Thomas Hobbes


Thomas Hobbes born at Westport in North Wilts was man of a very studious, orderly and timid nature. He left England during the civil war. France of the absolute monarchy rather than parliamentary England was his spiritual home. He live fro about 20 years on the continent chiefly in France whose autocratic government appealed to him considerably. While on the continent, he met many philosophers and studies many forms of government. Thomas Hobbes is really the first Englishman who wrote comprehensively on political philosophy and made valuable contributions to it. Amidst a chaos of political wrangling and pamphleteering in England during the middle of the 17th century, Hobbes built up a systematic philosophy of state taking his stand neither on theology nor on tradition but on his study of human nature. Hobbes lived at a time of great constitutional crisis in England when the theory of Divine Right of Kings was fiercely contested by the upholders of the constitutional rule based on popular consent. Hobbes would subscribe neither to one side nor to the other. But as an upholder of order and authority he constructed a system of strong and irresponsible sovereign authority on the basis of the then very popular doctrine of social contract. Hobbes was, thus, as much a creature of his time as Machiavelli was. That Hobbes wrote with a philosophic detachment characteristic of him is evidenced by the fact that his theory of irresponsible, inalienable and indivisible sovereignty would as well apply to a republican form of government as to a monarchy. The political philosophy of Hobbes is a part of his general philosophy based on scientific materialism. Hobbes starts with the law of motion and builds his whole philosophy on the basis of mechanical process of causation and effect. He wanted to bring psychology and politics to the level of physical sciences. Hobbes bases his study of the state on his study of the nature of man who is a sentient acting being and who reacts to external environment.


  1. The Elements of Law, Natural and Politics (1637):
  2. De Corpere Politico (1640)
  3. De Cive (1647)
  4. Leviathan (1651)

His Spiritual Ancestry:

Hobbes borrowed from previous thinkers but gave his own orientation to their concepts. He agrees with Machiavelli that man is selfish and that human nature is bad but insists that the state could transform a man into a moral being by the exercise of a master’s rod. He is indebted to Bodin for his concept of sovereignty but unlike Bodin would impose no limitations of Divine, Natural, constitutional or international law on his sovereign. He agrees with Grotius that reason is the basis of law but insists that it must be the sovereign’s reason alone. He modified the Divine Right theory by discarding the divine origin of the state and by giving divine right to the state instead of to the king. He adopts the notion of contractual origin of the social contract theory but discards the ideas of contractual obligations, rights of man and rule by consent which before him were fundamental to the theory. The basic features of Hobbesian thought were Collectivism tinged with Individualism, Materialistic Rationalism, hedonistic Utilitarianism and Erastianism. Hobbes like Machiavelli subordinated Ethics and religion to politics and was the first prophet of unlimited sovereignty.

Hobbes Conception of Human Nature:

In his study of human nature, Hobbes starts with the mechanistic doctrine of sensation. “Sense is mere seeming on occasion of mechanical interaction between external bodies and the living organism”. The perception of eternal bodies a rose or a snake causes an inward motion to the sense-organs of the living organism which calls forth an outward reaction from the brain or heart. Every outward reaction or endeavour of the sense-organ is not to be called sense but only that “which at several times is by vehemence made stronger and more predominant than others”. The phantasm or conception of something external which arises when motion is sent inwards through a sense-organ to the brain in its connection with the heart and evokes an outward reaction thence is not the only effect of such motion. According as the vital motion of the heart itself is helped or inhered there arises another kind of sense, namely, pleasure or pain. There is upon occasion of pleasure or pain an internal (physical) endeavour to or from which invisible as it is may have visible result and such endeavour is what is called Appetite or Aversion”.

Appetite to or aversion from resulting from actual pleasure or pain of sense, is the rudimentary form of will beyond the pleasures and pains of ‘sense’, there are pleasures and pains of the ‘mind’, involving imaginative, expectation which take the form of hope of good or fear of evil. While there is imagination in play with alternation of appetite and aversion the mind is in a state of Deliberation but once deliberation ends in inclination for some act it becomes Will. Passions are the mental pleasures and pains which “arise from the expectation that proceeds from foresight of the end or consequences of things”. There are passions of joy and grief. “Reason is a power of conjoining things otherwise than as they occur in natural experience, science is the knowledge of the true or unfailing causes of things….”

Sensations are caused immediately as in taste or touch or mediately as in seeing, hearing or smelling. There are two kinds of motion peculiar to animals i.e. vital or involuntary as for instance breathing and animal or voluntary like speech or movement of body. After the stimulus of a sensation has spent itself there remains in the mind slowly fading relics of it, called images. Imagination is the consciousness of these images. Memory is a recollection of the. Thu sensations, through imagination lead to appetite or aversion. A continual success in realizing a man’s desires or appetites is called felicity while that which brings this success is power. Therefore in a man there is a ‘perpetual and restless desire for power’.

Some appetites or aversions are born with man; others are acquired. The object of a man’s appetite is called good, that of his aversion, evil. Hobbes does not believe that anything depends upon human feelings towards it and is subjective. An object may attack one man and repel another. Men try to pursue what is good for them i.e. what attracts them. Men are born equal in their faculties of mind and body. If, therefore, two men desire the same object which they cannot both enjoy, their equality of ability and hope of achieving the object makes them enemies out to destroy or subdue each other. This leads to diffidence and to love of acquisition and power. Power means the acquirement of present means to attain some future good. Hobbes recognizes three principal causes of conflict between men i.e. competition, diffidence and glory. Man is characterized by a perpetual desire for power, is selfish and quarrelsome. Not that he does not want peace but his fear of others, desire to preserve and increase his possessions and power lead him to constant quarrel with his fellow-beings.

Hobbes on the State of Nature:

The idea of the state of nature prior to the appearance of social or political life was known before Hobbes. Most of those who used the ‘state of nature’ hypothesis were half inclined to believe in its historical reality, for, even if the state of nature were not a definite historical fact, it was “the logical opposite to any recorded or conceivable form of the civil state”. Origin of political or civil society does imply a society which in the beginning was not ‘civil’. To Hobbes the only basis of human action is a perpetual desire for power because man is essentially selfish and egoistical.

Men are by nature equal in powers both of body and mind. No man is so strong as to be safe against the attack or the art of the weakest. Men are not only equal in power but they are also alike in being moved by the same three great passions i.e. desire of safety, desire of gain and desire of glory. The desire of gain leads to violence when the object of desire can neither be divided nor enjoyed in common. These passions lead to mutual distrust which may be called a state of war. This distrust is evident if we realize that a man goes around against his fellow-citizens with arms in hand, closes his doors against his neighbours and closes his chests against his children and servants. Savages and nations live in a state of war inter se.

Hobbes draws the following picture of the state of nature. “In such condition there is no place for industry because the fruit thereof is uncertain and consequently no culture of the earth no navigation nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodus building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. It is consequent also the same conditions that there is no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinctly but only that to be every man’s that he can get and for so long as he can keep it”. There being no common superior to hold individuals in check, there is a constant war of all against all.

Hobbes Conception of Right and Wrong:

According to Hobbes, there can be no distinction between right and wrong in the state of nature. Any conception of right and wrong presupposes a common standard of conduct; a common law-giver implies an agreement on the part of all to accept somebody as their law-giver and regulator of conduct. This automatically terminates the state of nature. Again, there is no distinction between just and unjust in a state of nature, for where there is no law and where there is no law there can be no justice. Again, there can be no private property in the state of nature, for possession of a thing depends upon the power of holding it. Hobbes did not so much believe in the actual historical reality of such a state of nature but maintained that something very like the state of nature existed during the civil wars among primitive people and among nations internationally.

Natural Rights and Natural Law:

The “Right of Nature is the liberty each man hath, to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of is own nature, that is to say of his own life. Hobbes clearly distinguishes between the right of nature and the law of nature i.e. between Jus Naturale and Lex Naturale. “Right, consisteth in liberty to do or to forbear; whereas law determineth and bindeth to one of the so that law and right differe as much as obligation and liberty. The natural right at best implies a treacherous liberty whereas the natural law designates rule found out by reason, forbidding any act or omission that is unfavourable to preservation. Natural right entitles a man to grab everything and leads to war. Natural law forces him “to renounce some part of his claim for the more certain realization of the rest” and therefore, leads to peace or avoidance of war. Natural right is not a moral right. It is the capacity or power of holding things and is to be equated with might.

The law of nature to Hobbes meant a set of rules which may be categorized as follows:

  1. The first law of nature holds that every man should seek peace and preserve it and if he cannot obtain it he must defend himself by all means including war.
  2. The second law of nature lays down that a man must be willing, along with others and in the interests of peace and self-defence to foreswear his right to all things, be content with as much liberty as he would allow others over himself and transfer some of his rights by a contract.
  3. the thirds law of nature enjoins that men perform their covenants made. it is the covenant that effects the transfer of rights of nature and establishes the rule of justice. Justice lies in keeping the contract.
  4. According to foruth law of nature, the man to whom the rights are transferred causes no injury to the one who makes that transfer.

Other laws of nature point to the advisability of an individual accommodating himself to the rest, cultivating complaisance, spirit of freedom, sense of equity and avoiding the spirit of revenge, cruelty, pride and avarice. Hobbes bases the observance of these laws of nature on utility and not on moral considerations. Utility or self-interest is an internal restraint. It suits people to violate the laws of nature but make others respect them. Therefore, utility alone is not enough; he suggests a common coercive power to enforce these rules in the common interests of all for fear that some clever people may deem it useful, though mistakenly to ignore them. Man has reason which is overpowered by passion. Passion can only be controlled by external superior authority i.e. sovereign. Men’s passions based on fear and self-interest can be checked only on the basis of greater fear and greater self-interest.

Hobbes believed that the laws of nature were eternal, for, on them depended the maintenance of peace, a condition necessary for fullest satisfaction of human desires. Hobbes distinguished between ordinary positive law and the law of nature by pointing out that whereas law proper was the word of him that by right hath command over others and implied external restraint, the laws of nature were conclusions or theorem indicative of means of self-preservation and therefore, implied those restraints by which we agree mutually to abridge one another’s liberty. Hobbes here incidentally distinguishes legality from morality. To Hobbes, the law of nature is the dictate of right reason, conversant about those tings which are either to be done or omitted for the constant preservation of life and members as much as in us lies. The law of nature enjoins a man to enter into covenants and respect those covenants for the better preservation of his life and property but covenants, without the sword are but words and of no strength to secure a man at all. This points to the necessity of a common authority. Hobbes maintains that life without a common authority i.e. sovereign is bound to be miserable. This is evidenced by the fact that nations are constantly at friction because there is no super sovereign over them and also that the weaker the sovereign power of the state the greater is the anarchy there.

The Origin of Commonwealth:

There are two stages in the argument of Hobbes:

  1. Men could live in peace by following certain rules called the laws of nature. The most fundamental law of nature is “to seek Peace and follow it”. If some passions lead to conflict there are others which make for peace i.e. the desire to avoid death orthe desire of things necessary for commodius living. Reason makes a man seek peace. Another important law of nature enjoins “by all means we can to defend ourselves”.
  2. Men want a sovereign to enforce the laws of nature. Men in order to get out of the terrible state of nature enter into covenants to forego such of their natural rights which being retained will hinder the progress of mankind. Man is selfish and egoistical and therefore glory and fear are the two instincts which make him keep his covenant.

Of these two instincts that of fear is the only one that can be relied on. There must therefore be some coercive power biding men to their covenants ‘by the terrour of some punishment greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their Covenant’, and there can be no such coercive power of this kind before the establishment of a commonwealth or civil power. In the second part of the Leviathan, Hobbes creates this commonwealth by giving a new orientation to the old idea of the social contract. The social contract before Hobbes represented a governmental contract, a contract between the ruler and ruled. Hobbes thus builds his commonwealth. “the only way to erect such a common power as may be able to defend them (i.e. men) from the invasion of  forraigners; and the injuries of one man, or upon one assembly of men that may reduce all their wills by plurality of voices unto one will which is as much as to say to appoint one man or assembly of men to beare their person and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be the author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person, shall act or cause to be acted in those tings which concern the common peace and safetie and therein to submit their wills everyone to is will and their judgments to his judgment. This is more than consent or concord; it is really unitie of them all in one and the same person made by covenant of every man with every man in such manner as if every man should say to every man, I authorize and give up my right of governing my self to this man, or to this assembly of men on this condition that thou give up thy right to him and authorize all his actions in like manner. This done the multitude so united in one person is called a commonwealth. And he that carrieth this person is called sovereign and said to have sovereign power and every one besides his subject”. This sovereign is the great leviathan, the mortal God to whom individuals owe their peace and preservation. This sovereign power may be created by institution when men of their own Impulse unite or by acquisition when impulse to union comes from without. In both cases the motive force is fear; in the former case the fear of one another in the latter the fear of the sovereign.

According to Hobbes, the social contract institutes an office which may be held by one man or by an assembly of men but which is distinct from the natural person of the holder. By the transfer of the natural rights of each man, the recipient becomes their representative and is invested with authority to deliberate will and act in place of the deliberation will and action of each separate man. The multitude of conflicting wills is replaced not by a common will but by a single representative will.

The Attributes of the Sovereign Leviathan:

The following powers or attributes characterize the Hobbesian Leviathan or the Sovereign who is that individual “or assembly who by the terms of the contract on which the commonwealth rests is authorized to will in the stead of every party to the contract for the end of a peaceful life”.

1. The creator of the Leviathan is the social compact the Leviathan is no party to it. A sovereign does not exist prior to compact and therefore can be no party to it. Once he is created the covenanters lose all their power. The compact is irrevocable. No previous or subsequent contract can be quoted against the sovereign.

2. No conditions explicit or implicit can be imposed on the sovereign for his power is unlimited. There can be no constitutional checks for the sovereign. The sovereign cannot covenant with his people because he is the people. The only checks on the Leviathan are the laws of nature.

3. The created sovereign can do no injury to his subjects because he is their authorized agent. His actions cannot be illegal, because he himself is the source of law and the laws are subject to his interpretation.

4. The sovereign cannot justly be punished in any way of his subjects.

5. Property is the creation of the sovereign and therefore a sovereign may make laws relating to property, taxation etc. he can declare war and give judicial decisions.

6. The sovereign has the right to allow or take away freedom of speech. He can suppress circulation of dangerous opinion.

7. The sovereign has to protect his people externally and internally for peace and preservation were the basis of the creation of the Leviathan.

8. The leviathan represents the ultimate, supreme and single authority in the state and there is no right of resistance against him except in case of self-defence.

9. Every act of disobedience of a subject is unjust because it is against the covenant. A new sovereign cannot be substituted for a former one without the latter’s permission because the original compact had made the latter’s will representative of the wills of all persons contracting.

10. No covenant with God can be quoted against the sovereign for he is the only channel through which contract with God can be made.

11. It the sovereign ignore the pact the subjects cannot do so. The pact made all individuals joining it to give up their natural rights. But the sovereign is no party to the pact and therefore retains his natural rights. Unlike the individuals the sovereign is still in the state of unlimited natural rights. A sovereign may e iniquitous but he cannot be unjust.

12. A minority cannot resist the sovereign o the ground that it was no party to choosing the sovereign. The minority not agreeing with the majority in the selection of the sovereign are in a state of war with the majority which can use all the rights of war against them.

13. The sovereign is the sole source of authority of public servant s and is the fountain of honour.

14. The attributes of the sovereign are indivisible and inalienable. This indivisible sovereignty admits of no coordinate or even subordinate authority and extends as well to spiritual as to the secular affairs. To Hobbes, a limited sovereignty was a contradiction in terms.

Rights and Duties of the Sovereign:

The rights of the sovereign are those which have been surrendered to it by the covenant i.e. the rights of the natural man. Therefore, the extent of the rights of the sovereign is determinable not artificially but by nature. Some of the rights of the sovereign are also his duties. The most important of such rights is the making of law s to which is attached the duty of making equitable and necessary laws. Another right which is also a duty is the right of interpreting and administering laws i.e. the right to judge and enforce law by punishment. Then again, a sovereign has a right which is also a duty to govern and conduct policy with a view to protecting the society from civil dissolution. The rights of the sovereign which are not his duties also include the right to choose counselors, to delegate the exercise of certain rights, to determine, if necessary, the succession and to pardon certain offences. The sovereign has the duty of being effective and successful. He must provide safety and good government to the people.

Liberty and Rights of the Individual:

The Hobbesian view of liberty, which to Hobbes meant absence of opposition, was diametrically opposed to the views of the levelers and of Milton. Hobbes distinguished between liberty of the commonwealth and the liberty of the individual. The liberty of the individual must be understood in terms of the state. Liberty of the state is unqualified but that of the individual is regulated by the laws of the commonwealth. Liberty of the individual consists in what the laws of the state do not forbid and in what cannot by the nature of the covenant be given up. This include right of self-defence and self-preservation. But the liberty of the subject is no limitation on the rights of the sovereign. If there is a civil war, however, and the sovereign cannot protect his subjects then the subjects have the liberty to choose a new sovereign or accept a new de facto sovereign. In the state of nature rights of the individual depended on his might. Liberty was license. For the civil state, Hobbes adopts the legal theory of rights. Man has right to self-preservation. Besides this he has all those rights which the state allows him. But a sovereign can disallow the rights of the individual except that of self-preservation. Rights of the individual cannot be quoted against the state.

Hobbes maintains that an individual is best in the state. “Out of it, any man may rightly spoil or kill another, it it, none but one. Out of it, we are protected by our own forces, I it, by the power of all. Out of it, no man is sure of the fruits of his labours in it, all men are. Lastly out of it, there is a dominion of passions, war, fear, poverty, slovenliness, solitude, barbarism, ignorance, cruelty; I it, the dominion of reason, peace, security, riches, decency, society, elegancy, sciences and benevolence”.

Hobbes distinguishes between the legal and natural rights of the individual. The rights of the individual to liberty, property etc are legal or civic rights. They emanate from and are regulated by the state and are neither absolute nor inviolable. Rights of associations of men, like those of individuals, are legal rights. The right to life, on the other hand, is a natural right which was not surrendered at the time of contract. A natural right is only a capacity and not a moral right.

The Individual and the State:

Hobbes built up a theory of most thorough going collectivism but the rationale of such collectivism was the peace and security of person and property of the individual which gives a tinge of individualism to the theory of Hobbes. He even allowed his individual the right to resist his sovereign if the latter attacked the individual’s life for whose preservation the contract was entered into. In certain contingencies an individual could refuse to serve as soldier which might endanger his life. Then, again an individual could withdraw allegiance to a sovereign who was not capable of securing the individual’s life. “The obligation of the subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer than power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them”. A man has a right to disobey his sovereign if the latter commands him “to kill, wound or mayme himself; or not to resist those that assault him or to abstain from the use of food, ayr, medicine, or any other thing, without which he cannot live.” An individual is free not to bear evidence against himself. Hobbes did not believe in legitimacy without power. An individual had the liberty to refuse allegiance to a deposed sovereign. Hobbes is an individualist since his entire system is based on the individual psychology of fear and self-defence.

In so far as Hobbes equates the right of resistance of an individual to his capacity to resist, the right really vanishes against the strength of the sovereign. The right of the individual to resist his sovereign if the individual’s life is endangered implies that the individual is the judge as to when his life is endangered. On the Hobbesian view of human nature, the individual will misuse this right and resist the sovereign as often as he can. This would destroy what Hobbes wanted to create i.e. unlimited absolutism of the sovereign.

Classification of Government:

Hobbes classifies governments according to the number of persons constituting the sovereign i.e. into monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Hobbes had patience neither for a mixed form of government, nor for tyranny or oligarchy. There is no distinction in the sovereign power of monarchy, aristocracy or democracy, the sovereign in all the three cases having the same attributes. The relative excellence of the three forms of constitution depends on how far and how well the sovereign power in the three different forms serves the end of maintaining peace and security. Judged from this point of view monarchy to Hobbes, was the best while democracy “is no more than an Aristocracy of Orators, interrupted sometimes with the temporary Monarchy of one Orator”. Monarchy is the best because a Monarch can harmonize his private with public interests, can pursue a steady policy and will show favours to a lesser number of favorites than is possible in an aristocracy or democracy. Hobbes is against elective constitutional monarchy.

Diseases of the Commonwealth:

There are to Hobbes six diseases a commonwealth may suffer from;

  1. A sovereign to obtain a realm, may be content with less than sovereign power
  2. Every private man is judge of good or evil actions.
  3. That whatsoever a man does against his conscience is Sinne”.
  4. That he that hath the sovereign power, is subject to the Civil Laws”.
  5. That every private man has an absolute propriety in his goods, such as excludeth the right of the sovereign.
  6. That the sovereign power may be divided.

Hobbes on Law:

Hobbes, with characteristics definiteness distinguishes between different kind of law such as the law of nature, civil law and divine law. The laws of nature are ‘conclusions or theorems’ and not laws. Law proper is the word of him that by right hath command over others, and that is the sovereign. Therefore “Civil Law is to every subject those Rules which the Commonwealth hath commanded him by word, writing or other sufficient sign of the will, to make use of for the distinction of right and wrong that is to say of what is contrary and what is not contrary to the rule”. The sovereign alone can make laws and is himself above the laws. Custom is law because of the consent of the sovereign as implied by his silence. Divine law emanates from Divine will and natural law too if rational may be regarded as divine law. A directly revealed command of God is divine positive law. All laws, especially laws of nature and unwritten ones need interpretation and the interpretation of the sovereign as communicated by his magistrates is biding on the subjects. Law must be rational but he sovereign’s reason alone as expressed in the sovereign’s will is the sole standard of reason. A divine law must supersede civil law but it is the sovereign alone who can interpret divine law, for otherwise every law would pass for divine law and civil law would be disregarded. In short to a subject the sovereign’s will and judgment is the law of God, the law of nature, the civil law. Hobbes thinks that the law of nature and the law of nations are identical because sovereigns are mutually in a state of nature.

Criticism of Hobbesian Conceptions and Theories:

The Hobbesian theory of social contract implies that man brings with him to the social contract ‘rights’ of the state of nature which devoid of social function, social recognition and social enforcement could only be ‘powers’. Hobbes draws up a very dark picture of the state of nature and proceeds to evolve his civil society on the basis of social contract which suddenly transforms the chaos of the state of nature into the orderliness of the civil state. In the state of nature no contracts are possible for there is no sovereign to enforce them but the social contract itself is made in the state of nature. It must be realized that the sovereign resulted from but did not co-exist with the social contract. Hobbesian thesis is that collective social action is impossible without the state but the ending of the state of nature and the foundation of the state by surrender of natural rights was itself a collective social action preceding the state. The Hobbesian sovereign is representative of the people. What guarantee is there that this representative of the people will represent the people i.e. follow pubic opinion and look after public welfare. Locke ridicules Hobbesian social contract which boils down to this that ‘when men, quitting the state of nature entered into society, they agreed that all of them but one should be under the restraint of laws; but that he should still retain all the liberty of the state of nature, increased with power and made licentious by impunity. This is to think that men are so foolish that they take care to avoid what mischief may be done them by polecats and foxes but are content may think it safety to be devoured by lions”. Hobbes builds up his system on the basis of pleasure pain theory and evolves a master-slave relationship. He presents the alternatives of surrender or chaos.

Hobbes has been criticized as a crude behaviourist who regards matter and motion alone as real. His dogmatic materialism leaves little scope for freedom of human will. He is neither fully utilitarian nor fully idealist.

The Hobbesian system is rather based on unsound foundation. The state of nature of Hobbes was a state of war of all against all in which cardinal virtues are force and fraud. Hobbes natural man is antisocial. How could such a man go against his own nature and suddenly enter “a state not of war, but of peace, a state in which force and fraud are deliberately set aside, a state which si founded upon ideas of right and justice and in which acts of wrong and injustice are put under the double ban of pubic disapproval and of positive prohibition”? How could a natural man stick to such a state? How could the Machiavelli-Attila of the state of nature be so suddenly and so completely transformed into a cringing slave? Hobbes does not realize that man has always been possessed of gregarious instincts that he is not all force and fraud and that even primitive people have their code of morality, how ever elementary. Savages have their customs which are as effective with them as law with civilized peoples. Besides Hobbes uses his concept of the law of nature as it suits him. Sometimes this law represents brute instinct, sometimes a moral ideal. Hobbes is neither purely utilitarian nor purely an idealist. With him, the self-interest of an individual before the contract is suddenly changed into his duty towards his sovereign after the contract. If men are not all force and fraud they do not need an absolute sovereign; if they are they cannot render passive obedience to him for all time after the contract. The difficulty with Hobbes is that he ignores all tendencies and forces which bring men together and overemphasizes selfishness and mutual fear which separate them. He does not admit that men are by nature, sympathetic, generous, altruistic and gregarious and have a sense of social obligations to their fellow-beings. Hobbes is wrong not in what he affirms that is human selfishness but in what he denies that is social tendencies of men. The cynical and determinist view of human nature of Hobbes is unsound. Natural law confounds Hobbesian materialism.

Hobbes does not realize that the unit of primitive life is not an individual but a family or some other group. Political communities owe their origin to the emergence of new needs. Hobbesian man is neither a moral nor a political animal. Hobbesian contract is irrevocable. Would the extremely selfish man of the state of nature willingly agree to an irrevocable and unconditional surrender of all his natural rights? Again Hobbes held that the only alternative to the absolutism of a single individual sovereign was anarchy but the history of the middle ages believes his contention for then the power was divided between the state and the church and between the king and his feudal vassals. And the middle ages, turbulent enough did not so much represent a period of continuous anarchy! Besides, the history of the modern states shows that mixed or constitutional governments do not go for anarchy always. The Hobbesian conception of law was very narrow, the sovereign being the source and interpreter of all types of law.

With Hobbes, it was absolutism or anarchy. The only remedy for good behaviour of men was the coercive power of the sovereign. Hobbes did not realize that there were other factors besides the fear of law and punishment which kept men from relapsing into anarchy viz ‘common sense, reason, religious conviction’ and public opinion. Even wolves keep and act together because of ‘herd instinct’. Even the beasts do not hurt or kill their own species. The Hobbesian system condemns the state to purely negative functions. Its sole duty is the preservation of life and maintenance of order. The Leviathan of Hobbes is essentially a ‘policeman’. “This state is a necessary evil an instrument to defend men against their savage instincts not to achieve a free and progressive civilization”. The political society created by Hobbes is not much of a society. It is like a flock of cattle driven by the mighty Leviathan, who sums up in himself the life of all and who is a universal regulator of thoughts and actions of all. This represents a state of affairs worse than anarchy. Hobbesian position is that in the case of the sovereign, might makes right. Hobbes ignores that the sovereign is human and as such likely to serve his own interests in preference to those of his subjects. He may not be a good ‘representative’ of his people. Another defect of Hobbes is that his theory of sovereignty is one of internal sovereignty only.

Hobbes was a materialist and a rationalist. His philosophy vindicated the absolute sovereignty of whatever government happened to be in power. He bade people render unto Caesar and unto God whatever the Caesar commanded. His state absorbed the will of all its members in matters secular and spiritual and it was wrong to will or act against it. Hobbes believed that human nature was bad but he held that Hobbes it could be rendered moral by the state which must be preserved at all costs. The things which weakened the state were lack of energy in ‘rulers’, poisonous effect of seditious doctrines, the indivi­dual’s claim to private conscience and individual conduct and the popular notion that the sovereign is subject to civil laws.

It must be realized that the Hobbesian state is authoritarian but not totalitarian. It is unlike the totalitarian system based on contractual obligations. It is not anti-individualistic because the sovereign has to 'deliver the goods' to the individual by protecting him. In the Hobbesian state, there is equality of all before law and there is no privileged ruling class. The Hobbesian state is not a class state in which there is inequality of law or privilege. It may be ruled by one man or by the many and, therefore, is not based on the leader principle. Un­like the totalitarian state, it insists on the outward conformity of the subjects to law and not also inner conformity to opinions and beliefs. The Hobbesian state, unlike the totalitarian, does not swallow the individual. Hobbes gives the individual the inalienable and important right to resist when his life is in danger.

Estimate of Hobbes:

The most important contribution made by Hobbes to political thought is his theory of sovereignty. The concept of sovereignty was not properly developed before him. The concept had begun to develop in the hands of Machiavelli, Bodin and Grotius but it was Hobbes who gave it the shape and content which sovereignty hold today. Hobbes saw more clearly than anybody before him that the idea of sovereignty lay at the very root of nay theory of the state. He fixed its content, limits and functions.

The Leviathan of Hobbes aroused the indignation of almost al important interests in England. His erastianism was certainly distasteful to the Church. Devoted churchmen could not tolerate the idea of the church being a mere department of the state. The monarchists, who believed in the theory of divine right of kings, did not like his secular theory of state based on a social contract. The royalists did not like the Hobbesian view of sovereignty because it justified the de facto government of a successful dictator as much as that of a legitimate monarch and justified the absolutism of a parliament as much as that of a king. Hobbes discarded the divine right of kings in favour of the divine right of the state. The parliamentarians viewed with scorn the opposition of Hobbes to mixed government and constitutional checks. Hobbes received little notice in England till Bentham and Austin reviewed his political phi­losophy in a favourable light. Hobbes' doctrine that law is the command of a superior, and that no law can be recognized which is not enforceable by punishment was adopted by Austin and forms the basis of the latter’s system of jurisprudence. The Austanian theory of sovereignty, the modern legal theory, is substantially the Hobbesian theory of sovereign power.

Little noticed in England for the time being, the political philosophy of Hobbes created a great stir in Europe. Spoinza was in a way a political disciple of Hobbes. The Hobbesian   political system contained all the important concepts of the current political philosophy and yet Hobbes gave them his own interpretation. While Machiavelli had separated politics from religion and morals, Hobbes not only kept up the separation but subordinated religion and morals to politics. Hobbes outdid Machiavelli in his exaltation of the state for Machiavelli was never so absolutist as to declare that the laws of nature and the laws of God were to find their expression only through the interpretation and will of the sovereign. Bodin limited his sovereignty by divine laws, natural 1aws and laws of nations; the sovereignty of Hobbes is indivisible and unlimited. Hobbes agreed with Grotius that the basis of moral and legal right was reason but to Hobbes this reason was the reason of the sovereign expressed through his will only. Hobbes was in fact the first political philosopher to grasp the idea of unlimited sovereignty. His absolutism was more extreme than claimed for the popes in the medieval days. Yet Hobbes was an indivi­dualist in so far as he believed in the natural equality of men. The most distinctive contribution of Hobbes to political philos­ophy lies in his 'deriving logically from a mass of free and equal individuals the concept of an omnipotent state'. The brilliance of Hobbes is shown by the fact that he turned the theory of social compact, an instrument of early liberalism, to the defence of unlimited absolutism at a time when absolut­ism born of Divine Right of Kings was fast losing its theore­tical basis.

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