Essay on The State of Nature: Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury

Essay on The State of Nature: Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury

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In this essay, I will present three reasons as to why the absolute authority of the sovereign in Hobbes’s state of nature and social contract is justified. The three reasons Hobbes uses are: the argument from contract, the argument from authorisation and the argument from weakness of mixed or divided sovereignty. Firstly, I shall explain Hobbes’s understanding of human nature and the natural condition of humanity which causes the emergence of the social contract. I shall then analyse each argument for the absolute authority of the sovereign being justified. I shall then consider possible objections to Hobbes’s argument. I shall then show why Hobbes’s argument is successful and the absolute authority of the sovereign is justified.
Hobbes argues that human beings are desirous creatures, we are driven by our passions. He suggests that human beings biggest desire is survival. If the desire of survival is satisfied then we seek to pursue our other desires, such as acquire luxury items (Hobbes 1839-45, 58). Hobbes suggests that when we are in conditions where we are not concerned about survival, then we begin to accumulate things (Hobbes 1839-45, 58).
Hobbes explanation of the state and the sovereign arises from what he calls “the State of Nature”. The State of Nature is the absence of political authority. There is no ruler, no laws and Hobbes believes that this is the natural condition of humanity (Hobbes 1839-45, 72). In the State of Nature there is equality. By this, Hobbes means, that there is a rough equality of power. This is because anyone has the power to kill anyone (Hobbes 1839-45, 71). Hobbes argues that the State of Nature is a violent, continuous war between every person. He claims that the State of nature is a state of w...

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... the existence of the absolute authority of the sovereign there is the threat of returning to the State of Nature because there is nobody to punish anyone who breaks the social contract. Furthermore, the people have consented to the existence of the sovereign with absolute authority and they must accept that whatever the sovereign decides to do is an action that they have consented to through the social contract.

Works Cited

Finn, S. (2010) Hobbes: A Guide for the Perplexed. London: Continuum International Publishing.
Hobbes, T. (1839-45) The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; Now First Collected and Edited by Sir William Molesworth, Bart. Vol. 3. Leviathan. London: Bohn. Accessed via:
Wolff, J. (2006) An Introduction to Political Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press

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