HobbesNotes - Thomas Hobbes selections from The Leviathan...

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Thomas Hobbes, selections from The Leviathan Hobbes begins from the assertion that by nature all men are equal. The immediate consequences of this natural equality, however, are not positive. Because all men are equal, anyone has the same capacity as anyone else to take and claim. The strongest individual, moreover, can be killed by the weakest as we all need sleep, find ourselves in vulnerable positions and the weak, of course, can team up (XIII). Our intelligence, furthermore, comes from experience which makes equality deeper: we all share general experiences (especially in a simple condition like the state of nature). For Hobbes, we are vain, ambitious and self-interested creatures by nature. It is natural that we desire similar things, and that we will turn violently on each other in the inevitable resulting conflicts. Conflict creates a violent situation and a desire for glory. Hobbes states it is further inevitable that we desire to obtain mastery over our fellow men as a means of securing our own lives (XIII). So the causes of conflict in nature are: 1) conflict, 2) diffidence and 3) glory. There can be no functional society, Hobbes concludes, without some central power to overawe (control and coerce) the group. Without such an authority, Hobbes claims we only regard others as possible means to our own ends (XIII). This conclusion is the foundation for his argument in favor of absolute sovereignty. We, indeed, have a natural right to do whatever we feel is necessary to secure our survival. Hobbes thus envisions nature as a space of full and terrible freedom. This includes a right to all things, even including the bodies of other people (XIII). Hobbes thus argues that without an absolute ruler we, “are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known,” (XIII). In the state of war, each man is enemy to every other man. In this state life is dangerous and terrifying, and no progress is possible, as Hobbes notes, “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,” (XIII). Hobbes implies that the state of war is real wherever societies form, and asks
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HobbesNotes - Thomas Hobbes selections from The Leviathan...

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