During the Time Men Live Without a Common Power to Keep Them All ...

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During the Time Men Live Without a Common Power to Keep Them All in Awe, They Are in That Condition Which Is Called Warre; and Such a Warre, as Is of Every Man, Against Every Man (Hobbes, Leviathan). How Does Hobbes' View of the ‘Condition of Ma...

By | May 2005
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This quote from Thomas Hobbes ‘Leviathan,' summarizes his opinion of the natural condition of mankind as concerning their felicity and misery. He basically suggests a natural impulse for war embedded in the souls of men who do not have a ruler, or a king. They are without bounds, and without limits. It is a state of anarchy that he envisages.

He believes that ‘Nature hath made men so equal' that ‘one man can claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he.' This, taken from Chapter 11, leads us to a conclusion that three things in the Nature of man bring out complexities that cannot be resolved and lead to tyranny and war. These are competition, diffidence and glory. Mankind's self-instincts for preservation of their own well-being, and their natural urges to further their own name and have good opinions held in their regard, will lead them to destroy one another. This state of war ‘consisteth not in battle only,' but ‘in a tract of time,' where there is ‘no assurance to the contrary.'

So this also leads to a vital question that must be asked of Hobbes. Amidst all this destruction, is there a solution, which can prevent this? Obviously, his solution is a common power to govern mankind, for people would be worse off ‘under a peaceful government use to degenerate into a civil war.' However, he instantly finds this solution problematic also. Even with rulers who are strict, firm, and fair, complications would still arise, once again due to the nature of man. There would be ‘the continual jealousies' that rulers would feel for one another, who would therefore constantly have their ‘weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another.' They would be ‘continual spies upon their neighbours.'

Liberty is a concept that can be unlimited according to the reasoning of those who wish to exercise it. Each man can ‘use his own power as he will himself for the preservation of his own nature,' and is capable ‘of doing...