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Hobbes And Sovereignty Essay

4057 words - 17 pages

HOBBES AND SOVEREIGNTY All throughout history, man has struggled to try to understand society, and looked for a way in which to improve it. This has invoked many philosophers to contemplate the formation and legitimacy of government. One such philosopher was Thomas Hobbes, who went into great depth and detail on this subject of politics, in his incredible works The Leviathan. In this piece of literature, Hobbes describes a natural world that is void of any form of government or society, and explains how everyone in this world lives in constant fear and war. The awful imagery that Hobbes projects of this world of anarchy, which he calls a state of nature, is not left without an explanation of ...view middle of the document...

When two men met, they would either, have to fight or flee, in a state of nature. In conjunction with the wanting of dominance over others or the fear of others domination of oneself, men will also fight in a state of nature for glory, honour and reputation. Although at first glance the battle for glory, honour and reputation that occurs in a state of nature may appear to be contradictory with self-preservation, it is actually helping to achieve self-preservation. It achieves this by putting fear in others so that they will be less likely to attack. Unfortunately, when man gains power he will continually need more and more of it, in order to maintain his previous power levels. This creates a world of warmongers! Obviously the state of nature is not a very desirable place to live and so a way out of the anarchy and chaos must be discovered if humans are ever to become civilized. Hobbes also believed this and stated that man may leave the state of nature and enter society if everyone entered, into social contracts. These contracts meant that all people gave up their rights and liberties to an absolute sovereign either freely or by force. In exchange, the sovereign was to safeguard their lives by use of his sovereign power. Hobbes defines this absolute sovereign, as a ruler totally unbound by any rule or restriction, possesses unlimited power over all matters, and essentially remains in a state of nature. This method of leaving the state of nature into society is the regress argument. In other words, every man gives up his or her powers completely and unconditionally for the sovereign to use with the assumption that the sovereign will use it for the benefit of everyone. According to Hobbes, having an absolute sovereignty is the only way for war to end. He also believes that the sovereign's actions should not be subject to the legal control of anyone, therefore giving him complete unrestricted power that has no limits or constraints. Another point that Hobbes makes for having a sovereign is that all people are incapable of agreeing on a common set of rule and regulations. A sovereign eliminates this problem as he decides what is right or wrong about everything. The sovereign literally decides on what is good and bad, just and unjust and therefore gives his people their morality. This view of Hobbes to end the state of nature and generate peace sounds quite reasonable, and if it were to work as Hobbes describes it, it would probably do just that. However when truly thought about, it is very unfeasible and contradictory in many ways. The main problem is that of getting the society started. Assuming first that everyone is in a state of nature. Then by the definition of what the state of nature is, it is impossible for anyone to trust someone with his or her rights and powers and have a sovereign govern over them. Hobbes tries to explain this by saying that if everyone gave up their rights, then they would all still be on an equal level and...

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