Thomas Hobbes: Egoism and the Struggle for Survival

Thomas Hobbes
  1. Background to Hobbes - The English Civil War (1642-1646)

    1. Henry VIII and the Church of England (1534)

    2. Charles I loses his head (1649)

    3. Oliver Cromwell and Parliamentary Reform (i.e., military dictatorship 1646-1660)

  2. The Nature of Humanity -

    1. Human beings are, on balance, equal -

      1. Physical Ability
      2. Mental Ability

    2. As individuals, we must compete for survival -

      1. Food
      2. Shelter
      3. Mates

    3. Thus, if there were no normative institutions we would live in a State of Nature which would be ". . . solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

    For Hobbes, Morality (and Justice) is a byproduct of Law; where there is no law there can be neither morality nor justice. It is in our best interest, therefore, to discover or invent law.

  3. The Laws of Nature -

    Note: Hobbes draws a distinction between Natural Rights (jus naturale) and Natural Law (les naturale):

    1. It is in our own best interest to seek peace (if for no other reason than to preserve our own life)

    2. In order to secure peace it is in our best interest to moderate our liberty (which can only be achieved through a social contract)

    3. It is in our best interest to abide by our agreements (which is the foundation of any contract; i.e.,Justice)

    Note: There are two distinct applications of justice:

    1. It is in our best interest to be hospitable to one another to foster peace

    2. Violations of the peace should be settled by arbitration

    Because of Nature, our desire is for a long and peaceful life. This can only be accomplished in a community where our competing self-interests are controlled by law. Since such institutions do not exist naturally, we must create such communities (i.e., states) by trading liberty for safety.

  4. The Origin of the State - Institutional Arbitration (we need a sovereign!)

PHI 105 Page | Notes Index