Hobbes Essay

1557 words - 6 pages

When one examines the maxim of Thomas Hobbes as set forth in Leviathan it becomes obvious that Hobbes believes the nature of man to be bad. According to Hobbes, if we as men were left to exercise our own private judgement regarding our affairs we would most assuredly collapse into a state of war. He believes that when there is no singular, ever-present power to keep man in awe, and to control man by fear of punishment from that singular power, that man will break his agreements and act in his own self-interest. "For the Lawes of Nature (as Justice, Equity, Modesty, Mercy, and (in summe) doing to others, as wee would be done to,) of themselves, without the terrour of some Power, to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to Partiality, Pride, Revenge, and the like. And Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words, and of no strength to secure a man at all." (Hobbes, pg.117) The laws that are enacted are contrary to our self-interest, so without the terror of some ever-present power to instill fear in all man, we would abstain from no measure in order to preserve our own well being. In a state of war man is in "a Continual fear and danger of a violent death; and the life of man (is) solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (Hobbes. Pg. 107) The only way to prevent entering a state of war is to erect one common power, which is known as a commonwealth or sovereign, who is "One person, of whose Acts a great Multitude, by mutuall Covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the Author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all, as he shall think expedient, for their Peace and Common Defence."(Hobbes, pg. 121) With this definition comes the role of the sovereign. It is the role of the sovereign to enforce the laws of nature and to promote laws that are necessary for a peaceful and commodious life among men. In order for this to take place fluidly, it is necessary that all men agree that, "I Authorise 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 Authorise all his Actions in like manner."(Hobbes, pg.120) If this indeed occurs, the sovereign is able to enforce laws that give the people an assurance that they are not in any danger because of the consequences that will follow if they disobey the sovereign.In order to fulfill his role, the sovereign must retain certain powers that enable him to do so. These powers are as follows in no particular order; First, subjects cannot change the form of government because they entered into a covenant willingly and being bound by that covenant they cannot lawfully make a new one without permission. Second, the sovereign retains the right to make laws, and in making these laws he has the right to punish and reward people as he sees fit so as to preserve the Lawes of nature. Third, the sovereign's power can never be fortified because he made a covenant...

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