HOBBES: Leviathan [Part I Ch. 6-10]

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Chapter 6 – Of the Interior Beginnings of Voluntary Motions, Commonly Called the Passions; and the Speeches by which they are Expressed

  • There are to sorts of motion particular to animals: 1) the vital motions which are continued without interruption through the entire life of the animal – pulse, breathing, nutrition, etc.; 2) voluntary motion – to speak or move our limbs according to our imagination; for all voluntary motions have their origin in the mind.
  • When voluntary motion is toward something which causes the motion, we call it desire. When voluntary motion is away from something which causes the motion, we call it aversion.
  • Desire signifies the absence of a loved object. Love signifies the presence of such an object.
  • Aversion signifies the absence of a hated object. Hate signifies the presence of such an object.
  • Some desires and aversions are born with men – desire for food, water, etc. Other desires and aversions arise from experience and trial of a things effects upon one’s own self and others.
  • Things which we neither desire nor hate, we contemn. Contempt is merely an indifference to resist the action of certain things.
  • What a man desires, he calls good. What a man hates, he calls bad. What a man contemns, he calls worthless and inconsiderable. There is no common rule of good and evil that can be taken from the nature of objects themselves.
  • There are three types of goods: 1) good in the promise; 2) good in the effect – delightful; 3) good as the means – useful, profitable
  • There are three types of evil: 1) evil in promise; 2) evil in effect – unpleasant, troublesome; 3) evil as the means – unprofitable, not useful
  • Pleasures arise from the sense of a present object – sensual pleasures – and from the expectations that proceeds from the foresight of the consequence or end of things – these pleasures of the mind are called joys.
  • Displeasures arise from the sense of a present object – pains – and from the expectation that proceeds from foresight of the consequences or end of things – these displeasures are called griefs.
  • Desire with an opinion of attaining is called hope. Desire without an opinion of attaining is called despair.
  • Aversion with an opinion of hurt from the object is called fear. Aversion with the opinion of avoiding that hurt by resistance is called courage. Sudden courage is anger.
  • Constant hope is confidence of ourselves. Constant despair is diffidence of ourselves.
  • Anger felt at great hurt done to another is indignation.
  • Desire of good to another is benevolence. Good will to another is charity. Good will to men in general is good nature.
  • Desire of riches is covetousness; this desire is either blamed or allowed according to the means by which one attains riches.
  • Desire of office is ambition.
  • Magnanimity in danger of wounds and death is valor or fortitude.
  • Magnanimity in the use of riches is liberality.
  • Fear that love is not mutual is jealousy… etc. Hobbes defines several virtues and vices.
  • Desire to know how and why is curiosity. Curiosity distinguishes men from all other living creatures. It is the perseverance of delight in knowledge, and exceeds the short vehemence of any carnal pleasure.
  • Glory is the joy arising from imagination of a man’s power and ability. Vainglory is the joy arising from flattery or supposing one’s own self to possess power and ability that one does not possess.
  • Shame is the grief felt at the discovery of some defect of ability.
  • The whole sum of desires, aversions, hopes, and fears continued to a thing be done or found impossible is what we call deliberation.
  • In deliberation, the last desire or aversion adhering to the action, or the omission of the action, is called the will.
  • The passions can be expressed indicatively- I love, I command, I will. Deliberation is expressed by supposition – If this is done, then this will follow. The language of desire and aversion is imperative – Do this, forbear that. The language of vainglory, indignation, revenge, and pity are optative – i.e. language used to express a wish. The language of curiosity is interrogative – What is it? When shall it? How is it done, and why?
  • Continual success in obtaining the things which a man desires is called felicity. But there is no perfect tranquility of the mind while we live in this physical world; for life is motion, and can never be without desire, or fear, or sense. The felicity which awaits us after death is incomprehensible because we have never experienced it. Men shall no sooner know the joys of heaven than they will enjoy them.

“Sudden glory is the passion which maketh those grimaces called laughter; and is caused either by some sudden act of their own that pleaseth them; or by the apprehension of some deformed thing in another, by comparison whereof they suddenly applaud themselves. And it is incident most to them that are conscious of the fewest abilities in themselves; who are forced to keep themselves in their own favour by observing the imperfections of other men.”

“Sudden dejection is the passion that causeth weeping; and is caused by such accidents as suddenly take away some vehement hope, or some prop of their power: and they are most subject to it that rely principally on helps external, such as are women and children.”

“Both laughter and weeping are sudden motions, custom taking them both away. For no man laughs at old jests, or weeps for an old calamity.”

In chapter 6, Hobbes asserts that the notion of good and evil are entirely subjective. What a certain man desires, he calls good, and what a certain man hates, he calls evil. Different men hold different opinions about the same things, and even one man holds different opinions about the same things at different times. This notion has been espoused by several of the authors of the Great Books reading plan. The ones that I can remember are Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Marcus Aurelius. Montaigne wrote an essay concerning this notion entitled ‘That the Relish of Good and Evil Depends in a Great Measure upon the Opinion We Have of Them.’ Shakespeare’s Hamlet states that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Finally, Marcus Aurelius asserts that everything is opinion. Are these authors right or wrong?

Chapter 7 – Of the Ends or Resolutions of Discourse

  • As the last desire or aversion in deliberation is called the will, the last opinions in searches of future and past truths are called judgments. As the whole chain of desires, aversions, hopes, and fears in question of good or bad is called deliberation, the whole chain of opinions in questions of true or false is called doubt.
  • When we believe any saying to be true not from principles of natural reason, but from the authority and good opinion we have of him that says it, then the man is the object of our faith. Thus, when we believe that the Scriptures are the words of God, our belief, faith, and trust is in the Church; for we have no immediate revelation from God himself that the Scriptures are the words of God.

“if I should not believe all that is written by historians of the glorious acts of Alexander or Caesar, I do not think the ghost of Alexander or Caesar had any just cause to be offended, or anybody else but the historian. If Livy say the gods made once a cow speak, and we believe it not, we distrust not God therein, but Livy. So that it is evident that whatsoever we believe, upon no other reason than what is drawn from authority of men only, and their writings, whether they be sent from God or not, is faith in men only.”

In chapter 7, Hobbes discusses a very controversial topic – the validity of holy texts. Hobbes writes that when one believes any saying to be true based solely upon the authority and good opinion we have of the person who says it, and not based upon the principles of natural reason and direct experience, then we place our belief, trust, and faith in the man. In regards to the Holy Scriptures, those who believe them to be true place their belief in the Church and the writers of the Scriptures. If we do not believe what is written in the Holy Scriptures, then God ought not to be offended, but only the writers and the Church. If we do not believe in the glorious, but physically impossible acts of Alexander the Great, the spirit of Alexander not to be offended, but only the historians. In sum, those who believe in God choose to put their faith in men, not in principles of natural reason and their own direct experiences. Of course, there have been some theologian philosophers who have espoused logical arguments for the existence of a deity, such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Anselm. However, the validity of these arguments is still subject to debate. Furthermore, some people have claimed to have had direct experience of God. For these people, belief in God is grounded in direct experience and not upon the authority and good opinion one has of a certain writer of Scripture.

Chapter 8 – Of the Virtues Commonly Called Intellectual; and their Contrary Defects

  • Virtue is something that is valued for eminence and consists in comparison. If all things were equal, nothing would be prized.
  • There are two sorts of intellectual virtues: natural and acquired.
  • By natural wit, Hobbes signifies that which is gotten by experience without method, culture, or instruction. Natural wit consists in celerity of imagination – the swift succession of one thought to another – and a steady direction toward an approved end.
  • Men who observe similitudes of things rarely observed by others are said to have a good wit. Men who observe dissimilitudes of things are said to have good judgment; for they can distinguish and discern things better than other men.
  • When a man observes how things conduce to a particular design, we say that he has prudence if his observations are not easy or usual. Prudence depends upon experience and memory of like things and their consequences.
  • Acquired wit is reason acquired by method and instruction. It is grounded in the right use of speech, and produces the sciences.
  • The passions that cause the differences of wit are the desires for power, riches, knowledge, and honor – which may be reduced to the desire of power because riches, knowledge, and honor are different kinds of power.
  • A man who has no great passion for any of these cannot possibly have either a good wit or judgment; for the steadiness of the mind’s motion and the celerity of the mind arise from desire. Thoughts find ways to things that are desired.
  • Extraordinary and extravagant passions are called madness.
  • The variety of behavior in men who have drunk too much alcohol is the same with the behavior of madmen.
  • Some believe that madmen are possessed by demons or spirits. Madmen were also considered prophets because some claimed to be inspired by divine spirits, muses, gods, etc. but for the Jews to hold this opinion is strange; for Moses and Abraham did not pretend to prophesy by possession of a spirit, they heard the voice of god or saw a vision or had a dream. The reason why people hold this false opinion of possession is because of a lack of curiosity to search for natural causes of things.
  • Unless one perceives the cause of some extraordinary ability or defect of one’s mind, the one can hardly think the ability or defect to be natural; and if not natural, then it must be supernatural.
  • In regards to the inconsistencies between the Scriptures and Science, Hobbes argues that the Scriptures were not written to accurately explain the physical nature of the universe, but to show men the kingdom of God, and to prepare their minds to become his obedient subjects.

“As to have no desire is to be dead; so to have weak passions is dullness; and to have passions indifferently for everything, giddiness and distraction; and to have stronger and more vehement passions for anything than is ordinarily seen in others is that which men call madness.”

“Most sober men, when they walk alone without care and employment of the mind, would be unwilling the vanity and extravagance of their thoughts at that time should be publicly seen, which is a confession that passions unguided are for the most part mere madness.”

“It is manifestly a parable, alluding to a man that, after a little endeavour to quit his lusts, is vanquished by the strength of them, and becomes seven times worse than he was.”

“What is the meaning of these words: “The first cause does not necessarily inflow anything into the second, by force of the essential subordination of the second causes, by which it may help it to work?” They are the translation of the title of the sixth chapter of Suarez’s first book, Of the Concourse, Motion, and Help of God. When men write whole volumes of such stuff, are they not mad, or intend to make others so?”

In chapter 8, Hobbes emphasizes the importance of possessing desires. Desire for things directs the thoughts towards finding ways to attain the object. Without such desires, men’s thoughts are unguided and subject to extravagance, much like the thoughts of a madman. However, Hobbes cautions the reader against extravagant passions, which signifies madness. Like Aristotle’s Golden Mean, Hobbes advocates a wholesome moderation of desires.

Chapter 9 – Of the Several Subjects of Knowledge

  • There are two kinds of knowledge: 1) knowledge of fact – which is nothing but sense and memory, and is called absolute knowledge; 2) knowledge of the consequence of one affirmation to another – which is called science and is conditional, as when we know that ‘if the figure shown is a circle, then any straight line through the center shall divide it into two equal parts.’ This knowledge is required of a philosopher – i.e. one who wishes to reason.
  • Knowledge of fact is history. There are two kinds of history: 1) natural history – history of facts or effects of nature that have no dependence on a man’s will; 2) civil history – history of the voluntary actions of men in a society.
  • Hobbes enumerates several sciences or philosophies.

Chapter 10 – Of Power, Worth, Dignity, Honor and Worthiness

  • Power is a man’s present means to attain some future good.
  • Natural power is the eminence of the faculties of the body or mind: extraordinary strength, swiftness, beauty, eloquence, nobility. Instrumental power is power acquired by natural power or by fortune, and is the means to acquire more power: riches, reputation, friends and good luck. Power increases of itself.
  • The greatest of human powers is the compounded power of many men united by consent in one person. Such is the power of the Commonwealth.
  • A quality that makes a man beloved or feared of many is power.
  • Hobbes enumerates several qualities and activities that are powers.
  • The value of a man is dependent upon the judgment of other men. The price other men are willing to pay for the use of the power of a certain man is the value of that man.
  • The value we place on others is called honoring or dishonoring. To value a man at a higher rate than that man values himself is to honor him. To value a man at a lesser rate than that man values himself is to dishonor him.
  • Hobbes enumerates several acts that honor and dishonor a person.
  • Whatever possession, action, or quality that is an argument and sign of power is honorable. In other words, power is honorable.
  • Honor consists only in the opinion of power; and therefore, in the case of honor, it does not matter whether an action is just or unjust, so long as it is great and difficult, and consequently a sign of much power.

“The value or worth of a man is, as of all other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power, and therefore is not absolute, but a thing dependent on the need and judgement of another. As in other things, so in men, not the seller, but the buyer determines the price.”

“To praise, magnify, or call happy is to honour; because nothing but goodness, power, and felicity is valued. To revile, mock, or pity is to dishonour.”

In chapter 10, Hobbes asserts that the value or worth of every man is dependent upon the judgment of others. Whatever other men are willing to pay for a certain man’s power is the value of that man. It is interesting to note that Marcus Aurelius asserts the exact contrary notion in the Meditations. Aurelius states that the opinions of other men are but empty sounds that do not affect the worth of an individual. The value of an individual is entirely dependent upon that individual’s opinion of himself; for everything is opinion. I agree with Aurelius. It seems absurd to conclude that a person is less valuable than another simply because other men are willing to pay more for the services of other men.

Hobbes also writes that in cases of honor it does not matter whether an action is just or unjust, so long as the action is great or difficult, and consequently signifies much power, the action is deemed honorable. The ancient Greeks and Romans did not think that they dishonored the gods when they wrote of the many rapes, thefts, and other unjust acts that the gods committed. They believed they honored them by demonstrating the gods’ power to accomplish great and difficult tasks. This notion reminds me of Dostoevsky’s character Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. In the novel, Raskolnikov wrote a paper in which he asserts that extraordinary men can commit unjust acts to fulfill their goals. He continues to argue that great men are often treated as criminals during their lifetime, but subsequently honored by posterity as progressive martyrs. I think that only just acts are honorable. Granted that great and difficult tasks are impressive in a sense, if these tasks are unjust, I do not think that they are worthy of honor. There is a difference in being impressed by an action and honoring that same action.

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

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