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Thomas Hobbes Essay


Thomas Hobbes is a prominent English philosopher and political thinker. He integrated political thought and philosophy and proposed his model of the state structure providing it with philosophical explanations. Hobbes is famous for his materialistic point of view. His most famous work that is even nowadays the subject of much controversy is Leviathan. The book was written in 1651 during the period of English Civil war. The author described the human existence as a miserable and full of fear and defined the only aim of each person to stay alive in the hostile surrounding. He formed several laws that explained the primary way of human coexistence. He called these rules the Natural statutes and proclaimed that keeping them could guarantee safe and peaceful life to each.

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Forming the third law of nature Hobbes states that “men perform their convents made.” In the fifteenth chapter, he describes the imaginary person, a fool, who doesn’t agree with this natural law and gives different objections to it. The fool states that keeping convents is not always rational. Hobbes gives his arguments to support the third natural law.

“The fool hath said in his heart, there is no such thing as justice, and sometimes also with his tongue, seriously alleging that every man’s conservation and contentment being committed to his care, there could be no reason why every man might not do what he thought conduced thereunto: and therefore also to make, or not make; keep, or not keep, covenants was not against reason when it conduced to one’s benefit” (Hobbes, 1994).

Hobbes believes that the only way for all people to coexist peacefully is to keep covenant. Only in this way safety can be achieved. Since Hobbes believed that “we have an obligation to ourselves to stay alive and that is our main goal” carrying out convent Hobbes believed to be the main mean to save this life. He stated that thinking that breaking the convent could be profitable for somebody is a stupid thought. To get a better understanding of Hobbes’s view, it is necessary to understand his vision of justice. Hobbes proclaims that the main aim of moral rules was to avoid chaos. And though in his previous works he disputed the social authority of a monarch and claimed that social authority could come from people only, he turned to a different point of view in his Leviathan. Not before the Leviathan was published Hobbes received sanction to come back to England.

Hobbes believed justice and morality to be the products of the government but not the inner characteristics of each person. So, the main function of the ordinary citizens was to follow the will of the sovereign and to carry out the convent. He considered carrying it to be necessary even in the situations when the convent was made because of fear or threat to one’s life. At the same time the actions of the sovereign are not regulated by any laws and judicial norms so, theoretically, his actions are not regulated by any prescribed norms. Hobbes believed that only following the natural law could benefit both – sovereign and his citizens. Obligations to natural laws were regarded as the only measure of monarch’s responsibility. Keeping out the convent he believed to be the only way to save the country from chaos and guarantee safety to the life of its citizens. So, any actions directed to saving the life of the person can be recognized as just help unless they bring threat to the life of other individuals. Hobbes states that “keeping of covenant, a rule of reason, by which we are forbidden to do anything destructive to our life; and consequently a law of nature. The very penalties that bind a person to their promise are not worth the risk of the possible lucky benefit one may receive by breaking their word” (Hobbes, 1994).

Since Hobbes didn’t recognize moral values and ethical principles as the driving forces of the society, he believed that people had been directed only by their profit and sought for safety, which could be achieved with the help of social contract. So, he believed that social contract was the basement of the existence of any peaceful society. Hobbes believed that society consisted of population obedient to authority. He also believed that obedience was based on covenant in a way that people could express their rights for authority and at the same time be defended. Hobbes considered that absolute authority was the best way to run the state. He stated that authority could be formed in the form of aristocracy, democracy or monarchy but he preferred the monarchy. The authority he defined as a Leviathan or an absolute authority. All social laws and norms Hobbes regarded as different forms of social contracts.

1. Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, ed Edwin Curley, Hackett, Indianapolis, 1994.
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