PHIL 332:  Study Questions on Hobbes. 

 

1.  What is Justice?  Does Hobbes believe that there is genuine moral motivation, as opposed to fear of punishment?  Explain.  [Note:  There is evidence pro and con in the text.]  Do the best job you can of reconstructing Hobbes's account of moral motivation and then critically evaluate it.  As part of a critical evaluation of his position, you must make the best case you can in favor of his position, the best case you can opposing it, and then explain how you would adjudicate the disagreement. 

 

2.  Original Covenant.  Hobbes's argument for an absolute sovereign is novel because he bases the authority of the sovereign on consent.  Explain the role of consent in his account and explain why he believes that consent based on fear of death is morally binding.  Critically evaluate his arguments. 

 

3.  The Fool.  What is the Fool's Challenge to Hobbes's political philosophy?  Critically evaluate Hobbes's response to it.

 

4.  Hobbes's political epistemology.  Hobbes believes that the law of nature is available to each person using only their own reason.  However, Hobbes does not believe that citizens in a commonwealth are permitted to act on their own understanding of the natural law.  Why not?  Use the example of abortion in the U.S. today to illustrate Hobbes's position.  Critically evaluate Hobbes's position.  In your critical evaluation, consider the following scenario:  After the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, the English king disapproved of many parts of Hobbes's Leviathan, including his characterization of natural law in the State of Nature.  According to Hobbes's own theory, what should the English king have done about Hobbes's theory and how should Hobbes have responded to king's disagreement with it?

 

5.  Is Hobbes's Sovereign the only way out of the State of Nature?  What does Hobbes regard as the "greatest objection" to his political theory?  [Hint:  You should be able to cite the passage in which he uses the term.]  What is his response?  The "greatest objection" can be pressed further.  Hobbes claims that in the absence of a sovereign satisfying his conditions, men are still in a State of Nature with each other.  But, it could be argued, even if England during the civil war resembled a State of Nature, many other European countries did not.  Why didn't those countries illustrate the possibility of escaping the State of Nature without establishing an absolute sovereign of the kind required by Hobbes's theory?  Consider how Hobbes would respond to this challenge, and critically evaluate the issue.

 

6.  The Three Kinds of Dominion.  Explain what Hobbes means by paternal dominion, despotical dominion, and dominion by institution.  Hobbes claims that the three kinds of dominion give rise to the same rights of dominion.  [You should be able to cite the passage where he makes this claim.]  Critically evaluate Hobbes's claim.