2. Hobbes: Authority, Human Rights and Social Order
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2. Hobbes: Authority, Human Rights and Social Order

October 8, 2019

Prof: Then let’s go on
to Thomas Hobbes. And I do something what
probably not everybody does in a kind of history of ideas course:
I give you an overview of the individual whom you were reading
from, and around some sense of the
historic times they lived in. Occasionally I get negative
comments in my course evaluations for this.
People want just to talk about
the text, what they have to know.
There are some people who like
it, to see well this is how Thomas Hobbes looked like,
and who the character was. So therefore I still will do
this. I think what I will try to do
is to go very fast through the sort of individual’s life and
history; sort of to have my cake and eat
it, right? To give those of you who are
interested in the historical context, at least briefly;
and those who are not particularly interested,
not to bore them with it. But you can go back to the
internet and get even more detail.
Okay, so we’ll start this with
Thomas Hobbes. Whether Foundations of Modern
Social Thought should start with Hobbes or not,
that’s a question. In some other courses I’ve
taught, occasionally I started with Thomas Bacon;
I will talk about him very briefly later on.
But in some ways arguably
Thomas Hobbes is the first who laid the foundations of modern
social science. He was a genuine scientist,
and a formidable one, and an extremely controversial
figure, addressing a number of very important issues.
We are all still very divided,
particularly on human nature. Are we by nature good,
or are we by nature evil? I think probably half of the
crowd here would go one way; the other half would go another
way. And I hope to be able to
discuss that in the discussion sections.
Anyway there are a number of
very important issues that Thomas Hobbes framed,
and which have a great deal of impact on later social
scientists– of course, on Locke,
but also on Adam Smith, on Nietzsche,
on Freud, on Max Weber and others.
Okay, so this is Thomas Hobbes,
and let me just very briefly talk about his life.
I mentioned that–in the
introductory lecture–he was born in 1588 in Westport.
I also mentioned that his
father was a vicar and he had actually a fistfight with a
clergyman in, of all places,
in a cemetery which was absolutely no-no by that time.
So he had to skip and disappear
and leave young Thomas behind in the care of an uncle who was
actually a glover, produced gloves.
And this all happened under the
rule of Queen Elizabeth. I will talk about this a little
later. In 1602, he went to Oxford,
to Magdalene Hall, and then in ’08 he graduated,
and he became a tutor of William Cavendish II who became
at one point a very important politician.
In 1610, he went to France and
Italy. It is very important because he
met Galileo and he was absolutely turned on by Galileo
and physics of his time. I already mentioned that Hobbes
cannot be classified in any of the disciplines.
He even cannot be classified as
a social scientist. He was as much a
mathematician–I gather a pretty bad mathematician–but also he
made important contributions to sciences, particularly to
optics. Well, he had a close
association with a person whom you may have heard of,
Francis Bacon. And who was Francis Bacon,
and what is his influence? Francis Bacon was a philosopher
who rejected the Aristotelian logic and system,
which basically was a speculative system–
started out from some major assumptions and through
deductions developed his philosophical system.
As I said, occasionally I’ve
taught this course by starting with Francis Bacon because
Bacon, in some ways, is the Founding Father of
modern sciences. Because he said every
scientific investigation should start with induction,
from sensual observation, and what you cannot observe,
you should not assume it does exist.
Therefore he advocated a
methodology which was exactly the opposite of the Aristotelian
methodology, which was deductive.
He advocated induction.
Now he was very closely
affiliated with William Cavendish and had a great deal
of impact on Hobbes initially, though eventually Hobbes
changed actually his mind. And he went to Europe and,
among other things, he spent time–he knew where to
spend time. He went to Paris,
and he began to investigate natural sciences,
Galileo and Descartes, in particular.
Descartes was a great deal of
importance for Hobbes. From Galileo he learned an
alternative to Bacon’s inductive method.
Galileo offered a methodology
that, by and large, social scientists today who
believe in normal social science subscribe to.
Namely that was the
methodology, what Galileo called the resolutive-compositive
method. It basically meant that you
start with deduction. Right?
You have some initial
hypotheses. Then you move to observation,
sensual observation, and from the sensual
observation you make inductions. And you make that and you test
your hypotheses. That’s how it we would say it
today. And this is what Bacon learned
from Galileo and adapted his methodology.
Now this is René
Descartes, one of the greatest philosophers of his times and of
all times. Descartes ascribed to something
what I call dualism. Right?
Dualism really meant that he
separated the soul and body from each other,
and Hobbes rejected this idea of dualism because he suggested
that– in fact, they were engaged in a
big debate on optics, what we do see.
And he, Hobbes,
was advocating that there must be a real object whose movement
we see, what we actually can see.
So he rejected the dualism.
And then he wrote–I mentioned
very briefly– his trilogy:
De Corpore, this is about the human body,
De Homine, about man, and finally De
Cive, about society. I see this as formidable and
something which appeals a great deal to social scientists today.
To try to develop a theory of
society which begins actually with biology,
with biological processes, and build it up gradually from
biology to understanding of the social,
of the individual, and from the individual to
understand society. That’s highly controversial.
There are many social
scientists who reject it. But today there are many social
scientists who are greatly attracted to this,
and we see a re-emergence today of sciences and social
scientists. Well Hobbes entered politics as
a Royalist when William Cavendish entered politics.
And, in fact,
Hobbes translated, I also mentioned,
Thucydides, basically because Thucydides expressed some
skepticism about the democracy in Athens.
And he was greatly skeptical
about democracy and believed the need for a strong central
authority. Well these were very troubled
times, troubled times and religious conflicts.
I’ll skip this one because I
know you are all very familiar with British history.
But it all started with Henry
VIII who had a very troubled marital relationship.
He had three wives;
divorced one, executed the second one in
search for a son from one of his wives.
But in the process of
divorcing, he split from the Roman Catholic Church,
and that’s when Church of England emerged,
and that’s how England became Protestant of a sort.
Well again, as I said,
I’ll skip this one and go on. Well this is the eldest
daughter of Henry VIII, Mary I, called Bloody Mary.
She inherited the throne.
She was trying to establish
Roman Catholicism but had to resign.
There was too much resistance
against it so he had to resign and give the throne to his
younger sister, Elizabeth.
And this is Queen Elizabeth.
And Queen Elizabeth was at the
time of Puritanism under a great deal of pressure of Puritans who
wanted to get rid of Catholics altogether from government in
England. This became a very important
issue later on. And New Haven has its Puritan
connections. Anybody is from Davenport
College? Nobody is from Davenport.
Oh my goodness.
So no real Puritans around here.
Well that’s a shame.
Anyway, this was Reverend John
Davenport. He was a Puritan who settled in
New Haven, with his followers, in 1638.
And already,
of course, in I think 1703, the Puritans created this
institution, and they were basically running
this institution until the late nineteenth century– not
anymore. Okay.
Now there will be a great deal
of conflicts between–yeah, Mary was called the Virgin
Queen. Well whether she was a virgin
or not is unclear, but she clearly had a lot of
very close friendships with various men in her life.
But she never married,
and never gave birth to a child.
She was actually a very good
queen, a smart, good queen by the challenges of
the time. But she was the last one,
and died without a son. And then the Crown went over to
the Stuarts, and they were a total disaster.
James I was already a disaster,
and Charles I was a real disaster.
And they were in a collision
course with parliament, and there was a constant war in
England–civil war–culminating in ’42.
And finally Charles I was
executed in ’49, and Oliver Cromwell came to
power. Now–well here I give you a
picture of the execution of Charles I.
If you don’t believe it,
you can see it. Well Hobbes got into some
trouble at that time because he was too close to the Royalists,
and he had to flee England in 1640,
ahead of time, and he went to live in Paris.
He was very close there to the
Royalist exiles, and in ’51 he completed his
major book, Leviathan–what we will
be talking about in a minute. Well Leviathan became an
extremely controversial book. It was very controversial in
his times–became actually a big hot topic in the nineteenth
century. And it’s a very hot topic in
the last thirty or forty years because a lot of economists and
political scientists who are interested in rational choice
theories discovered in Thomas Hobbes the first rational choice
theorist. Actually he’s a wonderfully
lucid mind, and if you read the text,
and you know enough mathematics,
you could do a lot of his propositions in mathematical
equations. What else an economist wants to
do? Right?
It must be true if you can put
it into an equation. Right?
Well that’s what certainly
Thomas Hobbes is available to do, because of extremely
lucidity of his mind. Well it was therefore a
controversial book–also for the Royalists.
Because in ’51,
Hobbes–and we will talk about this in great detail–
was considering that probably people should be allowed to
transfer their loyalty to a new authority which offers safety.
And that’s what the Royalists
did not want to hear–that Cromwell actually can become a
legitimate ruler. And that’s what,
in a way, the book Leviathan foreshadows.
So he better have to skip out
of Paris and go back to London. This is the First Edition of
Leviathan, ’51.
This is about the idea that
people are by nature evil, and we need an all powerful
sovereign to avoid the state of war of everyone against everyone
else– a powerful proposition.
Again, I would think probably
half of the people in this classroom, when really think
hard about it, do believe Hobbes’s argument;
half of them would be violently opposed to the argument.
So it’s a very nice topic,
to have heated discussions in the discussion sections.
Leviathan is a
sea-monster: the state or the sovereign.
We need to keep order as such.
There were a great deal of
controversies around him. He actually was publishing
rather neutral stuff, only attacking
universities–which is always a good thing to do,
right? But when in 1660 the monarchy
was restored, and Charles II,
the son of Charles I became king,
Hobbes was invited back to the court,
and it looked like he will be just fine right now as a
Royalist. Not so, because in ’66 there
was a fire in London, and because of this fire–some
people believed that this fire was the revenge of God because
of the sinful New York– not New York–London.
And they were therefore trying
to find the guilty one. And who was that?
Of course, Thomas Hobbes with
his materialism. Right?
No soul.
So how is then eternal life
possible? This must be an atheist.
His books should be burned,
if not himself. So they did not burn his book
and himself, but he certainly was out of grace and died in
’79. He was greatly admired in
Continental Europe, but was very controversial in
England. And well, if you don’t believe
there was a fire in London, here is the proof.
There is the great fire of
London, ’66, which it looked like Los Angeles to me.
Well okay.
Well it killed 3000 people,
right? The fire brigade was not as
effective as today is in Southern California.
Now that’s about the person and
the times. I think extremely for my–as
far as I’m concerned–extremely important to understand this,
the work, if you know the times when he lived in.
All right, so now let me go on
and talk to Leviathan.>
And here we go.
This is the First Edition of
Leviathan, which came out in 1651,
in two big volumes. Each one was 500 pages long.
Well this is the structure of
the book. The first part is on man,
and the first few chapters are about the mechanisms.
Because of Galileo,
Hobbes was obsessed with the idea of motion.
So he described the biological
motions, what moves man: senses, imagination,
speech, reason, and so on and so forth.
Then chapter six is a fun
chapter. It is about appetites,
desires, aversions and fears, and the theory of voluntary
action. I will talk about this.
This is really very insightful,
very important–a very great deal of impact on contemporary
times, and I hope you can also relate to it individually.
And then chapter seven to
eleven is the relationship between people as such.
And then finally the state of
nature and the two laws of nature.
We will have to talk about this
in greater detail. So Part II is about
commonwealth. It’s about really the first
theory of politics–the rights and duties of the governments
and the subjects. There are some very interesting
arguments here; that actually the sovereigns
also have duties, not only simply rights.
And then parts III and IV offer
some theological justification what he does.
Part III and IV,
I think very rarely read, or at least I see very few
citations to it. So what are the major themes of
the book? First, about the theory of
human nature. The second one is the
relationship between nature and the theory of social contract.
Hobbes is really the first of
the contractarians, who advocates that what brings
society together is a social contract.
If you want to understand
society, you have to understand that we have contracts with each
other. And then finally the theory of
the sovereign. Right?
The major desire,
the essence of Hobbes’s work, is to try to find an
identifiable sovereign. Right?
He lived in turbulent times
when you did not know who the sovereign is.
Is this the king?
Is this the landlord?
Are these the burghers?
Is this the parliament?
Who on earth is the sovereign?
He wanted to find one
identifiable sovereign–we can all agree, this is the proper
source of law. Right?
That’s what he was obsessed
with. Okay.
So let me then move on and
about human nature. What are the themes here?
Well one important argument is
that man will deliberate between appetites and aversions,
and as a result it will act voluntarily.
Well that’s a fascinating
issue–an issue we cannot get rid out of our hair.
Well when I was your age,
we always were vehemently debating the question:
Do we have free will or we don’t have free will?
Our action is over-determined.
This is exactly the question
what Hobbes is talking about and develops the idea of voluntary
action which is kind of halfway between absolute free will and
complete determination. Right?
The idea is that we are driven
by appetite, by desires. We will talk in this course
later on about Sigmund Freud who was talking about drives.
There are drives which makes us
move. These are what Hobbes called
appetite, a few centuries before Sigmund Freud.
But then he said we also have
aversions, we have fears. There are things what we want,
but we have fears that we won’t be able to achieve what we want,
and therefore we have to somehow negotiate out between
our desires, appetites, and our fears or aversions.
And what comes out is voluntary
action. We have a choice. Right?
We have to measure up what the
price of our action will be, and then we decide whether it
is worth to pay this price or it is not worth to pay this price.
So I see somebody whom I desire
a great deal, I thought it would be a great
partner for me. But in order to approach that
person and to say, “Can I have a date?”
it has risks because it may
say, “Go to hell.” Right?
And I don’t want to be
rejected. Right?
I have fears that I will be
rejected. So I will be measuring up,
right? And some of you,
if you are in such a situation, if you sense that the answer
will be no, you don’t place a phone call,
and you will never get that person.
The fear overrules the appetite.
Or others will say,
“Heck.” You know?
“If they say no,
then I will try a second time, I will try a third time,
and if it’s no a third time, then I’ll give up.”
Okay, so this is voluntary
action. Right?
This is freedom. Right?
You are free to decide whether
you want to try it again. Right?
Whether you want to achieve
your appetites. And then the second point is we
will seek power. The essence of human nature is
that we are striving for power. Again an issue,
a very good issue to discuss at the discussion section.
Again, I think half of the
class will probably agree with Hobbes, that people are actually
trying to dominate others. Others will say we are much
more benevolent. We are actually nice people,
we don’t want to dominate. Well we will see his argument
for it. Well he said actually–and the
last point is, you know–if we want to
survive, we will need an all powerful sovereign.
So voluntary action.
He actually said there are two
kinds of motions. One motion is what he calls
vital motions, and these are stuff like,
you know, food, that we want to have food or
something. And there is what he
calls–well it sounds strange today–animal motions.
But this is what I think is
better called voluntary motions which actually has something to
do with appetites or desires, or aversions,
and how to deal with this. So let me just speak about
appetites and aversions. Again, I don’t want to read the
text. I will put it on the internet
for you. It just describes what I have
said, that we all have appetites, we have desires,
we have needs. And in order to satisfy our
needs, it always has costs, and therefore we have to figure
out whether it’s worth the cost for us to satisfy that need.
And therefore we have a certain
degree of freedom. We can’t do whatever we want to
do, because we may not have the resources to afford it.
Or we want to have many things,
and then we will have to prioritize what we want to have
more and spend more on it. As you can hear,
Hobbes is very close to what later on becomes the
utilitarians. Right?
Very close to what Adam Smith
will argue in his economic theory, or what John Stuart
Mills will represent in his utilitarianism.
Or, for that sake,
what most economists today believe,
who call themselves neoclassical economists,
or who identify themselves as “rat”
choice, or rational choice; economists or political
scientists or sociologists, for that sake;
there are some sociologists who also subscribe to rational
choice. All right, this is also very
lovely: deliberation and the will.
And he said,
well when we have desires and we have aversions,
that’s when we’re actually beginning to figure out–
we deliberate what on earth is worse for us.
And the end of this
deliberation we have a will. We decide I go for it,
I want that date. Right?
Or we decide I don’t want it,
because the costs are too high. Okay?
And this is what we call the
will. Right?
Your will will be that you
decide I go for it, or you decide,
no, that’s not worth for me, it would be silly–I make a
clawn out of me, I just don’t do it. Right?
That’s the will.
Well about power.
The power is unending. Right?
He said there is a general
inclination for us to seek power, our influence on other
people. And he said there is nothing
evil about it. It is necessary because if we
want to survive we will have to try to exercise influence on
others. We have to seek power as such.
An extremely important idea,
which foreshadows especially Nietzsche and Max Weber who
comes up later in this course. Well then here comes a very
interesting argument about equality; a very exciting
argument. He is one of the very first
philosophers who claims that we are all born equal.
Now for you this is of course
obvious, but it was not obvious in 1651 that people–nobles and
serfs, slaves and slaveholders–were all born
equal. And he said,
in fact–also extremely important–
that we are equal actually in strengths because even the
weakest person has the capacity to kill the strongest one.
Even David can kill Goliath.
But he said the same goes
intellectually; in fact, intellectually we are
even more equal than by physical power.
So that sounds wonderful,
and you probably all agree with it.
But then he makes a very
controversial point, and probably there are some
people in this room who agree with him,
but others probably will disagree with it.
Namely, he said what comes from
this equality is this unending fight;
that because we desire the same thing–
and he operates with the scarcity assumption,
that what is desirable is actually scarce– that we’ll
fight each other. Right?
And we can’t fight each other
because we are equal–because we can kill each other,
we can outsmart each other. This is a very unusual
argument. Right?
He is a very ironic guy. Right?
He always says things that you
may not want to hear. Right?
And this is something who
believes in equality do not want to hear;
that, in fact, equality can be interpreted as
the reason for social conflict, rather than the solution for
social conflict. That is his argument.
Very interesting,
very unusual–right?–and again, probably the closest to
Nietzsche as we will see. Well then we have–this is,
I won’t read it; save it, this is the page you
want to print, because for the rest of your
life, if you ever want to cite Hobbes, this is the citation.
Namely that we will therefore
be in a war of everyone against everyone else,
for the above reasons. Now about the question of
social contract. Well he operates with this idea
of state of Nature. And we will talk a lot about
this. Because among most of the
social theories–Founding Fathers of social
theories–there is a debate, what is the original nature of
humans? And it’s controversial whether
this is a useful concept at all, the state of nature.
But he did believe in this.
Well there are really two basic
laws of nature. One law of nature is that you
are forbidden what is harmful to you.
You have to pursue
self-interest. Here again you see the rational
choice theory speaking. Right?
People are self-interested,
and this is the law of nature that we should be
self-interested. Right?
We have to do everything in
order to preserve our life. But there is a second law of
nature, he argues, and this requires that we–
what you would not do–yeah, not to do others what you would
not want them to do to you. Right?
This is–again,
you may want to save this citation.
A very important
citation–foreshadows major theories of ethics,
which come many, many years or decades or
centuries after him, particularly Emanuel Kant and
his categorical imperative. Okay.
Well in the state of nature if
there are no restraints, there is no civilization.
That’s a very interesting idea,
that pressure limiting the state of nature is necessary.
This is again foreshadows
absolutely Sigmund Freud and his theory of civilization;
that civilization comes out of the repression of drives,
rather than satisfaction of drives.
If whatever you always need is
immediately satisfied, there is no civilization.
Civilization comes from
sufferings, from suppressed desires.
That’s when you go back and you
create great pieces of art or you become a great scientist
because you suppress your sexual and other desires.
It’s always from suffering the
great products of humankind are coming from.
That’s what he’s saying,
and that’s of course what Sigmund Freud will say.
Okay, there are there are the
two laws of nature. And again, I don’t want to
elaborate on it; this is quite obvious.
He said there is the elementary
law of nature, the first right,
that we have to do whatever is necessary for self-protection.
And the other one is that we
actually should consider others, what others will do.
Well, and then the contract.
Well what follows from the
Second Law of Nature is that we put our rights aside and
transfer it to others. Well this transfer of rights,
there is some reciprocity in it.
We give up some rights,
and we get something in exchange–protection or safety
or something, as such.
And when we transfer this right
to somebody else, this is what is called the
covenant or social contract. As far as I can tell,
this is the first formulation of the theory of social
contract. It’s not quite the theory of
social contract that we will read from Locke or from
Rousseau. Because he said two,
again, controversial comments. One, that, in fact,
a contract we entered by fear is also obligatory.
Just because we were forced
into a contract out of fear does not mean that we can walk out of
this contract whenever we want to.
So it’s very much status quo.
He’s a conservative guy.
I think it has to be
understand, he’s deeply conservative.
And then he also said that in
fact a former contract makes void a later contract.
So there is no divorce,
to put it this way. Right?
Once you swear,
you know, that well I’ll stay with you until we live,
that’s about it. Right?
There is no new contract which
voids it. Now very briefly about the
power of the sovereign. Its power is to produce safety
to the people. Right?
He lives in unsafe times.
So he wants safer– safety.
But obedience is only due to
the extent the sovereign can deliver this safety,
and if it cannot–why Charles I couldn’t–
well you could withdraw your obedience, your loyalty from it.
Okay, now what is important in
his time, to find out who the sovereign is.
And the sovereign actually can
be–and I just point out two words from this citation– can
be transferred on one man,
the king, or upon one assembly of man.
That’s, I think,
extremely important. Though he was very strongly in
favor of absolutism, he did consider that the
sovereign can be a properly assembled body of man.
But how they will be properly
assembled, he doesn’t have the faintest idea,
or doesn’t have the guts to say it.
It will become much more clear
in Locke, and particularly in Rousseau,
where the sovereign is, and it becomes,
of course, crystal clear in the American Constitution,
which starts, “We the people.”
That’s where the sovereign is.
In Hobbes’s time,
it was not quite we the people, but he did consider
that it may not be the royalty, the king.
Now the sovereign does have
duties. The office of the sovereign has
to procure safety of the people. And he said–he adds to this;
extremely important–that it is not bare preservation.
It has to give more than just
survival, as such. And therefore you can expect
for the sovereign to deliver this, and if the sovereign does
not deliver, you can withdraw your loyalty.
So even though he is a theorist
of Absolutism, he does see the need and
possibility that you withdraw your loyalty and you transfer it
to a good king, to a good sovereign, as such.
Well the question is also what
are the good laws? People say good laws are the
laws which are good for the sovereign.
And he said–and this is
extremely important, I highlighted it–it is not so,
not true, that good laws serve only the sovereign.
The good laws should serve the
people. Well, and this is the end of it.
What are his contributions and
what are his shortcomings? Well his emphasis is on peace
and order. Right?
But what he does not consider,
that the sovereign might abuse his power.
And this will be the big
criticism of Hobbes by later theorists;
particularly by Locke. We will set it already
Wednesday. Right?
Locke is primary considered by
the possibility that the sovereign may abuse its power.
Well, and then he actually does
not develop, as a result, any theory how power can be
held in checks. There is no theory of checks
and balances. There is one in Hobbes,
and even one more developed in Montesquieu.
And the American Constitution
does not come from Hobbes, but it comes from Locke,
and particularly from Montesquieu.
Montesquieu is the one which
defined that checks and balances which entered the American
Constitution. Well he was an apologetical
theorist of an enlightened absolutism–not any absolutism,
right? He was against real monsters,
as I already demonstrated it. As a result,
he was not acceptable to the monarchs because he put too much
limitations on their powers; but he was not acceptable to
the emergent bourgeois class because it attributed too much
power to the monarch. And therefore nobody really
liked Hobbes, but nobody liked–and you may
not like him. What is impossible is to ignore
him; you have to listen to him.
Well see you Wednesday and
Thursday in discussion sections.

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