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Thoughts on Leviathan 
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Post Thoughts on Leviathan
I have some thoughts every now and again while reading Leviathan that I'd like to share with the group.

The book presents itself to me in a systematic way. The definitions at the beginning of the book and throughout it are a telltale sign of how Hobbes constructs his arguments and how he will attempt to persuade a reader to accept his logic and reasoning. The definitions are the most obvious example of his tact. Once I noticed this, I read his arguments expecting to translate each paragraph by qualifying definitions and statements made previously in the book - it's a progressive, stone on stone, way to build. A reader must do this in order to fully understand the author and to 'read between the lines' when needed.

His background as a domestic has me very concerned but at the close of 'Of Man', I'm starting to wonder just how much loyalty Hobbes has to a monarchical government. Is he showing contempt, exploring options, or trying to persuade readers that monarchy is more democratic and beneficent than it is.

His views on equality are striking. I wonder when this type of philosophy really took off. I have to do some more research on this but it appears it may have come from Rousseau's influence. I'm almost sure this is the case, so is there a need to cite Hobbes as a major contributor of the notion of equality?

With respect to this... I was expecting to read a book explicitly propounding the need and justification for a monarchical government but that's just not the case. I find in the book multiple arguments against kingship - which I probably owe to mistranslating the text and not accurately assigning correct meaning to words and sentences. Still, though...

"Nature hath made men so equall, in the faculties of body, and mind; as that though there bee found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind then another; yet when all this is reckoned together, the difference between man and man is not considerable, as that one man can thereupon claim to himselfe any benefit, to which another may not pretend, as well as he."

How does a person reconcile this sentence with the justification for monarchy? That all men are about the same so one ruling them all should be ok? Weak.

What about the recurring theme that men are the worst judges in their own cases? Well, a monarch is his only judge.

One of the main reasons that people enter into society for Hobbes is the protection of promises and of covenants. The need for a power to keep people to their word and their contracts. He says that without this power that promises will be rarely kept except in certain cases. That there is only a state of war and that men will do what they will do for their benefit only.

What's not made clear is that there is no awesome power over the sovereign. This means that the people have no right to expect promises to be kept by the nobility and that they are in a state of war with them.

The statement I loved the most was, "For there are very few so foolish, that had not rather governe themselves, than be governed by others..." What does this mean????? What is it doing in this book? See why I'm confused?

The second law of nature says it all... wouldn't a monarch violate this law?

And of the social contract itself. This BEGS examining. The covenant he talks about incessantly. What exactly is it. I know it to be a transferring of rights through words, silence, actions... jeez anything really. What compels a man - he says this... but what really makes it valid....?

"Covenants entered into by fear, in the condition of meer Nature, are obligatory. For example, if I Covenant to pay a ransome, or service for my life, to an enemy; I am bound by it. For it is a Contract, wherein one receiveth the benefit of life; the other is to receive mony, or service for it; and consequently, where no other Law (as in the condition of meer Nature) forbiddeth the performance, the Covenant is valid."

Listen, I hoped I made my argument at least semi-reasonable that when dealing with a King, you are in a state of nature and a state of war. So, this sentence here is THE reason there is a covenant. It is might and fear which makes the social contract valid. The might and fear which holds a person to do whatever it wishes - is Justice when that act is performed. When the act requested by the mighty is not performed by the weak - injustice has occurred. But the catch is that there is absolutely NO power over a monarchy and so any promise made by them is automatically VOID. It's a one sided agreement to be made because, after all, doing what you're told is better than death or bodily harm?

Power. How many times has the power of the multitude really been examined? Never. Men are always equal in that they're divided, weak, and self serving.


I do have more to say and I'll save it for another day. :lol:



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Sat Jan 21, 2012 2:46 am
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Post Re: Thoughts on Leviathan
Yes Thanks Camacho. You've managed to encapsulate thoughts that I couldn't quite formulate. Not read the whole book yet, so that was very helpful.
Incidentally, his view is that speech is the way of transferring our thoughts and remembering, but I was thinking what about art and music?


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Sat Jan 21, 2012 4:20 am
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Post Re: Thoughts on Leviathan
You're right. Aristotle dedicated the last part of his politics solely to music and cultural leisure activities. Hobbes doesn't talk about this at all.



Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:30 am
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Post Re: Thoughts on Leviathan
I'm still plodding through On Man. But you're right, Hobbes seems to be building his case brick by brick, saving his larger arguments for later. So I don't yet have a good sense of where he's going with respect to a people's pact with a monarchial government. He does seem to be laying some groundwork for the idea that all people are at least born equal or possess the same basic tools and that education makes the difference:

"The causes of this difference of wits are in the passions; and the difference of passions proceedeth partly from the different constitution of the body, and partly from different education."

What's particularly fascinating about this book is how Hobbes' rational arguments used here to support a social pact with a monarchy seem to jive with the rational arguments used more than 100 years later to form a democratic government (with an attitude that itself was extremely anti-monarchial). I would guess that Leviathan was influential to later thinkers and, ironically, to the emergence of the U.S. democracy.

I'm reminded quite a lot of Thomas Paine as I'm reading this, especially in terms of Hobbes' anti religion sentiment. Hobbes really takes a no-holds-barred approach to religion that amazingly is still relevant today.

As an aside, I watched the Republican debate the other night. They were discussing the latest anti-piracy legislation and Rick Santorum argued against the idea that "anything goes" on the internet.

Quote:
But I will not agree with everybody up here that there isn’t something that can and should be done to protect the intellectual property rights of people.

The Internet is not a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people, and particularly when we’re talking about — in this case, we’re talking about entities offshore that are doing so, that are pirating things.

But the idea that, you know, anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from? Where in America does it say that anything goes? We have laws, and we respect the law. And the rule of law is an important thing, and property rights should be respected.


So the question even today (and even for Republicans), is how much do we the people submit to the commonwealth. Obviously we need laws and we need to respect (submit to) them or all hell would break loose.

An ironic footnote is that Santorum is pretty much a Christian fundamentalist. Hobbes might say something about the "evil disposition of the organs" or other forms of madness.


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Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:17 am
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Post Re: Thoughts on Leviathan
I would have to read Rousseau before I jumped to any conclusions along the lines you're advocating. I think Hobbes might have borrowed heavily from him (and possibly tried to twist his argument in favor of the crown - I don't know). I don't think he deserves credit if he was merely relaying what he learned in France to an English audience without citing Rousseau.

Isn't that stealing intellectual property? hehehe....

The Republicans in my opinion say that they want small government and less regulation. They're constantly saying this. It's just not true. They're out to protect corporations and the established power at the exclusion and detriment of everyone else. They want deregulation when it suits businesses to lower costs associated with cleaning up their own mess and not subjecting workers to inhuman working conditions. When it comes to protecting profits though - reguuuuuulaaaaaaaate!!! That party is so squarely in the pockets of big business that it's getting to be embarrassing to watch. I'm not saying the Dems aren't either but just not to the extreme degree that the Reps are.

The overseas theft stuff is real but it's being used here as a lie. If that was THE reason the legislation would be so very well tailored to combat that very specific threat. I still would find it hard to vote for it because it still gives my government the power to control what I view on the internet. Talk about big government.



Sat Jan 21, 2012 1:12 pm
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Post Re: Thoughts on Leviathan
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I was expecting to read a book explicitly propounding the need and justification for a monarchical government but that's just not the case. I find in the book multiple arguments against kingship

That's true, but he had lived through the horrors of the English civil wars, and mentions this many times. Perhaps this coloured his judgement?


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Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:00 am
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Post Re: Thoughts on Leviathan
Yesssss. I think that's the major motivator behind his idea that even rule by a tyrant is far better than, "that accompany a Civill Warre; or that dissolute condition of masterlesse men, without subjection to Lawes, and a coercive Power to tye their hands from rapine, and revenge..."

He talks of the average Joe's disgust at a tyrant's unlimited power and debauchery stemming from the tyrants lusts and irregular passions but then attributes this concern not only to men under a monarchy but to those under an oligarchy or aristocracy as well. He dismisses the notion as the complaint of every commoner in every government. This just shows that he's really not serious about equality. Equality to him means something different for us than it means for him. In his eyes, some men still have no right to govern even though he recognizes the urge of every man to be self governing and free.

To Aristotle, men require leisure time to be able to take part in government. They need the means to live and an excess in order that they may free themselves from work and dedicate time to matters of state. He didn't think farmers should really have a say in government (very little time) and he definitely didn't think that craftsmen should (one notch above slaves). Slaves? They weren't citizens at all so no need to consider them.

Hobbes, when he talks about leisure time, almost says it as a threat. Well, that's the impression that I got. That men with too much time on their hands start thinking about what their situation really is and they try to better it. One of these ways is through government. I get the feeling that rather than hear these people's thoughts on government, Hobbes wants to silence them and redirect their thoughts to their work again.

So how much about equality and egalitarianism can be read in Hobbes? Very little as far as I'm concerned. Just that a monarchy would even be considered shows the allowance for such an extreme injustice. The thought of hereditary aristocracy, excluding people from government, and anything but democracy is very disgusting to me.



Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:39 am
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