PY201: Philosophy & Ethical Reasoning

Thomas Hobbes & John Locke

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Both Hobbes & Locke reject the idea of Divine Right. Hobbes did favor absolutism (minus the divine aspect). Locke advocated a constitutional government (limited government) using philosophical and biblical justifications.

Social Contract Theory

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Born in 1588 into a family where his father abandoned his mother and he was raised by his uncle (an affluent merchant). He described himself as a “twin to fear.” He was born prematurely due to his mother going into an anxious shock about the Spanish Armada attacking England.

He went to Oxford and was not attracted to scholastic learning (on Aristotelian thought). Studied natural sciences instead.

BA in 1608 and was recommended to William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire, to serve as a private teacher. Went on a tour of different countries with this family. (Got to meet Galileo and Francis Bacon).

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In 1642 he wrote De Cive (Of the Citizen) In 1651 he wrote The Leviathan which Jon Rawls refers to as the most important work in Political Philosophy in the English Language.

With Charles II there was a restoration of the Stuart Monarchy. (Hobbes had taught him) Charles II included Hobbes in the high levels of his court, provided him a pension and let him teach at the top ranks.

He lived until 91yrs old, but in the late 1660s, he came into trouble with his writings (accused of atheism, profaneness, etc.) He was at risk of arrest and persecution, as a heretic he faced being burned. Later in his life, he wrote an autobiography and then turned to the Ancients and interpreted new translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

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The Leviathan

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Hobbes is the greatest political philosopher who wrote in English. His Leviathan is the most influential work in political philosophy in modern times. He wrote it to justify the absolute power of the monarchy. His argument is basically that one absolute sovereign is necessary to keep us in awe.

Hobbes’ conception of mankind is that we are primarily motivated by self-interest. Common sense moral rules, and following them, lies not in religious authority but in everyone’s rational self-interest.

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Hobbes believed in Egoism… Charity & Pity. Hobbes we were not altruistic but totally selfish. You give out charity because it makes you look good and it also shows that you are very powerful. You are so powerful that you can take care of your own family as well as others. You show pity only people like you. You don’t show it to the rapist who runs off and gets flattened by a car… you show it to people like you. You show pity not because you feel sorry for what he went through but because you realize it could be you going through that same thing.

Hobbes argued for a Social Contract theory, not God. Laws of nature vs. state of nature. State of nature is how we are… a state of conflict. Law of nature God gives to us and we get to it through reason… to figure out that we should be at peace. Hobbes says God can’t be here so we need people to help us here on earth to figure out how to get to peace.

The printing press by Martin Luther showed that there was more than one way to interpret religion. No longer one view. So that is why we have Protestantism… so new social contract theory.

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One of the reasons that Hobbes is so important is that he was really the first person to realize that you cannot organize society, and certainly political life, around some dominant conception of value. Whether that be from religion or some view of the human good.

Hobbes states that this is certainly not possible anymore, particularly since the invention of the printing press by Martin Luther. People will get differing viewpoints and won’t follow authoritarian viewpoints anymore. There isn’t just one authoritarian view on religion. The Catholic Church isn’t the only way to practice Christianity. Free thinkers emerge. 95 Theses tacked to the door.

And yet, Hobbes argues that we must have an authoritarian society in order to prevent this state of war and have a society exist.

Hobbes is really the first person to see that it is wrong to organize society around a particular viewpoint.

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Hobbes’ State of Nature

Relative equality of Human Beings. Grounded not the way we think of this now, but rather grounded in equal vulnerability. The equal risk that all share in the chances of being killed in the absence of law. “Even the strongest must sleep at some point.” The weaker has chance to kill the stronger by conspiracy/machination or by confederation with other weak ones as well. This concept he terms as, “equi-vulnerability” .

There is also a quality shared of hope toward satisfying their own desires. When two want something that they cannot both achieve and enjoy, they become natural enemies. They must destroy the other. (All human beings are motivated by desire, and they pursue power to be able to achieve those desires, and in a finite world this necessarily results in enemies.)

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Hobbes’ State of Nature (Cont.)

This results in not property ever, but only in “insecure possession,” that may persist until a stronger comes along with an interest/desire for what it is that you possess.

(Chapter 13) “Men have no pleasure, but on the contrary, great grief in keeping company.” Exact opposite of the Aristotelian position that we naturally desire the company of others. The reason no one takes pleasure is the inherent competition that will result. Such a person is very sensitive to insult. Not just the loss of possession, but more importantly the shame involved and the impact it has on power.

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Hobbes’ State of Nature (Cont.)

The normal state of affairs is conflict. “War of every man against every man”

~ Competition – forces men to attack others for desires (scarce resources)

~ Diffidence – makes one a target for attack by other men

~ Glory – forces men to attack for reputation and resultant power

Think of this not as a constant fight, but in a persistent vulnerability and dismay. Not actually in persistent combat, but maintains the disposition to always do so.

Life in the state of nature is, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Poor because it is better to steal something than produce something (why produce and fear it being taken?)

The “Three Principles of Quarrel”

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If this is the natural state without political order, how do we get out of it?

There is no right and wrong in the state of nature. Justice has no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law. Without law, there is no breaking the law. Injustice is breaking the law. You suffer damages, but it is never an injustice to do so (absent political order and law) .

A law cannot be unjust since it is the law itself which creates the necessary state to provide for justice or injustice.

The motive to exit the state of nature is fear (remember how he was born and “his twin”) and by reason.

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 Laws of Nature

(Not same as “Natural Law” rather indicates the ‘laws’ of how things just are. Like a Newtonian Physics Law does).

What makes people willing to subject themselves to the sovereign that will be created? The basic law is that all persons seek peace. They are driven to preserve their life and seek peace to do so. Plan B is war, when you cannot preserve your life through peace. Liberty results from a willingness to let others do the same. I give up my right to declare war and pursue my best interests, in willingly affirming that I believe others will do the same. I give up absolute freedom because of how important it is to me to avoid the worst case scenario which I define as being attacked myself. If you have absolute freedom in this state are you really truly free? There are a total of 19 Laws of Nature.

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 Laws of Nature (Cont.)

When a covenant is made, then to break it is injustice. Whatsoever is not unjust is necessarily just. All Laws of Nature can work if they are enforced. You cannot trust people to follow them out of their rationality. Rather, there must be a penalty for those that break the laws of nature.

“Covenants without the sword, is but words.” The purpose of seeking peace will never be assured by the federation of common pursuit, but requires a central authority who can ensure against dissidents. The solution is to create an artificial power (unnatural) The Leviathan who will do this assuredly.

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(Recap) State of Nature vs. Laws of Nature

What is a state of nature? Take us as we are, put us in a state of affairs where there is no sovereign, and put us in close proximity. This will put us in a natural state of conflict or state of war.

State of war isn’t a case of constant actual fighting. But it is a state where the will to do battle is publically recognized. Everyone will be predisposed to do violence first. Life will be brutish and short.

In the state of nature, where it is a war of every natural man against the others, no security is possible and life is full of horror. But two natural passions enable people to escape the state of nature: fear and reason. Fear motivates us and reason helps us escape the state of nature.

State of Nature

=

State of War

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(Recap) State of Nature vs. Laws of Nature

Laws of Nature

1st law of nature – everyman must try for peace, but not being able to attain it, must use all tools of war

2nd law of nature – When a man thinks that peace and self-defense require it, he should be willing (when others are too) to lay down his right to everything, and should be contented with as much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself.

3rd law of nature – Men ought to perform their covenants made. Hobbes said that this is the foundation of the origin of justice.

This natural transference of rights is a contract… a social contract

Not simply enough to make contracts but to keep them!

A “Law of Nature” is a general rule that is discovered through reason.

These 3 laws give a plan to escape the state of nature

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John Locke

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FACTS ABOUT JOHN LOCKE

Locke was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of the Enlightenment thinkers and is known as the “Father of Classical Liberalism”.

He is considered one of the first of the British Empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon.

Locke is equally important to Social Contract Theory.

His writings influenced Voltaire, Rousseau, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to Classical Republicanism and Liberal Theory are reflected in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

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~ Born in 1632

~ Grew up in the Civil War, and was a direct witness of the execution of Charles I

~ Father was a country lawyer and a clerk to the judges of the Puritans.

~ Sent at 15 to the prestigious Westminster School in London England

~ Received a BA in1656 , an MA in 1658, and a BA of Medicine in 1674

~ At Oxford he worked with cutting edge scientists such as Robert Boyle.

~ 1666 (34yrs old) he met the Earl of Shaftesbury who had come to Oxford seeking treatment for a liver infection. Due to his high status, the doctors were reluctant to conduct the surgical procedure required. Locke had the courage to do so and saved Lord Ashley’s life. Lord Ashley was very grateful and asked him to join him in his position as a royal assistant.

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~ At some point in 1675, the Earl fell from favor with the King and Locke had to travel abroad to France. ( A.Q. Why do all the Brits bail to France when things go to hell in a hand basket?)

~ Returned to England in 1679 and began writing his Treatises. However, he sat on the manuscript for 10 years. He then had a third party bring it to a publisher secretly and ensured no record could be tracked back to him of the work (it was radical in its liberality) – finally published in 1689, the year of the glorious revolution in England.

~ 1690 he published The Letter on Toleration which was a commentary on the 1689 Toleration Clause published by Parliament. It is still referenced today in the realm of separation of church and state and toleration incentives.

~ He died in 1704.

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Lockian Influences

Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and private property.

Liberalism first became a distinct political movement during the Age of Enlightenment, when it became popular among philosophers and economists in the western world. Liberalism rejected the notions, common at the time, of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, and the Devine Right of Kings. John Locke is often credited with founding liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition. Locke argued that each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property and according to the social contract, governments must not violate these rights. Liberals opposed traditional and sought to replace absolutism in government with representative democracy and the rule of law.

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State of Nature: The 2nd coming of Hobbes?

It is a state of perfect freedom for individuals to order their actions, dispose of property, etc as they see fit (within the bounds of the law of nature) without having to ask permission from anyone.

It is a state of equality. Where all the power and jurisdiction are reciprocal. No one having more than another (of those of the same species).

Certainly the state of nature is a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license. Although a man has the ability to dispose of his person and possessions as he sees fit, he doesn’t have the liberty to destroy himself. There is a restrictive element and that is natural law. In this state, there is more freedom than there is in the Commonwealth. Being of one maker, we are not made for each other’s uses the way that creatures are made for us. He therefore dismisses the idea that we could destroy each other, rather he demands that state of nature has a natural law that presents this. In the state of nature for Locke, you have right to life, liberty and pursuit of property. (Hobbes’ tradition there is no property in state of nature, just possession.)

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State of Nature: The 2nd coming of Hobbes?

Natural law is present and is enforced by anyone who so desires and has the means to do so. Everyone in this state as a right to enforce these laws. The justification becomes self-evident when we think about the fact that the state can punish a foreigner (non-citizen) for committing a crime in their borders. Based on that, in the State of Nature, absent institutions and positive law, we have the right to enforce natural laws as we deem fit and if we are capable.

Men are intelligent beings endowed by the Maker. We are His property made for His pleasure not each others. Because of this we can’t be subordinate of each other (other men) and be used for our whim / pleasure or to destroy them as we do to inferior animals.

For this reason, we are bound to preserve our lives and the rest of mankind. We can’t take away or impair the life of others. We must preserve life, liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

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Why would people leave the state of nature? (Hobbes says due to fear… but Locke’s version is much more peaceful and pleasant)

There is no justice in the absence of a 3rd party that is unbiased from the immediate. You are likely to get involved with someone taking your property, but not necessarily in another’s injustice against someone else. For this reason, the powerless are left to fail and be taken advantage of.

People in this state of nature want to leave it no less than Hobbes’ people did. The different forms of commonwealth (unlike Hobbes) are not always an improvement. Things could be worse (while Hobbes considers state of nature the worst possible condition).

For instance, Absolute Monarchies are the worst. These persons are but men, and if the state of nature is at risk as people are able to adjudicate the justice in their own case, how is this different? He is able to act however he’d like and then adjudicate the issue himself absent an unbiased 3rd party which commonwealth is entered into to afford.

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Why would people leave the state of nature? (Cont.)

When entering into a Commonwealth, one does not (and cannot) relinquish their natural laws. So if someone acts out of the covenant agreed upon, then that person returns their particular relationship to the state of nature. While state of nature is not a state of war, the offended retains the right to declare war against he oppressive person that effects their station (toward self-preservation) I have to retain this right because if my life is taken, the law cannot give it back to me. So self-preservation trumps all things.

Force without right upon a person declares a state of war both in the Commonwealth where there is a 3rd party judge.

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Locke Responds Directly to the View That Law Restricts our Freedom

“The end of law is not to abolish and restrain but to preserve.” “Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence of others, and cannot be where there is no law.”

Absolute Sovereignty is incompatible as a form of civil government, civil wealth. Distinctive in the State of Nature is no impartial view. When you have an absolute Sovereign above the Law, you do not have impartiality. For Locke, even the highest authority is subjected to the rule of law.

Locke’s Justification for Majority Rule

Hobbes says it all comes from Power. If the commonwealth breaks down, it will result in the same anyway. Now from the Normative View, Locke offers that the purpose of having a commonwealth is to act out of a communal will. So that the acts of the commonwealth can be said to represent us even though we are not the physical authors. If the sovereign’s will is not a reflection of the majority of the consenting person’s than it would be failing to serve its purpose.

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Locke says the government is antecedent to (predates) historical writings. In the same way we don’t remember our infancies, men collectively don’t have memory of ourselves in the state of nature. We awoke only into governments of family, clan, tribe, etc.

Locke dismisses the divine right of kings: The only legitimate sovereign results from the consent of the governed. We don’t observe this, so we think it doesn’t exist. We assume people are naturally subjects. However, that is not the case.

Explicit Consent versus Tacit or Implicit Consent. “I say that every man that has any possession, or enjoyment of the dominions of the government therefore gives his tacit consent. Just by the simple fact that you live in the government’s sovereignty and don’t leave, is your giving consent”

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Separation of Powers

Hobbes feels it cannot be allowed. It undermines the power of the sovereign (absolutist) Locke starts to outline the principles and Montesquieu in 1748 will make it official in the terms we know today. Locke says, “federative, legislative, …” It is the power of war and peace to negotiate outside of state versus inside of state.

Locke’s three powers are not on an equal standing. Legislative power is primary and the others must defer to it. The most fundamental division of power is that between “constituent power and constituted power.”

~ Constituent Power is that power of giving our consent.

~ Constituted power is that which we create through our consent.

~The implication here is that contrary to Hobbes’ position, we remain free to recall the sovereign. This leads to the first notion of the, ‘right to resistance.’ If the sovereign betrays the trust and consent given it, it is the same as if the sovereign has declared war on the people. “The true remedy to a force without authority is to apply force to it.”

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Separation of Powers (Cont.)

Something that is born by an abuse can become a legitimate authority (says Hobbes) and Locke as a normative author says, “a ruler who acts beyond the law is like a conqueror. It can topple an existing government, but not create something legitimate. It is no different than the robber on the highway…”

 So the ruler who steps beyond legality is like the robber. “That the aggressor …. can never come to have legitimate rule over the subjects. The same way pirates do not over those they conquest.”

Sound like anyone we know of today?

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Three Minute Philosophy – John Locke

(and to a lesser extent Tommy Hobbes)

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