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Thomas Hobbes and his absolute government

By amirahsayang May 22, 2014 2548 Words

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher who is known by everyone up to this day century for his philosophies about political philosophy. Thomas Hobbes was born on April 5, 1588. He was born in Westport, near Mamesbury, Wiltshire, England. He receives his college education at Oxford University in England. Thomas Hobbes was not only a philosopher but he was a political science, academician , historian, philosopher , and journalist. Leviathan was one of the most influential books written by Thomas Hobbes that use as a references by Western political philosophy basically from the perspective of social contract theory. One of the main topics that have always been a major topic in his political philosophy is self-interested nature of human cooperation, and political society based on a "social contract". After Hobbes left Oxford, he became the private tutor for William Cavendish, the eldest son of Lord Cavendish of Hardwick. In 1610, Hobbes travelled with William Cavendish to France, Italy and Germany. After the dead of William Cavendish in 1628, Hobbes later worked for the Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a cousin of William Cavendish, and the marquess's brother, Sir Charles Cavendish. Hobbes entered political involvement through his association with the Cavendish family. Hobbes entered into the activities of the king, members of Parliament, and other wealthy landowners were discussed, and his intellectual abilities brought him close to power. The late William Cavendish was a Member of Parliament from 1614 to 1621. Through these channels, Hobbes began to observe the influence and structures of power and government. In the late 1930s, Hobbes became linked with the royalists in disputes between the king and Parliament, as the two factions were in conflict over the big power of kingly powers, especially regarding raising money for armies. The conflict then culminated in the English Civil Wars (1642-1651), which led to the king being executed and a republic being declared. This event finally makes Hobbes to left the country to preserve his own safety. He starts to live in France, Paris from 1640 to 1651. Hobbes starts to write his first book Leviathan when he was at Paris. The event of English Civil Wars (1642-1651) gave Hobbes an idea about human nature and led him to the publication of his first book ‘Leviathan’. Thomas Hobbes wrote his most famous work entitled ‘Leviathan’ on the middle of the English Civil War. Hobbes ‘Leviathan’ book were published in 1651. In this ’Leviathan’ book, Hobbes had stated his views and opinions into four important parts. The first part of ‘Leviathan’ is about human nature. Hobbes draws upon not only common-sense experienced, but also on what he considers to be scientific explanations about human physical bodies and peculiarities which set them apart from one another. Besides that, Hobbes also try to prove that it is impossible for two people agree fully with one another, let alone for a whole commonwealth to agree, hence his view the obvious need for an absolute sovereign. He also introduces the state of nature, in which human nature unchecked provokes chaos and radical insecurity. Finally, Hobbes tries to show how passions and superstition block people’s ability to see where their true interest lies: in submission and peace. In Leviathan second part, “of Commonwealth” explains Hobbes ideas on the rights of nature on laws of nature and their relationship to the civil society. Hobbes develop his famous social contract, in which each individual agrees to give up his or her right to self reservation in nature and hand over all authority to sovereign power, where it becomes irrevocable. This second part would not make sense unless the reader accepts Hobbes’s view of human nature developed in part one. If humans can be guided by more rational agreement and we can generally assume goodwill, then it is possible to contemplate a stable democracy or mixed form of government. But Hobbes calls such democratic ideas “absurd” and spends quite a bit of time in this section making the case that only absolute monarchy make sense, if what we want is peace. In Hobe’s view, peace is a paramount good from which all other goods flow. The third part of Leviathan, “of A Christian Commonwealth” deals with how Christianity can be made compatible with absolute monarchy. In order to answer this question fully, Hobbes constructs his own Christian theology, his own reading of the Bible and his own interpretation of the proper relationship between the church and the state. His aim is to make it clear that Christianity necessitate judgement or criticism of the state, no matter what the state does or orders its citizen to do. In other words, Hobbes tries to prove that one can be a good Christian and not object to the laws and orders of government, even if those lost and orders seem to defy Christians believes and morality. Instead, Hobbes argues that Christian duty relative to the state is obedience. If the state sins, it is the responsibility of the sovereign not the citizen. Hobbes also wants to make it clearer that the church must be subordinate to the sovereign for the same reason, so that power and authority cannot be divided or there will be civil breakdown leading to the violence Hobbes so wants to avoid. Hobbes tries to show that the Bible support the subordination of church to state. In the final part of Leviathan, “of The Kingdom of Darkness”, Hobbes tackle idea that get in the way of his political agenda, especially Catholic ideas that place church above state and promote believe in other worldly thing. Hobbes particularly dislikes believes in thing that are not physical and cannot be proven and mysterious there are the more he dislikes them. What Hobbes would call superstitions entice the person’s attention away from this worldly concerns and make him value transcendent things more than those things he can control. Superstitious beliefs encourage disobedience to earthly power. Catholics believes particularly encourage disobedience because of the earthly arrangement of the Catholic church, with its pope and its government like structure as well as its over claim at that time to earthly authority over monarchs. Although, he does challenge these beliefs quite strongly in other parts of his book, Hobbes develops that challenge more completely here. His sarcastic side is never stronger than it is in this part of Leviathan and so this part give us special insight into the way Hobbes thoughts. Finally, he gives us a very useful “review and conclusion”, in which he attempts to summarize, supplement and defend his most important points.

It was in De Cive, published in 1647 Hobbes expressed a clear confidence that he made a preliminary and tentative claimed to have discovered a way of “rationalising” enquiry into political behaviour, and that he had also created a new science of politics. Hobbes began his study of civil government by investigating its central subject the human being as a natural and social animal and then Hobbes proceeded to define its origin, generation and form. Hobbes seems to understand everything by its constitutive causes. Later on, Hobbes focuses his attention on basic principles rather than changing the institution or the forms of government. Leviathan can therefore be seen as a political creature, and that creature can exhibits aristocratic, republican, monarchical or even democratic features. In his book, Hobbes argued that people were naturally evil and could not be trusted to govern a society. Thomas Hobbes also mentions that human being was naturally selfish, nasty and brutish creatures in the world which would do anything to get a better and higher position in the society. Therefore, Hobbes believed that an absolute monarchy was the best government which it gave all the power to the only one king or queen to govern. He also stated that absolute monarchy was the sovereign and right form of government compare to the other government. Basically, absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch has absolute power among his or her people. This means that the government has absolute power or total control of the government and people of the governed. In conjunction with this, Hobbes promotes that monarchy is the best form of government which must have only one supreme authority and this is the only government that can guarantee peace to the state as well as to the society. Absolutism can also be said as a system in which one man has absolute power over the people. This absolute power was believed to come from God. The ruler or Monarch was supposedly carrying out the will of God. Hobbes, who is a British philosopher and political theorist, may have been ahead of his time. He believed in absolutism but his idea of absolutism was different from what was commonly believed. Hobbes was a believer in the new scientific thought and that mathematical knowledge was the way to the truth. Though Hobbes supported absolutism, he did not believe that the ruler's power derived from God. Hobbes believed in the Common Wealth system.131 this is a system, like absolutism, in which there is one absolute ruler. In Hobbes' system this ruler does not get his power from God, but he gets it more from the people.

As already noted in ‘Leviathan’ book, Hobbes comes with an opinion with his own view on the human nature and absolute monarchy that the state of human nature are generally selfish and they were only interested on promoting their own self-interests. If this negatives characteristics continues in each individual, Thomas feared the problem would lead to chaos and even led to war if this situation prolonged. Therefore, Hobbes thinks that the best way to control this society by applying an absolute monarchy government.

The idea of absolute monarchy comes when Hobbes experienced with the leading thinkers such as Galileo who is formulated the Law of Inertia. The Law of Inertia states that object will exist emotion unless it is prevented by something else. For Hobbes, this law provided an understanding of human action and of the society which he observed around him. Human beings are naturally motion except avoided by other human beings. In man’s natural states, Hobbes believe that moral ideas did not exist and he uses this definitions as bases for explaining variety of emotions and behaviour. In this state of nature, when the only sense of good and evil derives from individuals desire, general rules about whether the action are good or bad do not exist. Therefore, Hobbes believes that moral judgement about the action cannot exist until they are ruled by a society’s central authority. This position leads directly to Hobbes belief in absolute form of government.

Hobbes theory of human nature the entire logical derivation of the process to the theory of absolute monarchy, revealing the fundamental the role of the theory of human nature in its entire political doctrine, which highlights Hobbes to create a position in the history of natural law.


Sovereign state is one of the key factors why Thomas Hobbes considered absolute government is the best government. A state is sovereign when its magistrate owes allegiance to no superior power and he or she is supreme within the legal order of the state. It maybe assumes that in every human society where there is a system of law to be found or implicit in the variety of political forms in a democracy as much as in an absolute monarchy. The vertical structure of sovereign according to this theory is analogous to the backbone of an individual. The structure constitutes an essential part of any human society which possesses a system of law as the backbone comprises an essential as part of an individual.

Firstly, according to Thomas Hobbes, the creation of an absolute monarchy sovereign is necessary to secure peace and harmony in the commonwealth or civil society. Hobbes also defined the sovereign as the one who is the absolute master of all his civil society, and that he is the final arbiter of all questions in the civil society. The sovereign will decides whether the monarch will continue in power that will be permanent or not in governed the society. Second, from the view point of Hobbes is the individual in the commonwealth empower a ruler by accepting and obeying his punishment commands. Commonwealth devotion towards their king will make the king decided to take care of the needs, interests and welfare of his community in the best way. Third, Hobbes thought was as citizens of a sovereign nation, every people must obey, the king of all instructions received and the sentence given without rejecting or questioning their monarch instructions. Forth, Hobbes in his opinion mentions that the ruler only holds power as long as his civil society obeys his punishment commands. He also said that the sovereign does not determine the question to his commands. This is because the people themselves are aware of their responsibility to comply with the directions and loyalty to the government to take care of the needs, interests, and safety of their lives. Sovereignty as Hobbes imagine it and liberal political authority as we know it can only function when the citizen feel some additional motivation apart from pure self-interest. Thomas Hobbes main interest lies in the educative power of religion and indeed of political authority. Therefore, each country in this globalization should reach a sovereign point to make their country a better living place for the citizen. A good example of sovereign country will have a stabilize political structure, economy and social. For Hobbes, this moral values is so great and the alternative so stark that it should override every trade to our self-interest except the imminent danger of that.

Hobbes has stated that absolute monarchy is the best government in accordance with the situation and experience at the time of his life. In our view, the opinion of Thomas Hobbes which absolute monarchy is the best government cannot be acceptable when viewed in terms of modern days now. This is because democracy, republic and oligarchy are more acceptable government to be practiced in this new era. Other than that, in present times, war is no longer a solution to resolve conflicts between other countries. The thought of new era leaders now are more conscious towards peaceful negotiations in order to protect the interests of their respective countries. Example of country that is still practicing the rule of absolute monarchy government system is Saudi Arabia. Although Saudi Arabia have a system of absolute monarchy government but the country has a weakness in his reign. For example, the war is still going on in 2010 that Sa'dah war involving Saudi Arabia and the Houthis. In addition, the people of this country cannot elect leaders of their choice, as practiced by the people of a democratic country. Futhermore, an absolute monarchy can lead to poor decision-making since being the offspring of a previous monarch is no guarantee that the successor is fit for the job. This is because, policy is based on the monarch’s own views, it may shift radically from one monarch to another. This will cause the people who were governed are not satisfied with the government and this will lead to further chaos and war if the situation worsens.

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