Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)


Leviathan (1651)


Euclid’s Elements was an important influence.


The problem of making space for reason in a world based on religious authority.


Hobbes was writing parts of what would become Leviathan when the English civil war broke out, so he thought that his prediction of “a war of all against all” was being confirmed before his eyes.




















Chapter 6:  Hobbes's Materialist Psychology and His Non-Cognitivist Theory of Normative and Evaluative Judgment


Key elements: 


Positive Motivators:  Appetite, desire, love,


Positive Feelings:  pleasure and joy,


Negative Motivators:  aversion, hate,


Negative Feelings:  pain and grief. 


What they explain:  Good, evil, and contemptible. 



Note that Hobbes begins with definitions.  Where do the definitions come from?














Is Hobbes’s psychological theory egoistic?


“But whatsoever is the object of any man’s appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good: and the object of his hate and aversion, evil; and of his contempt, vile and inconsiderable.  For these words of good, evil and contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them: there being nothing simply and absolutely so: nor any common rule of good and evil, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves; . . . ”(97).


The Crucial Equivocation:  "[O]f the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself." (122).

        "[O]f all voluntary acts, the object is to every man his own good."(129)


















        NORMATIVE/EVALUATIVE COGNITIVISM:  Normative/Evaluative Statements make claims that are true or false.

        NORMATIVE/EVALUATIVE NONCOGNITIVISM:  Normative Moral Statements do not make claims that are true or false.  [They may express sentiments or attitudes or in Hobbes’s case, desires.]

        For Hobbes, to say that something is good [or evil] is not to attribute an objective property to it, but to express one’s desire or appetite for [or aversion to] it.

        NORMATIVE/EVALUATIVE REALISM:  Some positive normative/evaluative are true.  [Moral realism implies Moral Cognitivism.] Because Hobbes translates all normative/evaluative terms (good, evil, justice, injustice) into purely descriptive terms, he avoids ever asserting that any normative/evaluative statements are true.

        NORMATIVE/EVALUATIVE ANTI-REALISM:  No positive normative/evaluative statements are true.  There are no objective moral values and no objective moral imperatives. 


Hobbes is a noncognitivist about the good, not necessarily an egoist.  Explain.














What is Deliberation?


What is the Will?


What is a voluntary action?



On this account, if I threatened to kill you if you didn’t give me your wallet and, as a result, you gave me your wallet, was your act voluntary?























Chapter 13:  The State of Nature


What is the state of nature?


The Internal Security CAP:  The War of All Against All

What is a state of war, according to Hobbes?


What are the crucial assumptions?


Competition, diffidence, and glory.


What does Hobbes mean by “war”?


Is there justice or injustice in the state of nature?  Why or why not?  What does he mean by "no mine and thine distinct"?


Hobbes's way out of the state of nature involves passions and reason.  How does it involve passions?  How does it involve reason?



What is the fundamental problem that the sovereign is the solution to?  Conflict.  Since the solution is a logical solution, it must allow no possibility of conflict.








                                           Everyone else   



Make Peace



Make War



Make Peace









Make War
























Chapter 14.  How Reason and Passion Provide a Way Out of the State of Nature. 


Right vs. So-Called Laws of Nature


What is the Fundamental Right of Nature?


What is the Fundamental Law (So-Called) of Nature?


What is the Second Law (So-Called) of Nature?



Why are “laws of nature” not really laws?

Hint:  Do they require us to actually do anything in the state of nature?

















The logical problem that must be solved to escape the state of nature:  How can we make binding covenants in the state of nature?


Contracts, Pacts or Covenants, and Gifts


        When are contracts or covenants binding?

        To be binding, does a contract or covenant have to be expressly agreed to?


The need for an Original Contract/Covenant which makes all contracts/covenants binding, including itself.


What are the terms of the Original Contract?  How does Hobbes determine them?  To be discussed in Chapter 18.


Are covenants entered into from fear of death binding?  Why?


Which covenants cannot be binding?  (Another way of asking this question:  Which rights are inalienable?)










































(Higher numbers represent more preferred outcomes.)
























                             C                                D













Player #1                       Player #2                       



The Sequential Two-Person Prisoners' Dilemma.







Chapter 15:  The Necessary Conditions for Justice.

The Many Laws of Nature Summarized in One.


What is justice?  What is injustice?


The Fool's Challenge:  To be discussed later.


How many other Laws of Nature are there?  What are they?


What is Hobbes' Formula for the Laws of Nature:  The Golden Rule.


Why is the Golden Rule binding only in foro interno in the State of Nature?  What is necessary for it to be binding in foro externo?


What does Hobbes mean by “theorems concerning what conduceth to the conservation and defence of themselves”?



The message:  We can determine the requirements of justice by the use of reason.  But we cannot acquire the motivation to act justly from reason alone.  Motivation comes from sanctioning of defecters.


For Hobbes, what is moral philosophy?

Is it normative or descriptive?

Why are the laws of nature not true laws, according to Hobbes?  What are they?



Chapter 16 sets the stage for men in the state of nature to covenant obedience to a sovereign power.


Representation of many by one, based on consent.


Multiple representatives must abide by majority rule.


Why not less than a majority?


Why not a requirement of unanimous consent?






















Chapter 17 explains the need for an Original Covenant to establish a Commonwealth to escape the State of Nature.


What is the difference between human beings, on the one hand, and the bees and the ants, on the other?


Covenants without the sword "are but words".


The only way out of the State of Nature




What is a SOVEREIGN?


Commonwealth by Institution (Chap. 18)


Commonwealth by Acquisition (Chap. 20)















Chapter 18 states the terms of the Original Covenant that establishes a sovereign by consent ("by Institution").  Note that the same terms hold when the sovereign is established by force ("by Acquisition").  See Chap. 20.


Does Hobbes require unanimous consent to the Original Covenant?


Can there be breach of the covenant by the sovereign?


Why can there be no binding covenant between sovereign and subject?


Why can the sovereign not do any injustice to a subject?


What are the sovereign's powers?

(Note that these powers are expanded upon in Chap. 29.)


Why does Hobbes insist that these rights of sovereignty are "essential and inseparable"?


How does Hobbes justify the sovereign's powers?  Is it a moral justification?


The Guiding Idea of Hobbes's political philosophy:  The need to avoid conflict.


NOTE:  Hobbes is the author of the idea that it is part of the definition of a state that it have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.


Chap. 19.


Three kinds of sovereignty:  Monarchy, Democracy, and Aristocracy.


Which does Hobbes favor?  Why?


What is the only respect in which monarchy is inferior to democracy?
























Chap. 20.  Paternal and Despotical Dominion


What is the only difference between a commonwealth by institution and a commonwealth by acquisition?


Are there differences in the rights of the sovereign?


How does a sovereign acquire dominion over the children of his subjects?


What is the "greatest objection" to Hobbes's account?

What is Hobbes's reply?



















Chap. 21.  Liberty


What liberty do subjects have?


Do subjects have any inalienable rights?

Recall Chap. 14.


























Chapter 26.  Hobbes's Philosophy of Law


Why is the sovereign not subject to the law?


What does Hobbes mean by "law can never be against reason"?  (Whose reason?)


What are the conditions for a valid law?

(1) Scope


(2) Publicity (for positive, not natural law)


(3) Who interprets the law?


Natural law vs. positive law


Can the sovereign make a mistake?


Civil disobedience and conscientious objection to the law












Chap. 29.  Infirmities of a Commonwealth


The six infirmities:  Not enough sovereign power or the division of power.


Against freedom of expression and freedom of the press: 

the danger of "democratical writers".



Hobbes's Fear of Conflict:  Why did he think that separation of powers would make a government less stable or that freedom of expression and freedom of the press would make a government less stable?  Could they make a government more stable?



What is the only way for a commonwealth to be dissolved?














Chap. 30.


Can any law be unjust?

This is the big issue between Hobbes and Locke.

Is there a standard of justice that applies to sovereigns? 

Is there a standard of justice that applies in the State of Nature.


Can any law be bad?  What is a good law?























The Fool’s Challenge


        The fool says that there is no reason to keep covenants other than fear of sanctions.


        The example of regicide.


        Why doesn’t Hobbes agree with the fool?


        Whose view better fits the psychology of Chapter 6, Hobbes’s or the fool’s?


        Consider the sequential, two-person PD again.  If the first person chooses to cooperate, is there any reason for the second person to defect, if s/he can do so without being sanctioned?


        Is there moral motivation in Hobbes’s theory?  If not, why doesn’t he agree with the fool?