Hobbes’ Philosophy

April 22, 2012

Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher, is essentially the author of the following works:

- De cive (1642)

- Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civil (1651)

If Hobbes‘s reputation was, for long, outrageous (one accused Hobbes to have a centric-state theory, conductive to the development of the absolutism), we now understand our debt to the man who is one of the founders of the modern political thought.

The Anthropology of Hobbes: A pessimistic vision of human nature

The reference to Hobbes is, first of all, anthropological: it relies on a vision of human vision serves as a starting point for his political problems.

Hobbes focuses on human nature and describes the man as a being endowed with speech.

- Where there is no speech, there is neither truth nor falsity, says Hobbes in Leviathan

- But what is the language ?

The act by which it exercises the function of language, the latter denoting the sequence of words that men have drawn arbitrarily to mean the succession of concepts of what we think.

Man, that creator of signs, is also a strength, a set of desires and appetites, which reacts in contact with other men like him in strength and desires and representing as many competitors: In the State of nature, man is trying to make a constraint on the other and live in a state of war with him. The state of nature is a state of war accordong to the anthropology of Hobbes.

What represents the state of nature?

- This is not a historical reality but a theoretical fiction, where Hobbes gives us to see an original state of war is characterized by the constant threat: Homo homini lupus – man is a wolf to man! This theoretical fiction has inspired many philosophers, like Locke or Rousseau.

- When men live according to the state of nature, forces clash necessarily their lives while being consistent with natural law, freedom of everyone to use as he wants on his own power, to preserve its own nature.

Hobbes, the State and the Contract:

The state of nature is a state of war and violence, condemned the man to have an almost animal existence, with no culture or civilization.

A contract is needed to escape this hell and that constant risk, where violence threatens everyone, due to the concrete situation of man and of the mutual mistrust that characterizes it.

- The causes of discord is diverse it is beyond them and establish peace: Agreement means the agreement by which men are divesting their interest in all things and gives them power to a monarch or an assembly performing well overall.

- While the shift from the state of nature to the political order and the man creates the State or the Republic, an organization wielding political power.

- We must see that creating a product of human art.

From this perspective, the Sovereign (custodian of the personality of the city, the depository may be a monarch or an assembly) is to take care of the welfare of the people and achieve the common good. The other men are the subjects of the Sovereign.

With Hobbes’s political philosophy thus takes on new meaning, the state, this human creation, is intended to end the barbaric nature.

Here is the man who created the state and its works. Hobbes seems very modern in many ways: as a theorist of the modern State and as a thinker of power.