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Part 1: Of Man 1-16 
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
President Camacho, after reading your analysis of this sentence I took a fresh looka at it.

"And though by mens actions wee do discover their designe sometimes; yet to do it without comparing them with their own, and distinguishing all circumstances, by which the case may come to be altered, is to decypher without a key, and be for the most part deceived, by too much trust, or by too much diffidence; as he that reads, is himself a good or evil man."

1. That sometimes we discover the designs (I think he means motives) of others but often we are wrong
2. But that we cannot know all their circumstance which would alter their design (possibly)
3. Since we dont know all their circumstance it is like trying to decyper something without the key
4. That we are often deceived because either we trust the person to much and thus give them good motives or we don't like them and assign them bad motives (this could be stereotyping)
5. This he compares to a person who reads a book they are either "good" or "evil" implying that they will draw conclusions based on their preconceived notions.



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President Camacho
Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:32 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
I could very well be wrong but I think it's also another attack on learned men of the day who put too much faith in Greco-Roman philosophers.


What do you think of Hobbes' departure from Greek thinking?

Hobbes begins Leviathan by quantifying and defining words in a scientific fashion. Throughout Plato's Dialogues of Socrates, you'll notice that seeking to define particular words is usually what each dialogue develops (regresses?) into. Socrates shows how whole arguments can be shattered because their foundation of the definitions of justice or virtue were found to be insufficient or inaccurate.

So I see that Hobbes has immediately sought to quantify his words so that they may be more accurately weighed and to obviate or close doors to any possible point of entry in which his argument may be compromised and overturned. That's the first thing I notice.

The second, are these little tidbits like the one above that every now and again seek to negate the value of ancient philosophy.

Hobbes says, "For there is no such finis ultimus, (utmost ayme) nor summum bonum (greatest good) as is spoken of in the old morall philosophies."

Greek moral philosophy was based on finding and securing the greatest good in all things. A polis needed to be self sufficient, stable, able to defend itself, and it was held in some fashion to be responsible for molding its citizens.

Hobbes deviates but retains some very Greek traits such as his constant use of analogy, similes, and metaphors, and also his view on Power. Power is a virtue to the Greeks. Might is Right is most all cases.

Another notable departure is how the argument is presented to the reader. This book is a lesson, not a discussion insomuch as a book can be. While reading Aristotle, a person feels he is joining the author on a journey to seek truth - climbing difficult arguments, noticing dead-ends, turning back and finding agreeable paths and firm philosophical footing. While reading Hobbes, the reader feels as if he's being beaten over the head.

Honour is another point of discussion and contention for me. Wealth is power, power is honour, and power is seeking in itself. It's its own end and it looks like it can never be satisfied.



Last edited by President Camacho on Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:11 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
Does government or the constitution of a nation affect the constitution/personality/virtuosity of the people in that nation? Is there a difference between a man who has been raised in a relatively democratic society and one that has been accustomed to servitude or slavery? The Greeks thought so.

What's your take?

How do you think someone living under Hobbes' philosophy would stack up against someone living under the Constitution of the United States?



Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:26 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
In reference to the last question: How would someone living under Hobbes' philosophy stack up against someone living under the Constitution of the United States?

I don't necessarily think this is an apt comparison simply because the Constitution is not a philosophy but a system to organize a government although the underlying foundation is philosophically based. One thing that sticks out to me is Hobbes leaves all (or most moral decisions) to the sovereign and further states that if the sovereign tells you to do something, it is not up to you to question the rightness or wrongness and that (if you are a believer which Hobbes was)if it was morally wrong the sovereign would be the one held to account and you would be morally innocent. So the difference is in where this lack of personal moral responsibility might lead, and I believe we have an example of where it could possibly go in Nazi Germany where many stood by and allowed a human tragedy. The Constitution of the United States in no way abducates personal moral responsibility.

I do agree with you that his idea of defining words at the outset is certainly the opposite of what the Greeks such as Plato and Aristotle. Now, we almost need to do the same thing to keep people from twisting what we say into such a pretzel as to make it say exactly the opposite.



Mon Jan 16, 2012 1:17 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
I'm just going to come out and say it. I made it to pg. 45. I was going to stick it out at least to the end of Of Man, but it's just not very readable. Maybe I'll pick it up again some day.

My apologies to all.

Here's the last paragraph I read:

Quote:
And this difference of quickness is caused by the difference of men’s passions, that love and dislike, some one thing, some another; and therefore some men’s thoughts run one way, some another; and are held to and observe differently the things that pass through their imagination. And whereas in this succession of men’s thoughts there is nothing to observe in the things they think on, but either in what they be ‘like one another,’ or in what they be ‘unlike,’ or ‘what they serve for,’ or ‘how they serve to such a purpose;’ those that observe their similitudes, in case they be such as are but rarely observed by others, are said to have a ‘good wit,’ by which in this occasion is meant a ‘good fancy.’ But they that observe their differences and dissimilitudes, which is called ‘distinguishing’ and ‘discerning’ and ‘judging’ between thing and thing, in case such discerning be not easy, are said to have a ‘good judgment;’ and, particularly in matter of conversation and business, wherein times, places, and persons, are to be discerned, this virtue is called ‘discretion.’ The former, that is, fancy, without the help of judgment, is not commended as a virtue; but the latter, which is judgment and discretion, is commended for itself, without the help of fancy. Besides the discretion of times, places, and persons, necessary to a good fancy, there is required also an often application of his thoughts to their end, that is to say, to some use to be made of them. This done, he that hath this virtue will be easily fitted with similitudes that will please not only by illustrations of his discourse, and adorning it with new and apt metaphors, but also by the rarity of their invention. But without steadiness and direction to some end a great fancy is one kind of madness; such as they have that, entering into any discourse, are snatched from their purpose by everything that comes in their thought, into so many and so long digressions and parentheses that they utterly lose themselves—which kind of folly I know no particular name for, but the cause of it is sometimes want of experience, whereby that seemeth to a man new and rare which doth not so to others, sometimes pusillanimity, by which that seems great to him which other men think a trifle; and whatsoever is new or great, and therefore thought fit to be told, withdraws a man by degrees from the intended way of his discourse.


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Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:50 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
Disregard the last post. I'll continue to read, but I'm not breaking any speed-reading records here.


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Tue Jan 17, 2012 10:05 am
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
Geo, I'm actually super happy you posted that quote and even more happy that you're soldiering on!

Hobbes' writing style is almost like a 'musings' type column (as Montaigne would write?) with an intent to classify and categorize for scientific awe and authoritative guise.

He attacks people who use 'similitudes'. This can possibly be another attack on Greek philosophy but it's highly hypocritical because Hobbes uses similes, analogies, and metaphors constantly. He continuously tries to differentiate between a courageous person and a timid person. For a sycophant and slave to the nobility as Hobbes was - how could he write honestly about it without ripping himself to shreds?

I'm not saying this person had any real effect on policy but he's presented a seminal argument for the antithesis of what we commonly believe. It's very much worth reading. I'm surprised more readers haven't disagreed with what he's saying.

Notice what he thinks of the common man. How he values and honors the person who works night and day for their family like most people do. No one has even mentioned this.



Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:17 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
Geo - I'm struggling too. But it's really interesting hearing other peoples opinions. I like the way other people feel they are being 'beaten about the head' with his arguments. I must have read the paragraph you quoted over and over before I grasped what he was on about. I'm wondering whether I should just read on, and not understand everything, and perhaps in the end it will make more sense. Also would be interested to read some Aristotle.


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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
Dave, I happen to believe that a country's laws and government can mold people, change them, and influence their behavior. This topic hasn't really been breached by Hobbes.

He takes a very dim view of people as beastly, selfish, power hungry, ignorant, and credulous. He very nearly paints a picture of them as individuals without the proper tools to govern themselves. In my opinion - this is the very argument WHY there should never be a monarchy. Monarchy is justified when the people are KEPT in this position as children. Once people are educated and are practiced in freedom - monarchy becomes disgusting.

Two heads are better than one. You ever hear that expression? It's been popular since way before Jesus... and for a reason.

Great power to do good is also great power to do evil.

I pay attention to Power in books like these. Who gets what? Who gets a share of government - because that is power.

When Hobbes talks about power deferred or transferred, my attention perks. That once a person relinquishes power, they have no right to ask for it back has me very concerned.



Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:56 am
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
I agree, that Hobbes' belief that once a person, or society reliquish power they no right to ask for it back, is not only wrong, but a very dangerous idea. Additionally, Hobbes seems to say that once a society gives up these rights future members of society have no right to ask for them back, I believe that the "social contract" has to be somewhat renewed from generation to generation. In other words its fine that James Madison accepted the constitution, but each generation has to affirm the philosophic underpinnings in order for the society to continue, as it is without fundementally altering the system.

Further, I think that sometimes under certain conditions, war would be one, we must relinquish certain rights for the preservation of society. That said this reliquisment should be the least intrusive to the individual as possible and should last only as long as necessary and the rights should be taken back up by the individual.

Two heads are better then one, not always, and at best they are only one better. The people who wrote the constitution placed alot of faith in the multitudes to come to the right decision, or put differently they thought they wouldn't take the wrong path forever and would eventually put things back on the right track. Which reminded me of a qoute I think by Winston Churchill..... American's will always end up doing the right thing after they have tried everything else.

Centralizing power in the hands of one or a few who "know better", is not a good idea be they Hobbes soveraign or Plato's "philosopher kings", the truth is no one man or small group of elites can possibly plan a society and best they could do is set up a system of government that fosters freedom and liberty.



Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:14 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
Hobbes says that covenants are made by compulsion. If I have the power over your life, if you do not wish to die, you will do what you're told. That is the covenant you have made and you have no right to ask for any rights back which I may take. Why? You can't. The other situation is that in which you relinquish your rights voluntarily in order to secure a greater good - the contemporary reasoning for government and its only legitimate argument in my opinion.

Hobbes says that to ever break your covenant, which was got from you through war on your person and by force, is injustice. His reasoning is pure garbage. Any time someone compels you to do something that you would rather not do - that's injustice and an act of war.

You can't say, well... in order to save your life you CHOSE to do what I said. You were your own author of your actions. You own your actions. I merely gave you a choice between life or death. That's ridiculous.

He never states, or wants to state, how much input a person has in government beyond the whims of the sovereign to seek advice or the credulous and self seeking assembly members lapping up rhetoric... as if the king doesn't have ass kissers doing an even worse job of giving bad advice?

Hobbes is a nut ball and probably the first person to invent 'spin'... taking Rousseau and twisting his egalitarian approach to suit his monarchical aims.

The social contract here is a covenant. The covenant is legitimate if it's got by force. Therefore, a child born in to society does NOT have a right when he's a man to choose to stay in that society or to depart from it and make a better one. No, Hobbes says explicitly that to remove yourself from rule is an injustice!

Your reasoning about war and the relinquishing of certain rights for the preservation of society is verrrrrrrrrrry dangerous. Super, super dangerous. I'm not just talking about Japanese Americans being put in camps during WWII, either. I'm talking about despots assuming control and never relinquishing power - holding millions down for generations - N. Korea, Cuba.

One thing I like about Hobbes is that he is in tune with how hard it is to retrieve power once it is lost, or transferred, or taken. With him there is already a legitimate argument WHY you shouldn't have it back. Well, what happens if self government requires something and that something is withheld by the people given temporary ultra-power. What then? Well then I guess it's obvious the people shouldn't rule at all... why should they? They don't have that 'something' needed for their own rule. They need to be ruled.

Two heads are better than one. Three are better than two and four are better than three and so on. No one man holds the key to all knowledge. No one man should rule. Even Hobbes acknowledges that a sovereign will ask for assistance. Do I know how to build a ship? No. Well how do I have a navy if I have no ships? Two heads are better than one and this goes beyond mere knowledge of crafts and well into questions of morality, cultural norms, accepted behavior, laws, and happiness... things that no one man should have power to control.



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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
I was implying that during war, thing might have to be rationed, like gas, food etc. for the war effort, I wasn't implying we gave up freedom to the degree you seemed to think. Certain speech is disallowed during war time to secure your soldiers from a breach of security. I certainly don't think they would ever need to be sweeping nor like Cuba or N. Korea.

Of course two heads are better then one, and we do ask experts to give advice, and just like kings can collect ass kissers so can Presidents. North Korea and Cuba didn't give up some rights to fight a war, they had their rights taken by force as Hobbes' suggests. The problems of N. Korea and Cuba are the form of government, which lead to as communism must to dictatorship, shortages, poverty and starvation, and they make live what Hobbes said it was nasty, brutish and short.

As an aside, you said you don't know how to make a ship. I don't know you have ever read Lenard Reads "I Pencil", which is about how no one person can know all the things needed to make a pencil. If your interested here is the link

http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html



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Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:28 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
While there are long cumbersome sections in Leviathan, Hobbes was an amazing writer. I've taken to underlining certain passages of Leviathan and sometimes I underline a lot. Hobbes tends to write in aphorisms which requires a combination of brevity and profundity that must be very difficult to maintain. This following passage particularly wowed me.

Quote:
Ignorance of the causes and original constitution of right, equity, law, and justice, disposeth a man to make custom and example the rule of his actions; in such manner as to think that unjust which it hath been the custom to punish, and that just of the impunity and approbation whereof they can produce an example, or, as the lawyers which only use this false measure of justice barbarously call it, a precedent; like little children, that have no other rule of good and evil manners but the correction they receive from their parents and masters; save that children are constant to their rule, whereas men are not so; because, grown strong and stubborn, they appeal from custom to reason, and from reason to custom, as it serves their turn; receding from custom when their interest requires it, and setting themselves against reason as oft as reason is against them; which is the cause that the doctrine of right and wrong is perpetually disputed, both by the pen and the sword; whereas the, doctrine of lines and figures is not so, because men care not in that subject what be truth, as a thing that crosses no man’s ambition, profit, or lust. For I doubt not but, if it had been a thing contrary to any man’s right of dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion, ‘that the three angles of a triangle should be equal to two angles of a square,’ that doctrine should have been, if not disputed, yet by the burning of all books of geometry suppressed, as far as he whom it concerned was able.


Hobbes certainly was a great critical thinker. To paraphrase here, I think what he's saying here is that we tend to lean on customs and traditions as a sort of mental shortcut—a heuristic—especially when it suits our own selfish interests and, ultimately, our power. These days, when we tend to think in terms of conservatism and liberalism, I would think this could be seen as a criticism of a hard-right mentality. "Like little children, that have no other rule of good and evil manners but the correction they receive from their parents." Hobbes is belittling those who rely on customs and traditions without thinking them through.

Good stuff.


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Sun Jan 29, 2012 12:19 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
geo wrote:
. . . I would think this could be seen as a criticism of a hard-right mentality. "Like little children, that have no other rule of good and evil manners but the correction they receive from their parents." Hobbes is belittling those who rely on customs and traditions without thinking them through.

Good stuff.


Hobbes' ridicule, of course, is likely not aimed towards the political left or right. (That's my own editorial slant.) It's likely directed towards the evangelical mindset of the day. He's back in Tom Paine mode with a rather direct confrontation of religion, always being careful to avoid a direct criticism of Christianity. I was really very impressed with his analysis of why people gravitate towards supernatural beliefs in the first place. Hobbes as already said the word "God" merely represents infinity, a concept we cannot fathom. Unlike animals, humans have the ability to directly see cause and effect.

Quote:
Curiosity, or love of the knowledge of causes, draws a man from the consideration of the effect to seek the cause, and, again, the cause of that cause; till of necessity he must come to this thought at last that there is some cause whereof there is no former cause, but is eternal; which is it men call God.


Hobbes says our primary motivation to believe in powers "invisible" is fear of the unknown and, ultimately, fear of a loss of power. But it comes from ignorance of the natural causes of things.

Quote:
And they that make little or no inquiry into the natural causes of things, yet, from the fear that proceeds from the ignorance itself of what it is that hath the power to do them much good or harm, are inclined to suppose and feign unto themselves several kinds of powers invisible, and to stand in awe of their own imaginations, and in time of distress to invoke them, as also in the, time of an expected good success to give them thanks, making the creatures of their own fancy their gods. By which means it hath come to pass that, from the innumerable variety of fancy, men have created in the world innumerable sorts of gods. And this fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion, and in them that worship or fear that power otherwise than they do, superstition.
And this seed of religion, having been observed by many, some of those that have observed it have been inclined thereby to nourish, dress, and form it into laws; and to add to it of their own invention any opinion of the causes of future events by which they thought they should be best able to govern others, and make unto themselves the greatest use of their powers.


I'm forging ahead with the book now. It's very dense, isn't it? Sometimes I have to read a paragraph five times to get it.


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Post Re: Part 1: Of Man 1-16
For Dave,

Quote:
The problems of N. Korea and Cuba are the form of government, which lead to as communism must to dictatorship, shortages, poverty and starvation, and they make live what Hobbes said it was nasty, brutish and short.


After reading about covenants and the sovereign's power to compel... what do you mean by form of government? Power in the hands of a few? I hate to sound very much confused but I find myself becoming more so over time. I don't think there has ever been an equal leveling in which all members of a country shared completely equal wealth, without class distinctions, and shared everything.

There are three different types of reciprocity found among tribes and bands according to anthropologists. These are generalized, balanced, and negative.

Generalized is that in which everyone shares their belongings with the idea that at the end of the day it all roughly evens out. This is the type of reciprocity in which, I think we both can agree, is very harmful to the idea of personal property and production because if I decided to grow a garden - everyone in my village would expect to be able to take all the produce. I'd do all the work for nothing and so I wouldn't plant a garden.

Balanced reciprocity is that in which a near equal reciprocity takes place. Think birthday presents. If I usually buy you a 40 dollar gift, chances are likely you're not going to buy me a 1,000 dollar gift. Or, if I help you build your hut... hopefully you'd come and help me build mine. I think most Americans would find this as the most 'just' form of reciprocity on the surface - as they think they should get 5 dollars worth of product for 5 dollars spent, but in their heart of hearts they really don't think it's the correct way - the good way - the virtuous way.

The virtuous way is in negative reciprocity. In this form of reciprocity, everyman seeks to screw everyman and make a profit to the detriment of the losing party. It's every Americans duty to find advantage and use it to the best of his ability to profit off of other people in his own country. He becomes accustomed and congratulated for how effectively he can screw other Americans.

You don't find this type of behavior in small kin based tribes and bands in which members work together for the whole unit's benefit.

Anyway, I'm not advocating anything and using tribes or bands as examples is poor because of obvious differences between our two cultures and size and so on. All I want to do is to point out that we very much promote negative reciprocity and that when huge advantage is given to any one man or group of men, I think you'll find it hard for him not to use it to his advantage to become even wealthier and more powerful because it has been engrained in all of us.

Why did I want to say this? Because you were talking about forms of government and you had me confused. Why a form of government? Why concentrate on a type of government? Is it because in some types of government power is held in few hands? Why? You said dictatorship and communism. While there has been absolute ZERO examples of pure communism, there has been multitudes throughout history of dictatorships, aristocracies, and oligarchies. In each of these societies - going much against the egalitarian principles of the United States - power is held in few hands.

Equality, egalitarian... these words were once celebrated. Today they are demonized. Aren't they?

We've gone from a quest for balanced reciprocity to purely negative - 100% - the gloves are off. The wizard is revealed and the masses have joined on the bandwagon 110%. Let's go.

Ok, all well and good.

Remember the Spartans? They were a society that had some very specific rules for being a citizen. One of them was wealth. You were required to contribute to your group's (syssition - dining club) nightly dinner. There were other rules regarding citizenship but this was one of them. If you failed to have enough to provide a contribution to this dining club you were ousted. This means that if you went through the Agoge, adhered to all the Spartan laws, fought alongside your fellow man, you could be immediately dismissed from being a Spartan for failing to meet the wealth requirement. This happened ALOT!

Think of it. Unlike today where everyone is a stranger, back then you grew up with and knew all the men in your village. In this society you did everything with these men, including getting raped by them. haha. Anyway, being cast out in such a way must have been very shameful.

The Spartans were pretty egalitarian considering most of the governments existing in that time but they were extremely competitive and consumed, like most people are, with seeking wealth and power - I would say more than most - as they were taught from birth to seek every advantage in battle and life. They were taught to steal and only punished if they got caught. This was a very driven, very competitive culture that, I feel, shares a lot of similarities with the culture the United States is heading in.

After the Messenian wars, land was equally distributed among the Spartans. I like to think of this as when the United States was born. After time, through marriage and the Spartan's system of inheritance in which property was split between siblings (including women! This is very important!) property and therefore wealth slowly started collecting in few hands. Marriages were sought for wealth and although the Spartans tried to limit this for the same reasons I want to seek to limit the collection of power in few hands - it occurred nevertheless. As certain Spartans got more powerful, as wars consumed men, and as men lost their citizenship because of their inability to meet the demands of their syssition, the villages were slowly sapped of Spartans. There were many, many, many slaves but few Spartans.

The Spartans were 'Spartans' right up until the end. They had the same gung-ho and invincible attitude they always had. The problem was, they created so many enemies from their greed and hunger for power, and also drained their ranks of citizens so severely that they got their ASSESS handed to them at Leuctra in 371. That one battle is all it took for the whole country to go from one of the two most powerful polis in Greece to absolutely nothing.

It was about consolidation of wealth and power. Power gave these families more power to get more power. They married into power and got more power. In order not to split their property up, they had less kids! Why? So that their sole heirs could marry females who would bring them even more land and more wealth.

They did all this to the detriment of the country.

At a time when we think we're creating a welfare state, I think it's very important to consider not only that there are ever increasing numbers of poor people (slaves), there is increased consolidation of wealth and power. The sapping of the middle class is a huge mistake. For a man to make less than his father did for the exact same job while prices increase may be a sign of the changing times but it may also be a huge indicator of something else.


To tie back in to the book.

Covenants. There is power in solidarity and Hobbes recognizes this in making a counter argument by saying that people are basically incapable of doing it. If people can't consolidate their power together in order to keep society roughly egalitarian, there will always be cases in which (as Hobbes mentions) few men will be able to subdue the whole.

As some men become wealthier and more powerful and others become less wealthy and less powerful, I feel we'll be heading in the direction of the Spartans. The average citizen will have less power to fight back and will not fight for the country's survival because they have such a small share in it.

I read about slave armies and how well they fight... they suck.



The following user would like to thank President Camacho for this post:
geo, heledd
Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:00 am
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A Nation Under Judgment by Richard Capriola


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