Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hobbes - Leviathan, Part II: Of Commonwealth

17. Of the Causes, Generation, and Definition of a Common-wealth: The particularly human passions run counter to the laws of nature and thus must be subdued. The only way to do this is to give a sovereign authority the means to punish, the means to induce fear, in order to uphold the contract (114). Definition of commonwealth: "one person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all, as he shall think expedient, for their peace and common defense" (114). The institution of sovereignty is the soul of the artificial person known as the Leviathan, that fearful monster which prevents us from slipping into the state of nature, and the sovereign himself its head. He who does not have sovereign power is called subject. The sole purpose of the commonwealth is to escape the state of nature. Commonwealth can be established by force (acquisition) or by agreement (institution).

18. Of the Rights of Sovereigns by Institution: a) subjects cannot change the form of government, b) sovereign power cannot be forfeited, c) dissenters yield to majority when declaring sovereign, d) the sovereign cannot injure an innocent subject, e) the sovereign cannot be put to death, f) the sovereign may determine the acceptability of ideas and censor them when necessary, g) the sovereign prescribes legislative rules, h) the sovereign has judicial power in controversies, i) the sovereign may make war and peace, j) the sovereign may choose counselors, k) the sovereign has powers or reward and punishment, l) the sovereign may make civil appointments. Hobbes ends the chapter by admitting that sovereigns may be hurtful, but the state of nature is much worse.

19. Of the several kinds of Commonwealth by Institution, and of the Succession to Sovereign Power: a) monarchy (one sovereign), b) aristocracy (group of sovereigns), c) democracy (people = sovereign). Monarchy is best: the king's body = public, political body (two bodies). Sovereign groups do not share body with the public. Monarch can also receive better counsel, his policies will be more consistent, civil war is less likely, and the succession of power is more easily determined. Hobbes spends a few pages talking about the problem of succession to end the chapter.

20. Of Dominion, Paternal and Despotical: Sovereignty by acquisition contains all the elements of sovereignty by institution. In the case of sovereignty by institution, the sovereign's dominion is like that of a parent over a child. If there be no contract, the dominion is in the mother. As in a family, where mother and child cede power to the father in order for stability, subjects cede power to the sovereign; this is why he calls it paternal dominion. Dominion acquired is called despotical, as the relationship obtained is more of master to slave rather than father to child. But the contract, under both paternal and despotical dominion, is the same. Hobbes ends the chapter by quoting scripture to back his points.

21. Of the Liberty of Subjects: Liberty = the absence of external impediments to action. A freeman is able to do what he wants to do. Liberty need not be opposed to fear or necessity. Within the artificial bonds of the sovereign, subjects still have liberty because their "bonds" are self-imposed. The liberty of the subject is thus consistent with the unlimited power of the sovereign. We sometimes think of freedom as the freedom of the sovereign alone, but we shouldn't be misled into thinking that this is the only kind of liberty. He disapprovingly quotes Aristotle, who says that men can only be free under a democracy. In the Leviathan, though fear and power are present, as in the state of nature, the subject has consented to let the sovereign wield fear and power, and is thus still free. For Hobbes, as opposed to Aristotle, freedom can only exist when subjects are secured by a sovereign. Nonetheless, the subject has the inalienable right of self-preservation and is never bound to injure himself. The sovereign's whole function is to insure the protection of his subjects; inasmuch as the sovereign fails in this role, the contract is void and people are back in the state of nature.

22. Of Systems Subject, Political and Private: Systems of Leviathan = groups of individuals joined by some interest (towns, provinces, trade organizations, etc.). Regular systems have representatives. Reps are analogous to sovereign, but do not have absolute power. Political systems established by sovereign, private systems established by people's own volition. Each part of the Leviathan mimics other systems: individual body, family, small groups, etc.

23. Of the Public Ministers of Sovereign Power: Public ministers are employed by the sovereign to help administer the commonwealth, to help instruct the people, as judges, to execute his orders, and as counselors.

24. Of the Nutrition, and Procreation of a Commonwealth: Commodities are commonwealth's nutrition (and the public is not to be put on a diet!). The laws of distribution are dictated by the sovereign. Money is the blood that circulates throughout. The Leviathan bears children: plantations, colonies.

25. Of Counsel: Command is when a man says do this of that without giving a reason. Counsel is when someone says do this or that and provides the reasons. Counselors to the sovereign are worthy if they are knowledgeable and if their interests coincide with that of the sovereign.

26. Of Civil Laws: Civil Law = laws particular to a commonwealth which are commanded of subjects by word, writing or some other sufficient sign. The sovereign is the legislator of all civil laws, though he himself is not subject to them. The history of a law is not important in comparison to its consent by the sovereign. In every civilization, the natural law is part of the civil law. Once made, the law must be publicized in order to be enforced. Hobbes calls the comprehension of the instructions of natural reason fidelity, a branch of natural justice. Ultimately, interpretation of the law falls to the sovereign, though he may appoint lower judges to arbitrate for him in certain matters. The things that make one a good judge include: 1) a right understanding of the principle law of nature, equity, 2) contempt of unnecessary riches, 3) to be able to divest oneself of passions, 4) patience to hear. Hobbes ends the chapter by offering up a few categorizations of different kinds of law, including one division between natural (eternal) and positive (not eternal) laws, the latter of which can be both human and divine. He also distinguishes between fundamental (nec. to the existence of a commonwealth) and not fundamental laws.

27. Of Crimes, Excuses and Extenuations: A sin is a transgression of a laws and the contempt of a legislator, a commission. A crime is an omission of what the law has commanded. There is only crime in relation to a civil law. While ignorance of the natural law has to excuse, ignorance of the civil law may be excused when the perpetrator can demonstrate reasonable ignorance of a particular law. Hobbes takes some time to warn against "false teachers," who misinterpret the law, draw erroneous inferences, are led by their passions, etc. He then catalogues various crimes and their causes.

28. Of Punishments and Rewards: A punishment is an evil inflicted by public authority to the end of encouraging obedience. He lists a few qualifications of punishment, including that it must be executed by a public body, that it must be inflicted after a public trial, and that it be inflicted with an eye toward future good. He also lists various forms of punishment. The punishment of innocent subjects is against the law of nature, but it is okay to send subjects to war. The sovereign can also employ certain subjects to carry out punishments but can never ask a criminal to punish himself (again, contradicting the law of nature). The actions of the sovereign can never be punished, for he is the origin of the law. Rewards can be given to subjects either as a gift or as salary.

29. Of those things that Weaken, or tend to the Dissolution of a Commonwealth: An unhealthy Leviathan can result 1) if the sovereign lacks absolute power, 2) if there is no civil law, 3) if subjects believe in conscience over duty, 4) if subjects are faithful to the supernatural rather than the sovereign, 5) if the sovereign is subject to the laws he creates, 6) if the subjects maintain a sense of individual property, 7) if individuals divide up sovereign power, 8) if commonwealth attempts to imitate other nations, 9) if the commonwealth imitates Greeks and Romans, 10) if the Leviathan splits between the civil and the religious, 11) if the government is mixed. All of these may be considered "birth defects" which lead to civil war.

30. Of the Office of the Sovereign Representative: The office of the sovereign is there to ensure the safety of the people. The sovereign may not relinquish any rights of sovereignty. Subjects must be made dutiful, to respect their parents, to not desire to injure, and to do all of this from the heart (as if the other stuff weren't enough!). Education is the means to implanting this kind of duty.

31. Of the Kingdom of God by Nature: God's word is known in three ways: reason, revelation and prophecy, but universal laws have only been decreed by reason and prophecy. God's sovereignty is derived from his omnipotence. God's natural laws are dictated by reason and at the foundation of the Leviathan. Then a bunch of prep work for Book III, where he addresses prophetical laws.

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