Thomas Hobbes and the Social Contract

Thomas Hobbes and the Social Contract

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

According to Hobbes’ atomic individualist psychology and ethics, it is natural for human individuals to desire power.

The basis of power is a bodily movement, a force, and it is natural for humans to exhibit this force in their actions, like other animals. In this case, the strong can crush the weak and power can become a right.

However, because people are individuals of a certain species in nature, they are physically and mentally equal. They can balance their weaknesses with their strengths. For example, those who are physically weak can defeat their opponents by cheating. In this case, the forces are equalized. In addition, every person tends to achieve self-security and competes with others for it.

Hobbes describes this situation as the war of all against all. This state of war continues until they are united under a common power. At this stage, “man is the wolf of man.” There is no moral concern, no law, no right. The use of force and deception are the only virtues. What one has captured is his as long as he can hold it. In such a situation, people are equally in danger, and it is only through the organization of society and the establishment of the state that peace and civilization can be achieved.

The natural state of man in society is a war of all against all. At this stage, man is the wolf of man, and this state lasts until they are united under a common power, the state.

Everyone wishes to get out of such a state of war because it is in everyone’s interest. Moreover, nature offers us the possibility of this. For although some passions lead to war, the fear of death and the desire for prosperity lead people to peace. Reason, too, shows how the will to self-preservation can be made effective and offers the appropriate rules of peace. These rules are what are called the laws of nature. According to Hobbes, a natural law is a general rule found by reason that tells what to do and what not to do. Certain laws necessarily derive from the natural desire to survive.

According to Hobbes, humanity can escape from the natural state of war through natural law. A natural law is a general rule found by reason that tells what to do and what not to do.

The first law is “every man must seek peace and follow it.” This law forces one to accept that peace is natural because it is the logical consequence of the necessity for survival. From this follows the second law; “If a man is willing to peace and self-preservation, when other people are willing, then he will think that it is necessary to renounce his right to all things, and he will be content with the freedom that other people will give him as much as he allows other people.”

Is man obliged to obey these laws? Hobbes answers that these laws are binding in the state of nature as well as in the state of civil society. But there are rights that can never be waived; The right to self-defense is one of them. If selfish people do not obey these laws, other people have the right to defend themselves, which leads to anarchy. To avoid this situation, people renounce some of their rights and freedoms by following the orders of natural law and make a social contract; in this way they create an artificial person called the state (commonwealth), a Leviathan (Giant).

According to Hobbes, the state is a kind of giant (Leviathan) that emerges as a result of people making a social contract by following the command of natural law.

The social contract, which provides transition from the state of nature to a civil society order, is a compromise between individuals. In this agreement, individuals agree that they transfer some of their rights to a manager to manage them. This contract is not between the sovereign power and the citizens, but between the citizens themselves. On this basis, the ruler is given absolute power to govern the citizens. The administrator can be a single person or a community. Hobbes does not equate sovereignty with any particular form of government. Although he prefers a single ruler with absolute power, he argues that the ideal order can also be realized with democracy.

The right to manage transferred to the administrator is absolute and cannot be revoked. Sovereignty can never be divided between individuals or institutions. For example, an assembly cannot have a right independent of the wheel if the administration is monolithic. Likewise, if sovereignty is vested in an assembly, the people cannot have a share in the sovereignty because sovereignty has been transferred to the assembly and cannot be taken back. The state transforms the will of individuals into a single will. Thus, it is doubly unreasonable for the citizen to oppose the ruler. The first would be against himself, the second would be against the independent judiciary. In this way, anarchy or the state of nature will be restored. In order to maintain the legal status, it is essential to accept the power of the administrator as absolute.

According to Hobbes, where there is a ruler, there is also law because law is an order or command of a ruler. If there is no ruler, there is no law. In this case, unjust cannot be law, because justice and morality begin with the sovereign ruler. There are no principles of justice and morality that precede and limit the actions of the manager. There can be no law without justice, because justice is judgment.