Thomas Hobbes theories of Human nature sovereignty

Thomas Hobbes theories of Human nature sovereignty

Works of Hobbes:

             The main works of him are ‘Deceive’ wrote in 1642. The ‘Leviathan’ which he wrote in France while he was in exile and was published in London after his return 1651; the De Corpore in 1655 and De Homine in 1658.

Hobbes Methodology:

              He familiarized scientific methods to the political theory, and tried to draw inferences from axioms, assumptions and established truths.  Though Plato applied scientific method to political theory but Hobbes was the first thinker who asserted that political theory was based on the presence of matter and motion.  Hobbes based his concept of human nature, formation of civil society and possible human relationship on this principle.

There are three different parts of Hobbes philosophy, the first dealing with physical phenomenon called ‘physics’ the second dealing with mental phenomenon called ‘psychology’ and the third civil philosophy,  the third part is most complex of all. According to him all the three parts of philosophy are the outcomes of moving particles.  He tried to integrate psychology and politics extract Physical Science.  By applying Geometric method to the science of politics, is built upon psychology and psychology is based on physics, which is derived from the motion of particles.  Thus, this method is clearly logical.  It is pointed out that he completely failed to deduce his psychology from physics and could not live up to his idea because it was impossible.  In spite of these deficiencies, the recognition of Hobbes is that he prepared politics more scientific and modern.  His methodology has three fold significance.

  1. He completely disallowed the medieval conception of the existence of soul or spirit and tried to interpret everything in materialist terms.
  2. His method tangled the denial of medieval theory that, the state is the result of orthodox tumble.

3. His method provided to the distinctive method of thinking, he initiates with individual ends with individuals.  In fact no better individualistic theory could be promoted.

Views on Human Nature:

             Contrasting the earlier philosophers he marks the individual the mechanism to his thoughts. He give the individual not as a rational being but attachment of desires, feelings, and wishes. According to Hobbes, what a man wishes, he sounds well and what he hates, he appeals evil.  At hand no absolute end or good of life, thus, all men attempts to achieve those things which he needs and man is self-interested.  According to Prof. Sabine that, “the rule behind all behavior is that the living body is set instinctively to preserve or heighten its vitality.  In a word, the psychological principle behind all behavior is self-preservation and self-preservation means just the continuance of individual’s biological existence.  Good is what conduces to this end and evil what has the opposite effect”.

He trusts that, by birth men are alike, certain may have improved mental faculties, while others may be physically greater. On the whole they are significantly identical.  Yet, the aspiration to have something carries them in clash with each other. He says that opposition, brilliance and variances make people brute and argumentative. He puts this point thus: “nature has made men so equal with faculties of body and mind, as that though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of the quicker mind than the other, Yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man and man is not so considerable, as that one can thereupon can claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend”.

He further says that, every single individual has a perpetual and restless desire of power, after power only death.  Hobbes says that, man is basically selfish, contentious, quarrelsome, mean, wicked, non-altruistic, non-rational, impulsive and self-centered.  In this high opinion his visions are quite thoroughly connected to that of Machiavelli. The only difference between them is that, Machiavelli did not allocate any reason for the bad nature of man.  Hobbes tries to give it in scientific terms.

Though, his understandings on human nature have been extremely criticized.  In the first occurrence, it is said that, man is neither so reasonable nor as unreasonable as he displays him while paintings the picture of state of nature and the assumption of the deal for the creation of the state.  He said that man is extremely unreasonable in the state of nature, but abruptly allots him the faculty of reason which urges him to heap the state: secondly, he portrays human being as anti-social, self-centered and egoistic.  By what means such persons could develop social and take advantage in the evolution of the civil society.  Thirdly, he assume atmospheres and insights from the motion of particles.  Finally, his assertion that, all men are the same in esteem of their physical and mental powers, is contrary to our actual experience.

Views on Social Contract:

Hobbes trusts that, the state has its start in the expectation of men in their own defense, the well-adjusted wish to spurt from the natural conditions of war. The constant struggle and distress were expected, as long as men were absorbed by the orders of hunger, they could escape from it only by setting up a common power which could at the same time restrain and protect each person. Hobbes said that, each person says to others “I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man or to this assembly of men, on this condition that thou give the right to him and authorize all his actions in the like manner”.

Hobbes Individualism and Absolutism:

Hobbes was considered as the individualist, the theory of absolute sovereignty was named after him and this itself was and achievement by any individual in the political history. Commenting on this Prof. Sabine said that, “Individualism is thoroughly modern element in Hobbes and respect in which he caught most clearly the note of coming ages, Hobbes was at once the complete utilitarian and a complete individualist. It is his clear cut individualism which makes his philosophy the most revolutionary theory of his age”.

Hobbes in fact made a theory about absolutism, but the foundation of absolutism was based on the peace and security of the person and property of the individual, which gives the theory of Hobbes the touch of individualism. Hobbes gave prominent position to individual, he gave the individual the right to fight the sovereign if it attacks his life, for whose protection the contract was made. The centre of thought was individual, he thought that, if any individual was not in proper check it would cause demolition and problems to the civil society which leads to anarchy. Hobbes felt the necessity to check such happenings, need of a supreme power and will have all powers to take act and stop from destruction of individual. He believed that, Agreements without swords were but words, to make sure the covenants were witnessed by the people, he gave absolute authority to sovereign.

He not only gave absolute powers to sovereign and ensured to prevent his use of selfish ends. He gave power to make laws and rules by that he can understand what is just (fair) and unjust (unfair) and what is good and bad. The laws were made for the benefit of individual and subject to the judgment of individualism, by this way he prevented the right of absolutism.

Estimate of Hobbes:

Since his publication of the book Leviathan, he became the debatable person and it would be difficult to estimate Hobbes contributions on political thought. No giant has been abused more by pigmies”. Though he was criticized but there were many who admired him. Depending upon his works on political thought it becomes difficult to give fair estimation and rate him.

Prof. Sabine described him as “probably the greatest writer on political philosophy that the English speaking people have produced”. Prof. Dunning said that, “Hobbes’s works placed him at once in the front rank of political thinker and his theory became, form the moment of its appearance, the centre of animated controversy and enormous influence throughout the west Europe”.