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Hobbes As A Social Covenant Theorist

1328 words - 5 pages

Hobbes as a Social Covenant Theorist

Throughout the assigned portions of the Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes proves to be a "social contract" theorist, however inconsistently. Through his explanation of humanity extracting itself out of the state of Nature, by developing rules pertaining to property and contract, by means of the creation of a Sovereign, or Common Wealth, he clearly elucidates the basic concepts of social contract theory.
In order to fully grasp Hobbes' theory of Social Contract, one must first become familiar with his basic premises of "The State of Nature." In this state each individual is inherently in a perpetual state of war, due to several given reasons. Hobbes assumes that "Nature hath made men…equall." (Hobbes 183) Also, that in this state of war all men exemplify purely egoistic behavior, striving to do whatever possible to maximize their own utility, even if it requires murdering another. In addition to these conditions, in the state of nature, there exists a state of natural scarcity, in which, a finite amount of goods, possessions, property, "cattell," "wives," whatever, exist to satisfy man's infinite wants. "And therefore if any two men desire the same thing…they become enemies and…endeavour to destroy or subdue one an other." (Hobbes 184) Hence, creating a constant state of war.
At no time, in this natural state, is injustice even possible. As Hobbes so concisely states, "Where there is no common Power, there is no Law: where no Law, no Injustice." (Hobbes 188) Essentially, since every man is entitled to everything, he is also at liberty to exert any means possible -- including violence -- in order to satisfy all of his wants and needs. In this State of War, each individual is at the mercy of any of the whims of any invader, neighbor, child, or any other entity -- lest they fail to protect themselves. Expressed by Hobbes, "And therefore, as long as this naturall Right of everyman to every thing endureth there can be no security to any man, of living out the time, which Nature ordinarily alloweth men to live." (Hobbes 190)
In addition to this most inconvenient physical state of nature, Hobbes elaborates upon the "mutuall transferring of right." (Hobbes 192) It is necessary for men to enter into contracts, a mutual agreement made by individuals in order to exchange the "right to the thing." (Hobbes 193) "Things" can range from deciding on peace between two quarreling parties, with demands and peaceful sacrifices from both ends, to an agreement between two merchants for goods and services. At times it is necessary for "one of the Contractors" to, "deliver the Thing contracted for on his part, and leave the other to perform his part at some determinate time after." (Hobbes 193) Thusly, forming this covenant, which promises that a good or service of some sort will be awarded to one of the contractors at a future time. However, in the state of nature, there exists absolutely no...

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