HOBBES: Leviathan [Part I Ch. 11-16]

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Chapter 11 – Of the Difference of Manners

  • There is neither an ultimate goal nor greatest good. Happiness consists in the continual progress from one desire to another. Happiness is not to enjoy an object of desire once, but to assure the satisfaction of future desires.
  • The general inclination of all mankind is a perpetual desire of more power; for mankind cannot assure the power and means to live well without the acquisition of ever more power.
  • Though one has no sense of the praise one receives after death from other men, as being swallowed up by the joys of heaven or torments of hell, desire for fame is not vain; for one can delight in the foresight of fame and the benefit it will bestow on one’s posterity.
  • Benefits received from others whom we consider our equal, but that we cannot hope to requite, oblige us; and obligation is thralldom, which is odious. Benefits received from others whom we consider superior or inferior, inclines us to love.
  • To expect revenge or forgiveness is odious.
  • Ignorance of the causes of things – science – disposes a man to rely on the advice and authority of others.
  • Men find it hard to distinguish between one action of many men and many actions of one multitude without great study and understanding. For example, the murder of Catiline was one act made by all the Senators of Rome, while the murder of Caesar was several actions by several Senators of Rome. There was one motivation shared by the Roman Senators who killed Catiline. There were several different motivations held by different Senators who killed Caesar.
  • Me who are ignorant of justice, equity, and law are disposed to make custom and example the rule of his actions. The doctrine of right and wrong is perpetually disputed by the pen and sword because men appeal to either custom or reason as it serves their turn. The doctrine of lines and figures is never disputed because the truth in that subject never crosses a man’s ambition, profit, or lust; if it did, then men would certainly dispute or suppress that doctrine as well.
  • Men are disposed to attribute the immediate causes to event because it is difficult to perceive the remote causes.
  • Like a blind man, who hears other men speak of fire, and feels the warmth of the fire himself, and can therefore assure himself that there is something called fire which is the cause of the heat that he feels, but has no idea or image of fire in his mind; men can conceive, by the visible things of the world, that there is a cause of everything, which men call God, but not have an idea or image of Him in his mind.
  • Ignorance of natural causes inclines a man to suppose that there are invisible powers that can harm him or do him some good. Thus, by the innumerable variety of imagination, men have created innumerable sorts of gods.

“Felicity is a continual progress of the desire from one object to another, the attaining of the former being still but the way to the latter.”

“I doubt not, but if it had been a thing contrary to any man’s right of dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion, that the three angles of a triangle should be equal to two angles of a square, that doctrine should have been, if not disputed, yet by the burning of all books of geometry suppressed, as far as he whom it concerned was able.”

In chapter 11, Hobbes refutes Aurelius’ assertion that pursuit of fame is vain. Hobbes argues that one can delight in the foresight of praise after-death, though one is senseless of it while dead. I think that Aurelius would counter Hobbes argument in two ways: 1) pleasure is not something that ought to be sought; and 2) the praise and benefits bestowed upon one’s posterity will be swallowed up by the oblivion of time. Hobbes might reject the second argument by asserting that though the praise and memory of a person will inevitably be annihilated in time, fame still has value because it gives delight in the present moment. The first counterargument is subject to one’s own interpretation about the value of pleasure itself.

Chapter 12 – Religion

  • Religion is peculiar to man; and thus has its origin in the nature of man.
  • All men are curious about the causes of the events they see. They think that everything must have a cause, even a cause itself. Men have foresight because they observe how one event causes another, they remember the antecedent and consequence, and then reasons that the like cause will produce the like event in the future. When a man cannot discern the cause of something, he supposes a cause by use of his own imagination or upon the authority and good opinion they have of another person.
  • Many of the ancient gods, such as the gods of the sun, earth, and oceans, have been renounced with the advances made by science – i.e. the discovery of natural causes to explain physical events. However, the inclination to discover natural causes leads a man to the inevitable conclusion that there must be a First Mover; for the chain of causes is perpetual unless there is a cause of all things.
  • Men are apt to attribute events as causes of unrelated events. For example, a particular place may be considered lucky, a particular token may be considered lucky, etc.
  • Religion was developed and used to make the subjects of a society more inclined to obedience, laws, peace, charity, and civil society – whether it be the subjects of earthly kingdoms or the kingdom of God.
  • There is almost nothing with a name that has not been accounted a god or devil. Ancient people deified, men, women, crocodiles, cats, dogs, birds, onions, leeks, and so ad infinitum.
  • Men explained the cause of their wit to be the Muses, their ignorance to be Fortune, their lust to be Cupid, their rage to be the Furies, and so ad infinitum.
  • Men are easily drawn to believe anything from other men who have gained credit with them.
  • All religions, whose aim is to keep the people in obedience and peace, have persuaded the subjects to believe that the precepts of the religion proceed directly from the dictates of gods or spirits; that the same things which are displeasing to the gods are forbidden by the law; that sacrifices, rituals, supplications, and ceremonies are required to appease the anger of the gods; and that there was either pleasure or pain awaiting men after death depending upon whether they lived their life in accordance with the precepts of the particular religion.
  • By persuading the people that their misfortunes were caused by neglect of the gods, the rulers shifted the blame from themselves to the subjects.
  • Being entertained by pomp, festivals, and public games in honor of the gods, men need nothing more than bread to keep them from discontent.

“As Prometheus (which, interpreted, is the prudent man) was bound to the hill Caucasus, a place of large prospect, where an eagle, feeding on his liver, devoured in the day as much as was repaired in the night: so that man, which looks too far before him in the care of future time, hath his heart all the day long gnawed on by fear of death, poverty, or other calamity; and has no repose, nor pause of his anxiety, but in sleep.”

“In these four things, opinion of ghosts, ignorance of second causes, devotion towards what men fear, and taking of things casual for prognostics, consisteth the natural seed of religion; which, by reason of the different fancies, judgements, and passions of several men, hath grown up into ceremonies so different that those which are used by one man are for the most part ridiculous to another.”

In chapter 12, Hobbes argues that religion is peculiar to man alone of all the living creatures because only man is curious about the causes of things, and only man, when he cannot assure himself of the cause of a thing, supposes a cause by use of his own imagination or by relying on the opinion of another whom they esteem as wise. The origin of all religion is found in four things: opinions of ghosts, ignorance of second causes, devotion towards what men fear, and taking of things casual for prognostics. I believe that Hobbes could have narrowed these four seeds of religion to one – i.e. ignorance of the causes of things. For example, ancient men were ignorant as to the weather. Thus, they created gods to explain weather phenomena, such as hurricanes, rain, lighting, thunder, etc. One reason to establish these gods was to control one’s fate to a certain extent. If men believed that they could appease the weather gods by offering sacrifices, erecting temples and statues in honor of the gods, and hosting festivals in the gods’ names, then men would feel as if they could direct their fortunes for the better. After all, men seek nothing more than power, which is the ability to attain the means to live well. Men are constantly anxious about the future, and their ability to influence the future for their own benefit.

I thought that Hobbes’ argument that early religious leaders, who were also the leaders of societies, developed and utilized religion to make their subjects more apt to obedience, peace, laws, charity, and civil society was interesting. One can understand how religion can be a powerful tool used by politicians to control the people. For example, by shifting the blame of the society’s misfortunes to the citizens’ neglect of the gods and improper worship, the politicians avoid seditious acts. Furthermore, the religious festival and ceremonies provide men entertainment, which keeps them from becoming discontent. Finally, if politicians can convince their subjects that the gods hate those acts forbidden by law, then the subjects are more likely to obey the law and maintain civil peace.

Chapter 13 – Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning their Felicity and Misery

  • The difference between men in the faculties of mind and body is not considerable.
  • If two men desire the same thing, but cannot both attain it, then they will endeavor to destroy or subdue the other man.
  • There are three principle causes of quarrels among men: 1) desire for gain; 2) desire for safety; and 3) desire for glory.
  • Without a common superior power, men are in a perpetual state of war. The war is every man against every man. In such conditions, there are no arts, society, culture, or industry because the fruits thereof are uncertain. In such conditions, man’s life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
  • The acts of theft, rape, murder, and other criminal acts are not sins or crimes until there is a law that forbids such actions.
  • The notions of right and wrong, of justice and injustice have no existence in the state of war; for there is no common power and law. Justice and injustice are qualities that relate to a man in society, not in solitude as one is in the state of war.
  • There is no property in the state of war. Things belong to men so long as they have it.
  • There are passions that incline a man to peace: fear of death, desire of the means to live well, and hope that by their industry they can attain the means to live well. Reason suggests certain articles of peace to attain these passions.

“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.”

In chapter 13, Hobbes describes the state of nature to be a state of war in which all men are in a war against all men. In the state of war, the lives of men are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. In my opinion, Hobbes makes a very persuasive argument by adducing the way that many people behave even in a society where there is a common law and authority to appeal to and redress all wrongs – i.e. many people lock their doors, arm themselves when they travel, and fear harm from others in general. One can only imagine the fears and consequent behaviors of men who live in a lawless world.

It’s also interesting that Hobbes asserts that there is no notion of justice and injustice without a common superior power among men – i.e. law. This reminded me of the saying “all is fair in love and war.” John Locke, on the other hand, argues that there are fundamental and inalienable rights of men, even in the state of war. My intuition and compassion for humanity wants to agree with Locke that there are essential rights to life, liberty, and property; but my cold faculty of reasoning agrees with Hobbes that men will not respect these “rights” in a state of war, and there is no power which can redress violations of these “rights;” and therefore, these “rights” may as well not exist.

Chapter 14 – Of the First and Second Natural Laws, and of Contracts

  • The right of nature is the liberty of every man to do all that he deems fit for the preservation of his life.
  • The law of nature forbids a man from destroying his life, destroying the means of preserving his life, and omitting that by which he thinks he may best preserve his life. This law is derived from reason.
  • Right consists in liberty to do or forbear. Law obligates one to do or forbear. Thus, right is liberty, law is obligation.
  • In the state of war, every man has a right to use everything to preserve his own life, even the lives of other men. Thus, in the state of war, there is no security for any man, no matter how wise or strong he is, of living out the time which nature ordinarily allows men to live.
  • The first law of nature is to seek peace. The second law of nature is to defend peace by any means.
  • These two laws incline men to renounce certain rights when other men are willing to do so to establish and maintain peace. As long as every man may do as he wishes, the state of war persists.
  • Men are not bound by their natures; for nothing is more easily broken than a man’s word. Men are bound by the fear of some evil consequence for transgressing the bond.
  • When a man transfers or renounces a right, he does so to gain some good. A man cannot voluntarily renounce the right to resist others who assault him and intend to take away his life because there is no benefit to be derived from renouncing such a right. The same rule applies to resisting wounds, chains, and imprisonment.
  • The mutual transferring of right is called a contract.
  • Signs of contract are either express or implicit. Express signs are spoken or written words. Implicit signs include: words, silence, action, inaction, and whatever argues the will of the contractor to be bound by contract.
  • Words are too weak to bridle men’s ambition, avarice, anger, and other passions without the fear of some coercive power.
  • Men are freed from contracts by performance or forgiveness.
  • No man can renounce his right to resist wounds, imprisonment, and death.

“Words are too weak to bridle men’s ambition, avarice, anger, and other passions, without the fear of some coercive power.”

In chapter 14, Hobbes discusses the nature of contracts. I had flashbacks of law school while reading this chapter, and all the meaningless debates over one or two words that may or may not signify a will to enter into a contract. For example, Hobbes quibbles over the phrases “I will that this be thine tomorrow,” and “I will give this to you tomorrow.” Hobbes argues that the first phrase signifies that the speaker has entered into a contract with another party to deliver something to him. On the other hand, the second phrase does not constitute a promise, and transfers no right to another party. These petty and arbitrary distinctions are just a few of the reasons why I have lost all respect for the legal system. In my opinion, there can be no true justice in this world. The legal system serves only as a deterrent to crime and fraudulent dealings; it fulfills its purpose to a greater or lesser extent as the times and mores of societies change.

Chapter 15 – Of Other Laws of Nature

  • Another law of nature is that men must perform their covenants. This is the origin of justice. When there is no covenant, there is no transfer of rights, and consequently men have a right to do anything, no action can be unjust. The definition of injustice is the violation of a covenant.
  • There must be a common coercive power to compel men to fulfill their covenants. There must be a punishment greater than the expected benefit of violating the covenant.
  • The instance of attaining sovereignty by rebellion teaches others to do the same; and therefore it is against reason and unjust.
  • Those who argue that the laws of nature are not rules which conduce to the preservation of earthly life, but rather conducive to eternal felicity after death. But there is no natural knowledge of life after death, but only a belief grounded upon other men’s sayings.
  • The just man is one in conformance with reason; the unjust man is not in conformance with reason.
  • The fourth law of nature is to be grateful; for if men give gifts and repent soon afterwards because of the ingratitude of the receiver, then there would be neither mutual help nor trust, and the state of war would persist.
  • The fifth law of nature is that every man ought to accommodate himself to the others. As a builder casts away a stone that is too hard and irregularly shaped, society ought to cast out the man who stubbornly retains superfluous things that are necessary to others.
  • The sixth law of nature is that men must look to the greatness of a good that follows retribution, not the greatness of the past evil. Thus, society must only punish offenders with the design to correct the offenders’ behaviors and to direct others toward proper actions.
  • Another law of nature is that no man ought to declare hatred or contempt of another.
  • All men are equal in the state of nature. Inequality arises from civil laws. Another law of nature is that every man must acknowledge another for his equal by nature.
  • Another law of nature is that no man ought to reserve any right to himself that he is not content should be reserved to everyone else.
  • A judge must deal equally between two antagonists; for without an impartial judge, no controversy could be resolved but by war.
  • That which cannot be divided equally must be shared in common.
  • That which cannot be divided equally or shared in common must be adjudged to the first possessor.
  • All the laws of nature can be reduced to “Do not that to another which thou wouldest not have done to thyself.”
  • Moral philosophy is nothing more than the science of what is good and evil in the endeavor to preserve the society of mankind. Good and evil signify a man’s appetites and aversions, which are different according to the varying tempers, customs, and doctrines of men. Hobbes directly attacks Aristotle’s argument that virtues are a mean between extreme passions. Hobbes argues that virtues are good because they are derived from the laws of nature – i.e. from the universal desire for peace.

“There is no natural knowledge of man’s estate after death, much less of the reward that is then to be given to breach of faith, but only a belief grounded upon other men’s saying that they know it supernaturally or that they know those that knew them that knew others that knew it supernaturally.”

In chapter 15, Hobbes enumerates several other laws of nature, which he derives from the fundamental laws that men must seek the preservation of their lives through peace. Hobbes condenses the long list into one maxim: “Do not that to another which thou wouldest not have done to thyself.” This is a variation of the Golden Rule to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” However, Hobbes maxim is one that forbids an action whereas the Golden Rule commands an action to be performed.

Chapter 16 – Of Persons, Authors, and Things Personated

  • A person is he whose words or actions are considered as either his own or as representing the words or actions of another man. When they are considered his own, then he is called a natural person. When they are considered another man’s, then he is considered a feigned or artificial person.
  • Some artificial persons’ words and actions are owned by those whom they represent. The artificial person is an actor, and those who own the words and actions are authors. Actors act by the authority of the authors.
  • Any covenant made by an actor representing an author, binds the author as if the author had made the covenant.
  • A multitude of men are made one man when they are represented by one man.
  • Authors, who limit their representatives in what and how far they shall represent them, are only responsible for the actions of the authors that they commissioned.

In chapter 16, Hobbes discusses the nature of representatives. Men may commission other men to act on their behalf. The acts of the representatives bind the represented men as if the represented men were the ones who performed the acts. This chapter was not particularly enlightening in any way.

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

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