Essay # 4
I have to say that throughout this quarter this class was by far the most intellectually stimulating, mentally challenging, and had the heaviest reading load of all my classes. However, out of all the books, the speeches, the excerpts, and historical pieces and documents we have read, one reading in particular comes to mind when I’m asked which one will stay with me the longest. Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan will probably be the single reading that I will carry with me during and after my time at the University. When I was struggling to read this piece, I had almost no understanding on what Hobbes was trying to convey in this piece. Political philosophy is a difficult enough subject to understand in modern English, yet alone trying to grasp complex ideas presented in seventeenth century English. It wasn’t until I took a Leviathan Quiz, and had listened to my professor give a lecture on this book and its author did I realize what Hobbes was getting at in writing this amazing piece. The Leviathan is the expression of Hobbes’ pessimistic philosophy. Hobbes believed that humans were selfish creatures at heart that would do anything to better their position, and if left to themselves, people would act on their naturally evil impulses. According to Hobbes, people therefore should not be trusted to make decisions on their own. Hobbes also believed that in order to prevent such pandemonium, the creation of a common authority would be necessary to protect everyone’s interest. Hobbes asserts that, in a state of nature, war is caused because of everyone's right to everything; so in order to establish peace, the people must enter into a contract in which they forego their right to everything and agree to transfer their rights to one person, the sovereign. This sovereign holds power and is in a position to protect the individuals within society against attacks from other citizens and/or foreigners. . This idea of a “social contract” as put forth by Hobbes has been monumental throughout history. Hobbes believed that everyone should have a choice whether to be governed or not; however, his idea of ‘consent to be governed’ did not necessarily extend to ‘consent on how to be governed’, because Hobbes believed that subjects of the sovereign had no right to rebel as long as the sovereign was capable of securing peace. In chapter 13 of Leviathan Hobbes summarizes his explanation of conflict in the state of nature as follows: “So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory . The first makes men invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for reputation. The first use violence, to make themselves masters of other men's persons, wives, children, and cattle; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue, either direct in their persons or by reflection in their kindred, their friends, their nation, their profession, or their name. When I had finished reading Hobbes’ book, it left me with something to ponder: what is the basis for government?