Thomas Hobbes is a British philosopher, born in 1588. Among his prolific work, one book will become one of the major founder pieces of the modern political thought; Leviathan (1651). In this work, Hobbes writes about the natural condition of mankind, and its consequences. He thus joins the lineage of the social contract's philosophers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau or John Locke. One may ask why we shall bother to study such old pieces of writing; the answer is actually quite simple. The theory of the social contract is the very base of our whole political society, and some aspects of Hobbes work are still helpful to understand our world; as an example, many actual or recent totalitarian states have found a justification to their exaction in Hobbes's work.
In Leviathan, Hobbes is actually trying to justify the imposition of the political authority, the metaphorical Leviathan. In order to prove his point, that a life without government is not worth living (Newey, 2008, p2), Hobbes uses his own analysis of the natural condition of mankind, the state of nature, which could be defined as the simple condition where we are forced into contact with each other in the absence of a superior authority that can lay down and enforce rules to govern our behavior toward each other (Ryan, 2009, p217-218). What is then the natural condition of mankind, and why did this consideration lead to the necessity of the strong Leviathan state?
We will first study the main features of the Hobbesian man, in order to determine the consequences of the above mentioned nature on the interactions between men in the state of nature, and to finally see why the Leviathan became necessary.
[...] Even if some scholars may think that they actually are normative divine commands, those laws are in reality closer to simple advices (Newey, 2008). Furthermore, the only form of cooperation between men is covenant. Nevertheless, as it is in the human nature both to be anxious and to satisfy its desires at any cost, none of the parties that made such agreement can be sure that the other party will fulfill its commitment. Such thinking is actually rational, and could be proven as such by a simple Prisoner's dilemma. [...]
[...] In this state of nature, every human is trying to survive by satisfying its own desires, regardless of the others' ones. Life would actually be easy if the earth was peopled with a single human being; as an example, if he was starving, he would only need to pick a fruit on a tree. However, there is not one only human being, but many of them, and according to Hobbes's postulate, more than the earth's supply could satisfy. Our friend will then see other human beings, starving as well, and then craving for the same fruit. [...]
[...] What for Hobbes was the ‘natural condition of mankind' and why did it necessitate the Leviathan state? Thomas Hobbes is a British philosopher, born in 1588. Among his prolific work, one book will become one of the major founder pieces of the modern political thought; Leviathan (1651). In this work, Hobbes writes about the natural condition of mankind, and its consequences. He thus joins the lineage of the social contract's philosophers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau or John Locke. One may ask why we shall bother to study such old pieces of writing; the answer is actually quite simple. [...]
[...] Nevertheless, Hobbes's conception of the birth of the State is still dominant in the current political thought, and must not be forgotten. Bibliography - Hampsher-Monk, I. (1992), A history of modern political thought, Cambridge: Basil Blackwell Inc. - Hobbes, T. (1996), Leviathan, Oxford: Oxford University Press. - Newey, G. (2008), Hobbes and Leviathan, Oxon: Routledge. - Ryan, A. (2009), Hobbes's political philosophy in Sorrel, T. [...]
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