answered: Requirements Brief Passage of the Week: Rubric: Resource Link: https://www.earlymoderntexts


Brief Passage of the Week:


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Life and times

  • Oxford at 15
  • Cavendish tutor
  • Translating classical texts
  • Visits Galileo
  • Leaves England for France during revolution
  • Tutor to Charles (later Charles II) (in exile in France)

The initial condition

  • A general condition of more or less equality, in more or less all respects
  • This general equality, however, combines with incompatible desires to lead to a state of inevitable natural conflict

More precisely

  • The three principles of natural conflict are
  • Desire for gain
  • Desire for safety
  • Desire for glory


  • In the state of nature we have a state of constant war
  • Because of this, in this state there is no justice nor injustice


  • Because the notions of justice and injustice presupposes something that is missing in the state of war
  • That is, there is some kind of institution which is not natural which is a prerequisite to justice
  • In other words, there is no such thing as natural justice
  • Or a natural order
  • By nature, there is neither justice, nor injustice, nor order

In the state of nature,

  • We find one absolute right and two fundamental laws of nature
  • The right of self defense
  • First law of nature
  • Seek peace [because all have a right to all]
  • Second law of nature
  • Defend oneself


  • Some rights are fungible, some are not
  • Those that are fungible can be exchanged via a contract
  • Those that are not, cannot be so exchanged
  • The right to self defense is non-fungible

Mutual transference

  • The mutual transference of a fungible right is a contract
  • Conditions for a contract:
  • Express intent
  • Something of real value going from one party to the other


  • Conditions for the expression of intent
  • It must be possible to achieve the object of the intent
  • The intention must be voluntary, i.e., it must be non-coerced

Release from a contract

  • People are freed from contracts in two ways:
  • By performance
  • By forgiveness

Self defense, self incrimination

  • Any contract whereby one gives up the right to self defense is null and void
  • Any contract whereby one incriminates oneself is also null and void


  • The motivation for holding to a contract is fear
  • Fear of the consequences of not performing

Contracts and justice

  • Without binding contracts, according to Hobbes, there is no justice
  • Why?
  • 1. Without a contract, no right is transferred
  • 2. If no rights are transferred, no one is bound to anything
  • 3. If no one is bound to anything, all things are up for grabs
  •  If everything is up for grabs, there is no justice

Without a commonwealth, no contracts

  • What binds one to a contract is mutually recognized compulsion
  • Without a state, there is no such compulsion
  • Without a state, there are no contracts
  • Without a state, there is no justice

Contracts, justice, peace

  • Without binding contracts, there is no peace
  • Without a state, there are no binding contracts
  • Without a state, there is no peace

The question of distributive justice

  • How are basic goods, rights and liberties to be distributed in society?
  • Various conceptions
  • Egalitarianism (see Marx)
  • Utilitarianism
  • Kantian strategies (see Rousseau)
  • Non patterned procedural views (see Locke)

Hobbes’ picture

  • Note: this can only occur upon an entry into a state of peace
  • First, no person can reserve a right to themselves they wouldn’t allow every other
  • Second, things that can’t be divided and reserved to individuals are to be held in common

The move from private appetite to public welfare

  • The only way to ensure the promotion of public welfare is the constitution of a commonwealth
  • For Hobbes, this requires the conference of all public rights/concerns/power to a single person or assembly as the sovereign

The structure of the sovereignty

  • Instituted by a unanimous vote
  • No covenant or contract from sovereign to subject
  • Sovereignty is indissoluble
  • All are subject
  • The sovereign has all the power that doesn’t intrude on the natural rights retained by individuals

The superiority of monarchy

  • Unity of concern for concern for self qua person and concern for commonwealth
  • Increased liberty to consult diverse opinion
  • The resolutions of a single person are more apt to constancy
  • Less disagreement within the sovereignty

The liberty of subjects

  • All have liberty to do what the law allows
  • The law is given by the sovereign
  • No limitations on the sovereign by this liberty
  • Note: all sovereign states are in a state of nature with respect to each other

The general formula of liberty

  • In submitting to a sovereign, we achieve both rights and obligations
  • The right to self defense is in-alienable
  • So, if our action frustrates that end for which a commonwealth is created, we have no liberty; if it doesn’t, we do
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