POLITICAL THEORY – Thomas Hobbes – Free Ebook

Thomas Hobbes was a 17 century english philosopher who is on hand to guide us through one of the thorniest issues of politics: to what extent should we patiently obey rulers,especially those,who are not very good. And to what extent should we start revolutions and oppose governments, in search of a better world? Hobb’s thinking is inseperable from one major event , that began when he was that began when he was 64 years old and was demarking him so deeply, it colored all his subsequent thinking remarkably, he died when he was 91 and so everything he remembered for today he wrote after the age of 60 this event was the english civil war a vicious,divisive, costly and murderous conflict that raged across england alomost a decade and pitted the forces of king against parliament leading to the deaths of 200,0000 people on both sides Hobbes was by nature a deeply peaceful and cautious man he hated violence of all kinds a disposition that he began at the age of 4 when his own father, a clergiman, was disgraced and abandoned his wife and family after he got inta a fight with another cleric(?) on the steps of his church in a village in Wilt Shire the work, for wich we remember Hobbes “Leviathan”, was published in 1651 It is the most definitive persuasive and eloquent statement ever produced as to why one should obey governmental authority even of a very imperfect kind in order to avoid the risk of chaos and bloodshed to understand the backround of Hobb’s conservatism it helps to realise that across western europe in the 17th century political theorists were beginning to ask with a new directness, on what basis, subjects should obey their rulers? For centuries, way back into the middle ages that been a standed-on on such of this contained in a theory called: “The divine right of kings” This was a blunt, simple but highly affective theory stating, that it was non other than god who appointed all kings and that one should obey these rulers for one clear reason: because god said so and he would send you to hell if you didn’t agree but this was no longer proving quite so persuasive to many tougthful people, who argued that the right to rule ulltimately lay not with kings but with ordinary people who gave kings power and therefore should only expect to take orders from kings so long as, but ONLY so long as things were working out quite well for them this was known as “The social contract” theory of government. Hobbes could see that “The divine right of kings” theory was nonsense and whatsmore was going to be increasingly unpersuasive as religious observants declined. He (Hobbes) himself was privately an atheist. at the same time, Hobbes was deeply scared of the possible consequenzes of ” The social contract” theory wich could incourage people to oppose rulers, whenever they felt unhappy with their lot. Hobbes has received a first-hand account of the beheading of king Charles I. on a scaffold at the palace of whitewall (?) in 1649 and his intellectual labors were directed at making sure that such (nasty), primitive scenes would never be repeated So, in “Leviathan” Hobbes puts forward an ingenious argument that tries to marry up “social contract theory” with a defence of total obedience and submission to traditional authority. The way he did this was to take his reader’s back in time to a period he called “state of nature”. Before there were kings of any kind and to get them (readers) to think about how governments would have arisen in the first place… Key to Hobbes’ arguement, was that the state of nature would not have been a nice place because humans left to their own devices without a central authority to keep them in awe would quickly have descended into a squatting, infighting and intolerable bickering It would have been a little like the english civil war but with people in bear skins bashing each other around with flint tools In Hobbes’s famous formulation that life in the state of nature would have been “nasty,,brutish and short” As a result, out of fear and dread of chaos people will tend(?) to form governments they have done this willingly as social contract theorists maintain but also under considerable compulsion fleeing into the arms of strong authoritiy wich they therefore , Hobbes argued had a subsequent duty to keep obeying with only a few rights to complain, if they didn’t like it. The only right, that people might have to protest about an absolute ruler or “Leviathan” as Hobbes called him if he directly threaten to kill them However, if a ruler merely stifles a position imposes enormous taxes cripples the economy or locks up people’s willimilly this was absolutely no reason to gather on the streets and demand a change of government as Hobbes wrote: He admitted that a ruler might come along with “an inclination to do wicked deeds” But the people would STILL have a duty to obey this person, as: But this inconvenience is anyway the fault of the people not of the sovereign, because as Hobbes adds: “If men could rule on their own, there would be no need for at all of a common coersive power As he went on: Hobbess’s theory was dark, cautious and not especially hopeful about goverment. In our more optimistic moments, we want him to be wrong but it seems Hobbess’s name will always be relevant and fresh again when revolutions, motivated by search for Liberty go horribly wrong…. Hobbes maintained in the preface to”Leviathan”, that he had written the book:

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