Thomas Hobbes’ main arguments on absolutism

Thomas Hobbes was a 17th Century philosopher who is famous for his work on absolutist governments and what life would be like if the powers of government were run in an absolutist fashion.  He captured his main theories and arguments in his book Leviathan.  I read a small excerpt, chapters 13-14, from this book and, combined with my RPC course lectures, found he had three main arguments on absolutism.  Hobbes’ worldview was extreme.  He argued that, in a state of nature, everyone is the potential murderer of everyone else, that societies would be in constant war if it were not for governments, and that the only real solution to attain peace is for people to give up their rights to one sovereign ruler.

WE ARE ALL POTENTIAL MURDERERS

Hobbes believed in human equality but not in the way that you or I might view equality, as something positive.  Rather, his view was the most pessimistic way possible; that everyone is equally the potential murderer of anybody else.

In the state of nature, or a society without government, Hobbes could only imagine the worst of people.  He visualized humans as irrational beings, acting only on irrational passions, not reason, to solve their problems.  Anger and jealousy and other self-preserving emotions, are what truly motivate people, he said.  Take, for example, the emotion of jealousy.  Because all people feel it, there is an equal potential for all people to act one specific way, which is murdering the one you are jealous of.   This then makes all people potential murderers, because all potential is equal.  In other words, we all have the equal ability to be murderers.

CONSTANT VIOLENCE

In the hypothetical Hobbesian world (see points 3-4), along with excessive murder there would be a constant all-against-all war and violence.  Hobbes theorized there was only one thing that would and could keep the people from never-ending violence.  He believed that government was the answer.

Hobbes surmised that government was the solution because it could provide everything necessary for people to be able to live in harmony.  It provides, for example, the right for people to defend themselves against those seeking to harm them.  How can someone be jealous of their neighbor who has the exact same rights and items as them?  Government is also necessary to punish those that disobey laws or commit crimes.

Hobbes was also of the opinion that the people were incapable of peace on their own. The government would enforce a state of peace on the people.   However, it would enforce peace for a price.

GOVERNMENT PROVIDES PEACE — AT A PRICE

Hobbes proposed that “…men are commanded to endeavor peace” (Leviathan, ch. 14) and that all people and countries should attempt peace with others before recklessly rushing to war. However, Hobbes then added that the only way to achieve peace is for the people to lay down their rights, and submit to one sovereign power.

Some examples of the rights that would be most likely to be taken away from the people by one sovereign in exchange for peace are the right to bear arms for personal self-defense, and protection of life, property and liberty.  Without this right to property or liberty, or even your life, there is nothing stopping the government from taking anything they want.  The people would become slaves.

Giving up rights to a sovereign ruler is submitting to an empire.  Hobbes’ point is that without an absolutist empire — a government controlling multiple territories all under one ruler — there can be no peace.  Hobbes’ apparent belief is that you could not have your rights and be peaceful too.

CONCLUSION AND SOME OPINIONS

Thomas Hobbes developed some contradicting, even a little absurd, theories and philosophies on absolutism. He felt that people are the potential equals of each other, even those who are murderers. He believed that without government there would be constant war.  Finally, he said that government could provide peace if people relinquished their rights.  In short, Hobbes felt that absolutism was the only sensible way to rule a country.

Absolutism may sound like an out-dated concept studied hundreds of years ago by philosophers, but in no way is its influence gone.  Countries today still battle other countries for power and control.  Referring to recent events in Syria and how a particular government and world power behaves today, Michael S. Rozeff made a compelling connection to Hobbes.  He wrote,

“Hobbes proposed that without a central ruler everyone would fight one another, or that taking would dominate making. People would then rationally and willingly give up rights to a sovereign in order to obtain peace and regime that allowed making, not taking, to predominate…  There is therefore a powerful incentive for states to cede their “rights” to a central sovereign, which then is an empire that enforces the peace within its realm. Such an empire has the incentive to conquer or at least subdue peripheral states in one way or another.”

Hearing this statement, I do not believe absolutism has any other purpose except to create an empire where the people’s rights are taken away and they are forced to follow and obey as slaves.

Quinn Palmer

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The Three Stages of Cell Signaling

Just like how you communicate or talk with someone, the cells in your body use a simple yet sophisticated form of communication, which is vital to keep it healthy and functioning properly.  This communication process is called cell signaling.  We can break down this cycle into three stages: message reception, transduction, and response. Continue reading “The Three Stages of Cell Signaling”

The Basics of Constitutionalism

I recently learned about constitutionalism as an important feature in the fabric of Western Civilization.  I had heard of the US Constitution as a document, but I now realize I was mostly ignorant of the underlying principles and historical basis that influenced the Founding Fathers. Tom Woods helped me understand that any “fundamental power that limits government powers” (RPC lecture no. 33) is the essence of constitutionalism. Continue reading “The Basics of Constitutionalism”

The biggest economic decline of the 17th Century

Since starting my RPC course on Western Civilization history, I have learned about things in European history that I didn’t even know happened and events that were incredibly devastating.  The French Wars of Religion and Oliver Cromwell’s tyrannical rule are just a few examples.  However, one event stands out and that is the economic decline of Spain in the 1600’s.

Continue reading “The biggest economic decline of the 17th Century”

A Turning Point

In his autobiography, The Persecutor, Sergei Kourdakov shares many experiences that can be considered turning points in his life.  One is when he finished schooling with the highest marks in his class, and another is when he joined the KGB.  Some were more important than others, but turning points nonetheless.  A turning point is, as described by the New Oxford American Dictionary, “a time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results.” Reading his autobiography has helped me to examine some of my life and realize I’ve already had several events that have influenced who I am now or changed the expected course of my life.  I want to share with you one recent turning point of mine.

Continue reading “A Turning Point”

Glorious Revolution: Why is it Glorious?

This week’s post is about the Glorious Revolution during the 17th Century.  But what is it that makes it so glorious?  What was being revolutionized?

The Glorious Revolution started in 1688  and is famous, and named ‘Glorious’ for the fact that the throne was shifted from a legitimate ruler to an illegitimate one without civil war breaking out.  James II was King of England at the time.  Many people didn’t like James as their King because he was a Catholic.  After James’ father, Charles I, ruled as a Protestant and his older brother, Charles II, not having  a set religion when he was King, it now seemed, to the people, that James was wanting to re-establish Catholicism.  The people seemed to have good reason for believing this, too! James was consistently appointing Catholic priests and judges to assist him as King.  Even though James liked the idea of religious toleration, people did not trust him because he was Catholic.  They believed that he adopted religious toleration just so that Catholicism could be practiced again.  This fear of James re-introducing Catholicism and the fear of an absolutist rule scared the people, and seven Protestant nobles into asking William of Orange, the husband of James II’s eldest daughter, Mary II, for help with removing James from the throne.  James, not willing to fight William, just gathered his family and fled to France.

Here is what made the revolution so glorious.  The throne was taken without any civil war or fighting!   William and Mary then took back the throne, which people were very happy about because both William and Mary were Protestant.

William and Mary then created the Bill of Rights which sets the King’s power apart from Parliament’s power.  It stated that the King would no longer have as much power as before.  You can read the entire Bill of Rights here

Never before in history had such an illegitimate transfer of power gone so smoothly!  James was the legitimate ruler and William was not, but he was trying still to take the throne. This illegitimate claim to the throne alone would have been enough to start a war, but the whole revolution went without any bloodshed or violence.

Some may feel that James was a coward for giving up his throne without a fight.  I actually feel that James was wise.  He likely knew that staying and fighting would probably be the worst thing that could happen to his people.  I believe that he would rather save his people and sacrifice his reign instead of  putting them through a war.  He knew he would probably lose anyway. Not even his own subjects, liked him so why would they support him?  I also feel that people were so caught up in their own fear and so afraid of the past that they completely overlooked giving  James a chance to prove himself.   James was the rightful king, but his power had been usurped anyway!  All because he was accused of possibly introducing Catholicism back into England.

Whether he would have reinstated Catholicism as the state religion or not, I feel he still should’ve been given a chance.

Quinn Palmer

John Locke: Owning property to keep government in it’s place

Government has no other end, but the preservation of property. — John Locke

I think this quote means that government has no other purpose but to help it’s citizens acquire property and to protect them from anybody that might try to take it from them.

Wow.  If you’ve ever followed politics, this is definitely not the focus of our government today!  Imagine someone advocating this on Fox News or radio talk show.  They’d cut him right off.  Who is this Locke dude?  Before learning about him this week I did not know anything about him.  I want to share with you why I instantly admired his views and his life’s work.  In particular, I am intrigued by his thoughts on private property

Continue reading “John Locke: Owning property to keep government in it’s place”

Oliver Cromwell’s Rule: Unpleasant for Everyone

While I was learning about Oliver Cromwell this week, I not only thought about what it was that he did, but I also thought about what it was like for all the people under his rule.  What was life like for them?

Continue reading “Oliver Cromwell’s Rule: Unpleasant for Everyone”

A Change of Heart(-attack)

In my English Course for the Ron Paul Curriculum, I was asked to read the book: A Bus of My Own by James Lehrer.  James Lehrer, more casually known as Jim Lehrer, was a news reporter and fictional writer during the 1950’s.  He retired in 2011 as a news-anchor for the PBS NewsHour.

There was one part, however, where Mr. Lehrer goes through a heart-attack.  The part that I found interesting was not the heart-attack itself, but that the heart-attack literally changed his life.

Mr. Lehrer survived the heart-attack and didn’t suffer any permanent physical or mental damage.    His lifestyle had to change though, and he knew it.

Lehrer decided to change his current diet, which he described as that “of a pimply faced fifteen year-old.”  He didn’t like the new diet at first, but it was loads healthier for him.   He admitted that he was a big smoker for quite a while and that his smoking was probably what caused the attack.  He also said though that because of the attack, he no longer felt the desire or need to smoke.  Previous times, he had tried to quit but it never stuck.  It always came back.  Now, the desire to smoke was simply gone.

When he got back to work he made sure that he made time to take regular naps between airing times and other work.  He found that he had more time to write fiction.  He only had one other novel already published previously and had not had published anything after that.

The heart attack brought about a sudden urge for Mr. Lehrer to change his lifestyle and become better.  It was a good heart attack!  Those are probably two words you never thought you would hear put together: ‘good’ and ‘heart-attack!’

So, although Mr. Lehrer was able to turn his life around and start doing things he enjoyed, not many people are able to go through a heart-attack and survive.   What I feel I can take from this is that, I don’t have time to not do things that make me happy.  To surround myself with friends and family and to make life something worth living.   I guess it takes a near-death experience to be able to appreciate life.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student