Monday, March 1, 2010

The Leviathan, Part I

Leviathan: Part One
Thomas Hobbes, 1668

The piece begins by asserting the mechanistic notion of nature and physics, with the heart like a spring, and man the most perfect creation of the grand artificer, God. Under that metaphor, then art imitates man, the “most excellent work of nature, man.” The Commonwealth, or Leviathan, is like a giant automaton, created to protect man. Sovereignty is an artificial soul; the magistrates artificial joints; rewards and punishments, nerves; laws, reason and will; magistrates memory.

The aim of the book, then, is to discuss this artificial body in five parts. 1) the artificer, man. 2) how and by what covenants it is made. 3) the rights and just power of the sovereign, and how those are forfeited. 3) The Christian commonwealth. 4) the Kingdom of Darkness.

Chapter I: Of Sense
Thoughts are a representation of a body, or object, outside of us, created when an object impresses itself on an organ associated with that particular sense. So we see when an object imposes itself on the eye, hear when a sound strikes our ears, etc. Sense, Hobbes says, is “nothing other than original fancy, the pressure, that is, by the motion, of external things” (7). The object, then, is primary.

Chapter 2: Of Imagination
The imagination is something like the memory of a sense impression/representation. After we have closed our eyes, Hobbes argues, an image of the thing we just observed remains with us, though it is swiftly overshadowed by new images. Thus, imagination is “decaying sense.” Imagination and memory are the same thing, just emphasizing different aspect. When we focus on the image, the thing-itself, we speak of “imagination.” When we focus on the sense of decay and loss, we speak of “memory.”

Experience is the memory of many things; dreams are the imaginations of those who sleep. Like Descartes, Hobbes spends some time worrying about how we distinguish between waking and sleeping, given that we have images in each. He also worries how we explain the images of dreams if we believe all representations come from an object acting on the body. The answer is that images are created by the internal motions of the body, with different zones corresponding to different types of dreams, and remain particularly vivid, because there are no other stimuli to offer competing images. The relationship between consciousness in sleeping and waking life is asymmetrical. I can know while awake that I am not dreaming, because the absurdity of my waking thoughts are immediately apparent, but while dreaming I cannot differentiate between the two states.

From here, he launches into a charming discussion of superstitions, claiming that much superstition emerged from the inability to distinguish waking and dreaming images. He argues basically that witches deserve to be burned, not because they have the power to do anything dangerous, but rather because they're manipulating the masses, and in duping them making the masses into less obedient subjects.

Understanding is the imagination raised by words and voluntary signs. Both men and animals possess some form of understanding. Man's understanding is unique in encompassing his will, conceptions, thoughts, those of other men, and most generally of language.

Chapter 3: Of the Consequence or Train of Imaginations
By consequence, Hobbes means that our thoughts can follow each other, rather than just being discrete images. Mental discourse can either be unguided, stream-of-consciousness, or regulated by some desire or passion. Regulated thought can either start from an effect and seek its cause, or start with a cause and seek all its possible effects. “In sum, the discourse of the mind, when it is governed by design, is nothing but seeking, or the faculty of invention” (13).

Seeking the lost past is remembrance; orienting oneself toward the future based is prudence/providence/foresight. The essence of man consists in sense, thoughts, and trains of thoughts. All other capabilities are merely one of these capacities improved through training.

Hobbes ends the piece by asserting, contra Anselm, that everything we imagine is finite. Thus, we can't imagine God, and when we call him ”infinite” we are merely honoring him,not actually ascribing any predicates to him.

Chapter 4: Of Speech
Society is predicated on speech, without which we would be animals. Hobbes describes speech, the noblest human invention, as names and their connections, which man uses to register their thoughts, recall them when past, and declare them to others for “mutual utility.” God started speech by giving Adam the concept of names, and basic evolution led to verbs, etc.

We use speech to register causes, teach our discoveries to others, articulate our desires and purposes in order to receive help, and finally to please ourselves. Man can abuse speech through incorrectly registering thoughts, speaking metaphorically, lying, and insulting.

Names serve to remember, and may be proper or universal and can be joined together in propositions. If a proposition correctly refers to the state of affairs, it is true. When it signifies something incomprehensible, it is false. All truth and falsity are properties of language, Hobbes claims. Thus, when setting out on any work, a thinker should be careful to state clearly his terminology, to avoid saying something absurd. Hence, the method of the book.

Understanding is conception caused by speech. However, since, in speech, we impose names to signify our conceptions, one should always be wary of a statement's prejudices. As Hobbes says, depending on their passions, one man may name cruelty that which another considers justice, and so on.

Chapter 5: Of Reason and Science
Reason is conceptualized mathematically, as conceiving a sum through additions or subtractions. Logicians are basically the mathematicians of words, adding or subtracting them to create propositions, which they can then evaluate.

“Reason is nothing but reckoning of the consequences of general names agreed upon for the marking and signifying of our thoughts; I say marking them when we reckon by ourselves and signifying when we demonstrate or approve our reckonings before other men” (23).

Reason is supposed to start from common definitions and reason their consequences (which is why we need to analyze definitions.) Error is a deception, presuming something past which never existed, or to come which never will. In contrast, absurdity is when we make meaningless sentences. Only man can be absurd (24). Reason is the way and end of man, though it is often clouded by absurdities.
There are two types of wisdom arrived at through reason; prudence, which is knowledge based on experience, and sapience, which is science, or knowledge gained through skill/practice.

Chapter 6: The Passions
Motions can be divided between vital (the flow of blood, etc.) and voluntary (movement made at will).

In man, voluntary motions also include speech. Since all movement presupposes a thought about where one moves, “imagination is the first internal beginning of all voluntary motion” (27). The small beginnings of motions, before fully actualized, are called “endeavor.”

Endeavor turned toward something which causes it is called appetite or desire, while, when it turns away form what causes it, it's called aversion. Appetite and aversion are essentially motions in different directions.

Love and desire share the same motion of turning toward an object, the difference being that in love the object is usually present, and in desire, absent. So too with hate and aversion. We hate the object which is present, we have an aversion to the object which is absent. We only have desire for things we have experienced as pleasurable, while we feel aversion both for things we have directly experienced as painful and those we suspect would be painful.

We contemn those things we neither desire or hate. Contempt is an immobility of the heart. Because man's body is in constant flux, it is impossible that the same objects should always arouse the same passions.

Good and evil don't say anything about the objects themselves, but rather simply the reaction to them. Those we desire we call good; those we have an aversion to, we call evil; those we contemn, we call vile or inconsiderable. The individual man makes these distinctions in the absence of a commonwealth, but in the presence of one a judge or representative decides which objects deserve which appellations.
Good can be good in promise; good in effect, as the end desired; good as means. Likewise, the same distinctions apply to evil.

The appearance or sense of the motion of the appetite we either call “delight or trouble of the mind.” When we derive pleasure form the object itself, we call it “pleasure of the sense,” or, if displeasure, “pain.” If we derive pleasure from its consequences, we call it “joy,” displeasure, “grief.”

Everything derives from appetite, desire, love, aversion, hate, joy and grief.
Appetite which might be gratified, hope; unlikely to be gratified, despair. Aversion with opinion of hurt, fear; the same with hope of averting hurt by resistance, is courage. Sudden courage, anger. Constant hope, confidence. Constant despair, diffidence.
Love results in: kindness, natural lust, luxury, the passion of love and jealousy.
Contempt: magnanimity, valor, fortitude, liberality, impudence, cruelty.
Desire: revengefulness, curiosity, ambition, pusillanimity.
Fear: superstition, true religion, panic, terror.
Joy:admiration, glorying, vainglory.
Grief: dejection, shame, pity, emulation, envy

Deliberation is the constant shift of desires, appetites , and aversion in the mind when considering an object or possibility. It's impossible in the past, since nothing can be done about those possibilities. Even animals deliberate and possess will, the last appetite in deliberation. Will is what moves a desire from an inclination to a voluntary action.

Different parts of speech usually correspond to different passions (zB: imperative, desire and aversion), but these may deceive, so the best gauge of another's passion is body language, tone of voice. Continual success at obtaining desires is called “felicity,” and signifies the only type of joy we may know, contra the speculations of scholastics.

Chapter 7: Of the Ends or Resolutions of Discourse
All discourse driven by desire knowledge ends either is resolution or in someone giving up. (My, that's optimistic). Opinion is the presumption that something will or will not be, has or has not been, and holds an indefinite character. Judgment is the resolute and final sentence in discourse. No discourse can end in absolute knowledge of a fact, either past or future, because knowledge of a past fact relies on sense and memory, both of which are uncertain and prone to decay. Knowledge of a future fact, or consequence, can only be known hypothetically.

The difference between science and opinion is essentially that science takes care to possess correct definitions, logically joined with other affirmations,whereas opinion is not nearly as methodical and prone to absurdity.

Hobbes thinks that our idea of conscience stems from the initial sense of being conscious of something. As so much depended on men accurately reporting what they knew, it became extremely important not to 'violate one's conscience.' He then thinks, though, conscience began being used more metaphorically, until it became a cover for men to adhere blindly to their opinions, because, to renounce them would be to 'violate conscience.'

Belief or faith is a type of discourse predicated on trust in an assertion or fact given by another. One can either believe or trust another (direct object) or believe in, in which case we are discussing affirmation of a creed. Yet, when our belief doesn't come from natural reason, we're believing the authority of men. It's not God who we honor or trust by believing certain things about him,in the absence of revelation, but rather men. Similarly, when we distrust propositions about God, it does not mean we dishonor God, but rather doubt the man who asserts them.

Chapter 8: Of the Virtues Commonly Called Intellectual and Their Contrary Defects
Virtue is something valued in all subjects and consists of comparison. There are natural and acquired virtues. Natural is “wit” acquired by use and experience, but without instruction or culture. It consists primarily of quickness and discipline/direction. Acquired wit, by contrast, is reason, which is”grounded on the right use of speech” and produces the sciences.

The differences in quickness stem from the differences in passions. Differences in wit are determined by difference in desire for riches, knowledge, and honor – which is to say, power. A man who lacks great passion for these will correspondingly lack much wit. “For as to have no desire is to be dead” (41). Thoughts function as spies, scouts, sent out ahead to seek means to gratify desire. To have desire for everything is giddiness, or distraction, while to passion too strongly is madness.

Passions may be caused by violence done to organs, or passions may cause damage to organs. Either way, one is mad. Madness stems from pride, self-conceit,, or dejection. Pride makes man prone to wrath; dejection makes on melancholic, here, subjected to causeless fears. The passions, when they tend toward evil,are simply degrees of madness.

Hobbes holds the fascinatingly suspicious idea that most are, at heart, a little mad, but oftentimes this doesn't emerge until men are gathered in a group and mob mentality takes over. Madness, in essence is “too much appearing passion,” as evidenced by man's behavior when drunk,which Hobbes sees as simply our inner life made public.

Generally, people have ascribed madness to passions or demons. Hobbes obviously thinks the former, but then has to deal with why Jesus spoke of demons. The answer: Scripture is meant to prepare men to be obedient subjects of God, not to give natural truths. Thus, whether or not Jesus had a correct theory of madness is irrelevant.

He ends by citing philosophy as a final type of madness, as a group of men gather together and start speaking absurdities. By philosophy he means the Scholastics.
All together, an awesome chapter.

Chapter 9: Of the Several Subjects of Knowledge
Knowledge is either knowledge of fact or the consequence of an affirmation. History is the register of knowledge of fact. The science that registers the consequences of affirmations is called philosophy. Types of philosophy: science of body, magnitude, and motion, which the first philosophy; magnitude defined by figure or number is geometry; motions of internal parts of body is physics; astronomy, body of the universe; meteorology movement of celestial bodies; study of man leads to politics or civil philosophy.

Chapter 10: Of Power, Worth, Dignity, Honor, and Worthiness
Power is man's ability to procure some current or future good. Natural power consists of natural faculties of mind or body (intelligence, speed, strength, etc), while instrumental powers are those which are means to acquire more power, as in reputation, etc.

The goal and greatest human power consists of gaining friends,servants, sycophants. One can do that with reputation of power, liberality, patriotism, prudence, or with various forms of charisma, such as nobility, affability, eloquence, beauty, etc.

The value or worth of a man can be quantified as how much one would give for use of his power. The price is always relative. A man's public worth is his dignity, while to pray to another for aid is to honor. Here follows a long list of ways to honor a man, through flattery, fear, love, trust, hope, obedience, etc. The sovereign can also honor his inferiors by bestowing rights or titles. Honorable, is whatever quality, possession, or action is a sign of power. To be dishonorable is to lack power.

Another long list follows, which, while interesting, is not particularly pertinent to the main point, which is mainly that honor is distinct from morality. Whether or not action is just or unjust doesn't make it honorable; rather, only whether or not it displays power.

In contrast to all of this, worthiness refers to a man's aptitude, or ability to do a certain thing will. Merit, in contrast, means to have a claim on something. So one may be worthy of receiving a certain office, because he or she is best qualified for it, but not necessarily merit it, because he has no hereditary right to it. A fascinating perspective on meritocracy.

Chapter 11: Of the Differences of Manners
Manners are the qualities of mankind that concern their living together in peace and unity. There is no telos or summum bonum. “Felicity is the progress of desire from one object to another.” Diverse passions create diverse objects of desire, and diverse means of gratifying them, but the structure is the same.

The most basic desire is that of power, mostly because power provides security. Desire of riches, fame,
honor, etc., usually lead to war in order to gain them, while desire of luxury tends to lead men to unite for peace. Desire for praise leads men to laudable actions.

Hate stems from some sort of inequality in situation. I hate an equal when he does me a service I can't hope to return; likewise, I hate the man I have injured, because I can expect revenge from him.
The ambitious man turns to politics; frugal men, when wealthy, are unlikely to achieve greatness.
Ignorance of causes/science makes man prone to listen to the advice of others; ignorance of the causes and original rule of law predisposes man to take custom as the guide for his actions. Ignorance of natural causes predisposes man to be gullible; anxiety of the future makes man inquire into causes to better prepare for the future. Curiosity – no longer an evil, like in Augustine – draws man to inquire into causes, and, in doing so, to reach the idea of the first cause. Thus, the seeds of religion.

Chapter 12: Of Religion
The seed of religion must be in man, because only man shows signs on religion. The impulse stems from man's tendency to observe the relation of cause and effect, and from the there to assume that all effects must have a cause. This fills man with anxiety. He is constantly seeking a way to secure himself against evil and attain the good, so as not to worry about the future. Combining ignorance of causes, the conviction that causes must exist, and anxiety, man comes to believe in a first cause, or invisible powers, which control the world, even if he can't understand how. Essentially, then, man ascribes power to invisible beings out of ignorance, develops superstitions to placate them, and honors them as they would other men, with gifts, all the while trying to find signs to predict the future.

Out of these seeds, some men have created their own versions of religion, while others have done so under the guidance of God. The Gentiles are the foil for the Judeo-Christian religion. Essentially, their religions take random, earthly material as objects of worship. Mostly, these religions were established by the powerful as a form of keeping order in the polis. They relied heavily on idolatry, spurious, nonsensical prophecies, and and sought to convince the masses that the rulers were divine. Eventually, the people became disenchanted with these religions, seeing that they advanced the power of the elite, who seemed not to place much faith in the signs they and beliefs they tried to impose on others.

In contrast, the Judeo-Christian tradition procured actual miracles. Only miracles, true prophecy, or almost otherworldly felicity/virtue can reasonably persuade men to the truth of a religion, as supernatural beliefs require supernatural signs. Eventually, of course, the Israelites did stray, but significantly, only once the miracles had stopped.

Part of the reason Christianity made so many converts was because so many were so disenchanted with the Gentile religion. From here, Hobbes draws a parallel to the Protestant reformation, which similarly drew on the disaffection of the masses with the Catholic church.

Chapter 13: Of the Natural Condition of Mankind
This is basically the part of Hobbes everyone knows. People are essentially equal in their natural powers, at least enough so that it's incredibly difficult to overpower one man without the assistance of others. But once one overpowers a man, it becomes necessary to worry about being attacked in turn. So, left to their own devices, men engage in an endlessly process of trying to augment their own powers at the expense of others. Society degenerates into a state of “War of all against all.” War, according to Hobbes, is not simply the battle, but, rather, the tract of time in which open hostility exists. In this situation, “nothing can be unjust,” and cunning, force, and deceit, are considered cardinal virtues. Eventually, men are driven by reason to formulate laws for the general good. Hobbes ends by noting that he doubts the whole world was ever in this state at once. But notes there are still regions where people are in this state.

Chapter 14: Of the First and Second Natural Laws and of Contracts
Each man has a right of nature, which is to say a right to do anything for self-preservation. Liberty is the absence of external restraints. A Law of nature is “a general rule found out by reason , by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life or taketh away the means of preserving the same, and to omiteth that by which he he thinketh it may be best preserved” (79). Right, in essence, speaks of liberty, which law speaks of obligation.

In the state of nature, everything is allowable, because in a war of all against all,anything you can do to harm an enemy falls under the purview of your right to self-preservation. Thus, no one is safe, and people have to renounce some of their liberty to reach a state mutual protection.
Men may lay down their rights by renouncing them or transferring them to another (i.e. the sovereign). Once he transfers his rights, he is obligated not in way to hinder the actions of the man to whim he gives his rights.

People can only renounce rights in order to gain some good. It is impossible to renounce the right to self-defense, which we recognize by making guards attend executions. Rights or things are transferred in covenants. When the transfer is not mutual, it is called giving a gift, or grace. Words cannot bind one to give a gift, unless stated in the present tense. (“I will give this to you tomorrow” is different from, “I will that you have have this tomorrow.”)

Contracts are void when reasonable suspicion presents itself that the other will not come through, as in the state of war. In that case, to give something to the enemy would be equivalent to weakening yourself, which violates the right of self-preservation. Mere words aren't binding in a state of war; rather, one must swear by God. In a civil state, though, a covenant can only be declared invalid if some new condition or piece of knowledge about it arises. It's impossible to make a covenant with an animal or God (unless through revelation).

Covenants may be dismissed by fulfilling them or having them forgiven. Covenants entered to in a state of fear are binding.

Chapter 15: Of Other Laws of Nature
Justice and injustice only come into being with the establishment of covenants. The definition of injustice is break a covenant. While it's true there is only strength in the state of nature, it would be idiotic to apply those rule to a civil states, essentially because safety depends on trusting your confederates and being trusted by them in turn. If you cavalierly lie and break covenants, society will expel you, which will end in death. Or, if society doesn't expel you, it's only because it made a mistake, and in that case you're making a terrible bet to assume society will be wrong.

There is a difference between justice when applied to men and actions. A man may perform a few unjust actions and still be considered just, on the whole. An action, though, is judged just or unjust independent of past actions.

Just as justice is given meaning in the context of a preexisting covenant, so too is gratitude dependent of a preexisting gift. On of the laws of nature, stemming from the desire for peace, is that men not do anything that should make their benefactors repent of generosity.

Similarly, men must strive to accommodate themselves to others, and, out of caution about his own future, forgive those who desire pardon. In revenges, one ought not look at the past evil, but the good that follows from revenge. And, since showing contempt provokes men to war, people ought to tamp down on that impulse.

Once entering into a contract, men ought to avoid appropriating for themselves any rights which they would not want others to hold over them. They ought not be arbiters in their own disputes, either.
Basically, in order for society to function, people have to try not to undermine it, or to create/submit to laws which promote injustice, ingratitude, inequity, arrogance, or pride.

Chapter 16: Of Persons, Authors, and Things Personated
A person is he whose words or actions are considered his own, or representing another, whether true or in fiction. (i.e. a person is embedded in speech). A natural person speaks his own words;a feigned or artificial person speaks those of another (presumably like a character in a play). To personate is to act or represent oneself or another. The author owns the words being acted and it is by his authority that an actor acts. An actor can bind himself to an author by a covenant and, in doing so, assumes the consequences of the act. However, no actor is bound to a covenant that defies the laws of nature.

Institutions can't be personated, but children, idiots, and the insane can by guardians. Children, et al, can't be considered authors in any binding sense until emerging into adulthood/sanity.

Both idols and the true God may be personated. Likewise, the multitude may be personated through a representative, but only to a degree in keeping with the amount of authority they grant him. If there are contradictory voices in the multitude personated, then majority rules. The author can either own the action of another “simply,” or “conditionally,” as is the case with “sureties” or “sponsors.”

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