Ideas of Hobbes

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What was the situation in England when Hobbes wrote Leviathan in 1651?

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1

What was the situation in England when Hobbes wrote Leviathan in 1651?

England was very divided when Hobbes wrote The Leviathan. Civil war had broken out in 1642 between the monarchy and Parliament with King Charles I being executed in 1649. This resulted in England being ruled by Parliament and Oliver Crownwell’s army. However, military dictatorship and the rule of Puritans (English Protestants) caused a lot of suffering and resentment, so the monarchy was restored and Charles II ruled England. 

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2

In 1666, the House of Commons condemned Hobbes’s Leviathan as an “atheistic book.” What does this mean?

The House of Commons claimed Hobbes’s work to be promoting ideas that opposed religion and in support of Cromwell’s revolution. 

He was not promoting god

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3

Historically, has there been common agreement on the interpretation of Leviathan?

No, historically there are many diverse interpretations of the Leviathan. Some saw it as a deduction of Galileo’s physics, others saw it as a teaching of individual rights, irrelevant to the new science. Some also saw it as the metaphysics of medieval nominalism (everything we know is an artificial creation of our minds) and others as part of natural law tradition. 

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4

What was the Leviathan and why did Hobbes choose it as the title of his most influential book?

Leviathan is the biblical name for a great sea monster that can overpower all earthly creatures. Hobbes chose this as the title because he believed fear of the Leviathan was the only reliable way to keep peace among men. He argued that a government that was powerful enough to protect rights against the aggression of others was necessary. 

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5

What is a fundamental assumption made by Hobbes that forms the foundation for his position?

A fundamental assumption made by Hobbes is that men are inherently selfish with political order being artificial instead of natural, thus, it is difficult to unite liberty and authority. 

Basically he assumes what human nature is, and that that is selfishness and disorder, so governments are needed constructs (go against human nature) → makes his ideas modern 

Governments are unnatural 

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6

Do you agree with Hobbes when he writes “The felicity of this life, consisteth not in the repose of a mind satisfied, [but in] a continual progress of the desire from one object to another”?

I think he definitely makes a good point. With time it is plausible that a person can grow to no longer feel ‘satisfied’ and will keep desiring more; it is much more stimulating to be able to continually progress forward.  He argues that man must always compete with others and only reaches forward because of the fragility of his current possessions. However, I do not think the justification for Hobbes’s statement is necessarily universal because it is certainly possible to not desire more and more power and to simply be content with one’s current situation.

Some people are briefly content, and then they become desirous and look for more. Others accept the way things are and accept their lives. 

Through time maybe people become more content

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7

What are Hobbes’s three sources of conflict and do you agree?

Competition, diffidence, and glory. I agree with Hobbes because all three sources can easily lead to conflict. As Hobbes explains, competition makes men compete against others for personal gain, diffidence causes men to mistrust others and try to dominate others, and glory causes men to seek a better reputation than others. These all revolve around every man doing things for himself, which is a clear cause for dispute especially when materials are scarce. However, I think there are more than just Hobbes’ three sources of conflict; for example, they do not necessarily have to be about resources. One could enter a conflict over personal opinions or emotions rather than a sense of trying to one-up the people around them. 

Competition for limited resources and survival, diffidence because people are powerless which creates resentment to the person they differed to, glory and pride as people want to be seen as superior 

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8

Characterize Hobbes’s state of nature. BAD WEIRANN!! WHAT THE HELL WEIRAN!!

Hobbes characterizes the state of nature as one of war where every man is battling against every man. Everyone lives by their own strengths and skills rather than relying on others, which leaves no place for industry, culture, navigation, arts, society, etc. and there is a constant fear of violent death. He characterizes the average life of a man as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Very bad, worst condition possible, rock bottom 

However, if there’s no human nature, you can do anything you want! Playdough plato! 🙏 pluto… plate oh was it plato or playdough 

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9

What distinguishes life from a human life (p.191)?

Human life includes natural rationality and speech which is not shared by animals such as bees and ants. This distinguishes human life from other life as having speech and reason allows humans to disagree amongst themselves about what is best for themselves and the community. Hobbes claims this promotes conflict rather than harmony.

Better off with love than without it 

Mr peters likes love💞 (“won’t deny its power”)

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10

Does Hobbes deny the importance and the value of the arts, letters, and society?According to Hobbes, are humans too selfish to be naturally political?


No, Hobbes notes that having the leisure necessary for the arts, letters, and society are what elevates human beings above other animals. In his war-like state of nature, there is no time for this, which contributes to the brutal world he sees. In Hobbes’s ideal state, government control would allow for the pursuit of the arts and sciences.

Believes it's what we should be striving for; one of the main purposes for creating the best, most efficient government possible - so we have time for beautiful things 

The arts are what adds value to life, makes us unique and makes us human

More love letters! 

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11

According to Hobbes, are humans too selfish to be naturally political?

According to Hobbes, human beings are fundamentally selfish. It comes with human nature, as Hobbes believes that selfishness is the backbone of a “survival instinct”. However, this selfishness can drive individuals to create and follow political systems. He essentially views the political state as a necessary mechanism to prevent destruction caused by human selfishness, fear and desire. Therefore, in Hobbes's view, being naturally selfish does not exclude humans from being political, but rather indicates their requirement for politics and governance. 

BAD CLARA. HANDS OFF THE REMOTE!!!! HEY I WANT THE REMOTE!!! PHOEBE STOP FIGHTING ME FOR THE REMOTE 

Mr Peter’s family fights for the remote  (TOK CONNECTION!!?!?!?!?)

“Powerful wonderful magical device that turns things on” (DEATH, DESTRUCTION, BRUTALITY)

Humans are not naturally political and have to be forced to form a community 

Humans can’t change their selfishness (always fighting it) 

Leviathans have a responsibility to keep society under control and take appropriate actions. Killing people makes them upset 🙁

Start to think that the Leviathan is worse than the state of nature  

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12

How does Hobbes’s argument concerning the state of nature appear to be circular?

Hobbes presupposes the selfishness and competitiveness of humans to justify the dire characterization of the state of nature, which then justifies his belief in the necessity of the social contract and absolute sovereignty. In other words, his argument is based on his own presuppositions about human nature and not on empirical evidence, and he uses these same presuppositions to back up his argument.

Hobbes does not believe that his state of nature is the best place to be (it’s the worst)

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13

What is the factor, according to Hobbes, that inclines men to come together in the hopes of trying to achieve peace?

A “passionate fear of death” and “desire for the comforts of life” incline men to come together in the hope of trying to achieve peace. If all men obey and realize these two things, peace will naturally come.

The fear of death that comes from chaos in the state of nature

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14

Do you agree that… “When men are conquered and submit to the conqueror out of fear, they have thereby consented to that government just as fully as if they had freely selected the sovereign without coercion.” (pp. 194-195)

From a psychological standpoint, the distinction between coerced submission borne out of fear and authentic consent obtained through free will is profound. Fear, as a potent psychological motivator, can undoubtedly act as a catalyst that triggers a state of compliance or submission under an imposed authority. Consent, when unpacked from a psychological perspective, underscores attributes such as understanding, freedom of choice, and an act of voluntary agreement. When consent springs from a place of understanding and freedom, it indicates an individual's cognitive and emotional alignment with the decision. Such an alignment is devoid of manipulation, coercion, or any undue influence, thus reflecting an individual's genuine willingness to accept a situation or authority. In contrast, fear-induced compliance lacks these essential attributes of informed and voluntary consent, and it could be viewed as more of a survival response to an immediate threat.

Hobbes believes that conquering people through intimidation and fear is the same as achieving consent and if government can maintain fear, it is a good government. His version of consent is different. 

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15

According to Hobbes, what is the primary purpose of any government?

The primary purpose of any government is to preserve the peace by defending the people (represented by the government) from foreign enemies, and from injuries of one another. (prevent civil war)

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16

**What is the general principle of Hobbes’s social contract?

The general principle is that the people being governed involuntarily give consent to be ruled to “men or an assembly of men” because human beings exist in a condition of perpetual conflict and insecurity without a government. To escape this state of chaos, individuals give up certain natural rights and transfer authority to a sovereign for protection and the establishment of order. 

Our short term interest to stay alive is bringing us together but is hurting our ability to fulfill long term goal (future - to thrive)

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17

According to Hobbes, why do leaders require the consent of those they rule?

According to Hobbes, men’s promises of cooperation are unreliable and a man’s word is not his bond. Fear of the sword is the only reliable bond among men which means men must give up their individual powers to establish one common power over them all. This is because rational self-interest dictates that one can only submit to social order and sacrifice one’s absolute liberty when everyone else is forced by fear of punishment to make the same sacrifices.

Diff communities, diff rulers

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18

Hobbes argues that the state of nature without government is war. Does the evidence from cultural anthropologists confirm this view. Explain.

It does not confirm the view because cultural anthropologists argue that stateless societies still have a primitive social order founded on small groups organized by kinship without any formal governmental institutions. Through a lot of the biological and cultural evolution of humankind, humans didn’t live in a state of war even when organizational states were not even possible until the appearance of agriculture. 

No

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19

While men may come together to form a society, what compels them to do so?

Societies do a better job of keeping the peace among themselves or in defense against foreign threats better than the government of small families and societies without government cannot promote the agricultural and commercial development necessary for high civilization.

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20

What does the “Thrasymachean free-rider” refer to and how does Hobbes suggest the problem be solved?

The Thrasymachean free-rider refers to an individual that takes advantage of a cooperative society without fulfilling their responsibilities in that society.For example, a successful thief would steal from others while having legal protection for his own property. Hobbes mentions that it is in the interest of every man to live in a society that allows him to enjoy the endless benefits of peaceful cooperation with his peers. However, in order to continue enjoying them, they have to stop themselves from cheating the system. Therefore he proposes that justice is defined by laws enforced by a common power through coercion so that criminal activity can be too risky and costly if the common power is good at detecting and punishing crimes.

Someone that benefits from the laws that they also undermine. Punish them punish them punish them punish them  eternally because people can’t change their nature 

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21

While Hobbes acknowledges that governments could abuse their power at times, why does Hobbes believe most will, under certain circumstances, tolerate such abuses of power? 

Because a limited government could never maintain order. Without this absolute government, men would be left to fend for themselves, creating anarchy. Absolute governments mean that the laws they make must be followed, and the power they hold precedes all others. This may look like a liberal democracy or a monarchy. Whatever laws they make, most will follow them to keep the system in place for stability. If everyone began undermining the laws, the stability would crack and everyone would lose the rights and privileges they previously enjoyed under a peaceful government.

Anything is better than the state of nature (worst case) 

He assumes… that most other people will think the same as him

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22

Why does Hobbes argue that the power of government must be absolute and where does this place the power of religion within a Hobbsean state?  Did he say angela??? Yes 

The power of the government is superior to all other powers, including the power of religion. First and foremost, a citizen must follow the government’s laws before their personal religious laws. This is because only a government who has the highest authority can create laws for everyone to follow, ensuring a baseline of responsibility and ethics. 

You can use religion, but it must be under the control of the government - theocracy! (state and religion fused)

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23

According to Hobbes, why will individual freedom continue to exist even when an  absolute government exists? 

Firstly, an absolute government does not have to regulate all aspects of their citizens’ lives. Only in the parts that they regulate, like housing or education, will citizens have limited liberty. However, in all other areas, like expression and love and stuff, citizens are free to choose. Hobbes says that a government permits, not forbids, so anything the laws don't cover, the people have the freedom to choose. 

Private vs public domains - more conflict in public domains because there’s stuff to argue about

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24

Does Hobbes generally support the idea of having certain unalienable individual rights? Would Hobbes support the idea of having a written constitution? 

He says there are not unalienable individual rights, because they would be contradictory to the meaning of an absolute government. No matter what, the government gets to decide the rights for a citizen. However, he does say self-preservation is an unalienable right, and you can go against a law if your life is in danger. He also says the right to motion, eat, and breathe are also unalienable. This is pretty contradictory, so I think that Hobbes wouldn't support a written constitution. 

A constitution would limit a government’s power because they can no longer infringe on the people’s rights (doesn’t believe in constraining government) 

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25

How would Hobbes judge a soldier who refused to die in battle for his country? 

They do not act unjustly because no government obligates their citizens to die (or abandon their own self-preservation, which he says is an unalienable right). 

“It’s obvious they’re angry. I’ve spotted them. And now i certainly have to put together some coordinated effort to preserve the sanctity of this institution that governs us from this marauding horde that basically… they’re weird.

..and you see them coming, and some of you start running away. What would Hobbes think? He would think it’s human nature that you start running.

You need to know if you run i will shoot you in the back - peters

Ok but it doesn’t mean I can’t kill you -peters

I'll kill you cause you're a loser. - peters

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26

Although under a Hobbsean system the government has absolute power, sovereigns would still be willing to negotiate and compromise with their citizens. Why?

The sovereign would still negotiate and compromise as part of the social contract. If people feel as though they are not being served by their government, society could revert back to a state of conflict which Hobbes believes should be avoided at all costs. Sovereigns should allow their subjects to have some individual liberty so they can maintain their overall authority and preserve order. 

Fear - everyone is scared, even the ruler

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27

Why is Hobbes not concerned with the kind of government that is in place?

Because preserving peace seems to be the only function of government we can all agree on, Hobbes argues that we should not be worried about the kind of government so long as we have some kind of government. We should not be concerned with who is the ruler, only that there is someone to rule, to be the final judge of the rules of conduct for society (have absolute power). 

Each person may want a different kind of government (can never be satisfied) so Hobbes does not care about which kind. 

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28

What does Hobbes have to say about people having the right to overthrow their government?

Although Hobbes grants every man the right to defend his own life against governmental violence, he denies that men have the right to combine their individual acts of resistance into a revolutionary movement. 

Does not believe in revolution since overthrowing the government returns them to the state of nature. Doesn’t think any government can be worse than the state of nature.  

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29

What is more important to Hobbes, justice or order?

Order. Hobbes believed that the greatest evil that can ever happen in life is civil war. He advised subjects to obey whatever government they had, because even an oppressive government is better than civil war. He also argued that, due to their egoism, men's judgement of just and unjust will differ, and these differences will only lead to more conflict and disorder. Instead of vying for an idealistic idea of justice, people should just obey whatever government provides order. 

People will never agree on what justice is. Focus on the thing we agree on (order)

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30

Although Hobbes believes most people are selfish, does he also agree that most people are reasonable?

Hobbes indeed believes that humans are reasonable - that is to say that they are able to reason. According to him, reason and speech allow humans to disagree about what is good and to distinguish their selfish interests from the common interests of the community. Thus, the natural rationality of humans promotes conflict rather than harmony because it promotes selfishness. One trait enables the other. 

People must be reasonable because they choose to have the government’s protection over their own selfishness. This reason helps people stay alive. 

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31

According to Hobbes, why have governments in his time not been very stable?

People are not following the ideas of Hobbes 

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32

At the time of his writing of Leviathan (1651), was Hobbes liberal? Explain.

Yes he was a radical, basing his arguments off of reason instead of god

In today's time, he is considered reactionary 

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33

What aspects of the American government does Amhart cite to give support to the claim of a Hobbesian influence within it?

During emergency circumstances, absolute government emerges (ex. war), individual rights can be taken away

Emergency Measures Act (Canada) 

The president can act as a dictator in times of emergency 

Extensive social welfare from government provides security 

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