Thomas Hobbes' First Three Laws Of Nature And The Fool's Objection

1547 words - 6 pages

Hobbes' First Three Laws of Nature and the Fool's Objection

Thomas Hobbes begins The Leviathan by establishing the idea that all men are created equal, although every man perceives himself as smarter than the next. As Hobbes says: "[men] will hardly believe there are many so wise as themselves; for they see their own wit at hand, and other men's at a distance" (25). He then argues for psychological egoism, describing mankind as driven by self-interest and, ultimately, only self-interest. This leads mankind to a constant state of war where human beings will pit themselves against each other in competition because "if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies: (25). Hobbes explains that in a natural state of war, chaos ensues and man will do whatever is necessary to preserve their own lives and genetics, even if it means lying, stealing, murder, or rape. He also approves of such actions in a state of war, because, according to Hobbes, it is every human being's Right of Nature to seek self-preservation. The only thing that prevents people from going about doing these things are the Laws of Nature. A Law of Nature is a general rule discovered by mankind through reason that forbids a person from doing anything self-destructive and gives them the right to self-preservation. Hobbes' Laws of Natures are the means by which, in a state of chaos, order can be established, giving each person their best chance at survival.

Hobbes' First Law of Nature is "that every man, ought to endeavor peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it" (28). In other words, human beings should seek a state of peace, because it will give them the best chance at survival. To establish peace, Hobbes offers the Second Law of Nature, which suggests that mankind creates covenants. A covenant is a social contract where people renounce some of their rights so that they cannot be hurt each other. Also, they transfer some of these rights to a select few members of society that use those rights to maintain the laws of the covenant. An ideal covenant, in Hobbes' mind, would be a large, powerful "leviathan" government to make and regulate laws at a high level of efficiency, hence the title of his work (the bible refers to the "leviathan" as a massive sea monster." Hobbes derives his Third Law of Nature from the second, which states it necessary that "men perform their covenants made" (31), because a covenant becomes void is any member violates or is reasonably suspected of violating the regulations of the covenant. In order to fortify what appears to be a fragile idea of a social contract, the members of the contract need to set up some sort of governing body that will punish violators of the covenant. The level and extremity of the punishment is important, because "the terror of...punishment [must be] greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their covenant" (31). The idea is not only to punish...

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