nature will be a peaceful because of the desire to accumulate wealth. While the state of nature may be more peaceful than not, a statist world is one of constant violence. This is true because of the logic that is used that dictates international relations, and that is realism, no not in “the Prince” sort of way, but new school realism, stuff that actually makes sense. States decide whether or not to go to war in a sort of way that is a formula, they say, is the benefits of attacking a country going to outweigh the possible consequences, if yes, go ahead and attack, if no, don’t attack. This is what is written by both Mearshimer and Waltz. They conclude that countries are constantly going to go to war because they are going to think that their security is going to be increased by either increase in land, or by destroying the enemy country. Ultimately this theory means that nuclear war is going to be inevitable, because a country is going to asses that using a nuclear weapon will be able to destroy all of an
opponents approaching military, or in another instance might be useful for destroying the entire second strike capability of the opposing nation. One way or another, these weapons will be used. What makes this particularly dangerous is that all the major superpowers currently have neutron nuclear weapons, (Ruddy, 97) and are accordingly waiting and anxious about using them (Chalko, 03). This is especially problematic because the use of one of these weapons will cause extinction. This will occur because of the radiation that will emanate from the weapons use. This radiation will work its way towards the center of the earth, there it will overheat the core of the planet and cause it to explode killing all life on earth. (Chalko, 03) The only way to stop such a disaster is to be in the state of nature. There are couple reasons this is true, first, today all the militaries have long complex codes and keys of all sorts that are needed to use the weapons that are there. When we are in the state of nature, these codes will all be spread out throughout the country, and with 256 million people in the US alone, getting all the codes necessary is going to be quite difficult. Second, there won’t be new weapons because people will be individuals, and the state of nature doesn’t promote a culture of industry and economic growth. This is especially helpful as it will mean that people won’t have anything but scrapes of papers which have no value. This means that the resources that people do have won’t be the right kind, nor will they be able to be brought together as needed in order to create new weapons. Thirdly, The same resources won’t be valued. The reason that intelligence of how to build weapons, is valuable is because we are trapped inside a system that wants economic growth and is sponsored by the state. When we are in the state of nature this resource base isn’t going to be the kind that is needed to survive, because its exchange rate without the state is zero, things like food, water and shelter will become the resource base that has value. Even if you buy Hobbes’ argument that the state of nature is bad, and I didn’t convince you that war won’t be constant, Hobbes has no argument as to how state of nature would create such devastating weapons and use them killing more people than in the state of nature. Without this comparison it’s impossible for Hobbes to win that the state is a better alternative than the state of nature.
Works Cited Blanchard, Kenneth. Ph.D, Professor of Political Science, Northern State University. POLS 462; Modern Political Philosophy, Lecture 3c. http://lupus.northern.edu:90/blanchak/modern3c.html No Date Given Chalko, Tom J. Ph.D, MSc, Head of Geophysics Division, MT Best, Australia, NU Journal of Discovery, “Can a
Neutron Bomb Accelerate Global Volcanic Activity”, March 3, 2003. Ruddy, Christopher, Analysis from Sam Cohen, Inventor of neutron bomb, Tribune-Review, www.wemanuals.com/sam_cohen.htm, June 15, 1997