Hobbes essay questions

Why does Hobbes eliminate all ecclesiastical authority, including popes, priests, ministers, clergymen, monks, and professional theologians, from the Leviathan?.
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We know best what we make ourselves; this knowledge supersedes our capacity to know something already made by another, notably God. But who needs to know how God made our often miserable world when we can make things, perhaps better, for ourselves? We know the geometrical figures on the page with utmost certainty because we make them, and Hobbes thought this applied to more ambitious things, like the well-ordered state he sought to create. His science was radically creative.

A god who can will a world into existence requires no scientific report on its operations. Mathematics made it possible for men to be most god-like in their creative, not descriptive, power. Hobbes extends the humanist pursuit of practical virtue to its limit: humans might rival God as creators. He may have been an atheist, but the idea of creating by superior intelligence and power was very much a living faith for Hobbes. He was, however, anxious to stress to his adversaries that no one could use science to determine how an omnipotent God operated in the universe. He never relinquished this weapon against natural philosophers.


  1. Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy?
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Is it fair to say that he was an opportunist? It might not be fair for us to call Hobbes an opportunist. Liberalism leads us to look down upon those who seek favor through patrons. We prefer to think that winners are deserving when chosen in a free competition of equals. Some credit or blame Hobbes for fostering this way of thought, but he made his way in a world of patronage, where they saw these things differently. He argued that a sovereign who could no longer offer a subject protection was no longer owed obedience.

On the other hand, Hobbes was infuriated with patronage arrangements after the restoration. Not unlike others who had stood with the Stuarts—as he did until things became untenable for him in the exiled court in Paris—he wished to see the fortunes of some reversed. You say that Hobbes wrote the Leviathan as a gift, expecting to receive something in return. For whom did he write it, and what was he expecting? Critics said he actually wrote it for Cromwell. Hobbes denied this, and I believe him.

Leviathan was composed while he was tutoring prince Charles later Charles II, the restored Stuart monarch in mathematics.

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Most importantly, however, Leviathan was written for a would-be sovereign. It was, I think, a kind of mathematical mirror for a prince, one that echoed another mirror-for-princes genre at the time, the court masque. Both incorporated ostentatious displays of mathematical learning, and showed the prince an image of himself as a god-like bringer of order.

I think Hobbes made clear what he wanted in return. He wanted his doctrines taught in the schools, by sovereign command. He promised that the doctrine would produce obedient subjects, and in return he would have achieved the approval and perhaps some delegated authority of an absolutist sovereign of his own design. This never happened. His enemies at court read the work and had him refused.

He then quickly fled the court, this in How did his views compare with our contemporary notion of the university as a forum for free thought and free discourse? Those were not his ideals, even as he helped unshackle minds from existing religious authority.

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The universities were first an instrument for the sovereign—a place for generating obedient and useful subjects, not places of unfettered inquiry. Teaching sedition would not have been tolerated. Hobbes gives us plenty of food for thought, and he has a place in the universities today. Conversation — August 5, , pm. Conversation — March 30, , pm. Context , No Comment — August 28, , pm. Sign in here. Subscribe here. Look at ch. Who gets to be the sovereign? In other words, how is the sovereign chosen?

What makes someone deserving of being sovereign? If the sovereign enacts a bad law, or punishes the innocent, or violates the laws of nature, is rebellion justified?

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One relevant passage is in ch. Hobbes discusses punishment both in ch. On his view, for what reason do we punish people? Explain the logic of this passage: why does the fact that war cannot preserve life lead to the conclusion that the laws of nature are immutable?

Thomas Hobbes - Leviathan - Political Philosophy

And do you agree that there are immutable and eternal laws of nature? Hobbes argues that we consent to live under the rule of a sovereign be it a single man, or an assembly. In the Leviathan, men in the state of nature are quite rational beings and know exactly what they want, and they will seek the best way to stay alive and prolong their survival.

Then we will see how this very same nature is exactly what enables them to leave this environment.

Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy

Men naturally tend to get what they want, do whatever they want, and live however they want. Their principal obsession is self-preservation and their first aim is to stay alive. To be successful in that mission they use any means they can, because the right of self-preservation is universal, Tuck, and hence they are free to do as they please. In the state of nature, we have the right to use our own power for the ends we consider good because it is our natural right to do so Pettit, Thus, men are completely free, as there are no rules that can set any limits on their actions and no higher authority to punish and judge them.

Therefore, men will never keep to their promises in the state of nature because it is more advantageous not to.

State of nature

Human beings will always seek to increase their power, and as long as they live they will want more power, wealth, and glory. It is a mistake to think that men in the state of nature act like animals.

Indeed, men are not bad because although they react to their instincts, like animals do, they are driven by their passions, which are mainly glory and honour Pettit, It is true that self preservation is an instinct that every living creature has, but men differ because their love for material things is what motivates them to continue on in life. Moreover, there is no order in the state of nature, not because there are animalistic behaviours amongst men, but because there is no common standard, no objective value or principle, and no objective morality.

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Sujet: Essay on john locke and thomas hobbes | Les activateurs

Good and evil, and other moral categories, are all based on personal desire and aversion. Also, there is no justice or injustice, in fact, whatever one considers just is just, and if one thinks the contrary then he is right as well Hobbes, VI, 31, 33; ibid: XIII, In this environment men are all equal, have access to the same things, and they are all able to decide what is right or wrong without exception.

They are equally free, and so equally able to use any means they wish that will help them get what they desire. Since they will try to get what others want, they will distrust each other and will thereby be in permanent conflict. From this arises diffidence, or distrust. Thus, in their natural habitat men are not sociable, and they prefer to stay alone.