TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1 State Of
Nature … … … … … 1
1.2 Laws In
Prepolitical Society … … … 6
EVALUATION OF SOCIAL HUMANITY … 11
Theories Concerning The Origin Of Civil Society... 13
Concept Of Social Contract … … 17
Commonwealth … … … … … 29
2.4 The Sovereignty … … … … … … 34
POLITICAL RIGHT IN HOBBESIAN THEORY … 39
Of Political Right … … … … 39
Individual Right In The Society … … … 40
Right Of The Sovereign … … … … 46
3.4 The Weakness
Of The Sovereign… … … 51
EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION … … 54
Criticisms … … … … … … 54
Conclusion … … … … … … 61
BIBLIOGRAPHY … … … … … … 63
Hobbes is the founding father of
modern political philosophy. He was directly or indirectly known to have set
the terms of debate about the fundamentals of political life right into our own
time. His thesis based on the political philosophy proposes that a society,
should accept an unaccountable sovereign as a sole political authority. He
strives to make this modern system broad enough to account, on the scientific
principles, for all the fact of nature, including human behavior both in its
individual and social aspects.
He intends to show not what
government actually infant is, but what it must be so as to control
successfully bags whose motivation is that of machine. He exhibited human
nature as governed by a single fundamental law.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The problem of social unrest in all
ages generated a lot of questions and inquiring into the natural state of man.
Many philosophers came up in attempt to answer these questions. Thomas Hobbes
(1568-1679) an English philosopher witnessed this type of social unrest and
strife in his country England in the 17th century. He witnessed the
bitter fight between the king and parliament, which made him to flee to France
twice during his lifetime.
So it is this background of
abnormality of life situation that agitated Hobbes to delve into finding a
solution to the problem of political anarchy. Hobbes advocated the coming
together of people under social contract in other to achieve stable society who
by means of covenant surrendered all their right and power to one man or
assembly of men. This sovereign formed promulgated laws for the maintenance of
peace and good of all the people. However, Hobbes did permit that if the
sovereign fails to maintain order and peace, the subjects have the right to
change the system of government.
In this work, therefore, the aim is
to examine these rights as suggested by Thomas Hobbes, the great political
philosopher of the sixteenth century and explore how those rights are
distributed and preserved.
In order to facilitate the Hobbes
view on politics, the entire work is divided into four chapters. Chapter One
discuses the natural law and the state of nature, which he discovered before
postulating the common wealth, as we will see in the law of social contract.
Then Chapter two talks about the theories concerning the origin of civil
society especially Hobbes’ social contract. It also delved into common wealth
and the sovereign. Chapter Three takes a serious look on the concept of
political rights, individual rights and the rights of the sovereign. This
chapter came to a conclusion with the source of the weakness of the common
wealth. Lastly, Chapter Four deals with the critical evaluation and conclusion
on Thomas Hobbes’ State of nature and political right.
In this work of Thomas Hobbes on
State of Nature and Political Right is all about a Critique and the thematic
study of the nature and right etc.
The problem of social unrest in all
ages generated a lot of questions and enquiries into the natural state of man.
It is in attempt to answer these questions that many political philosophical
ideas came to lime light.
Plato’s pretext for discussing
justice in the state is in order to illuminate questions about individual. He
is clearly and also deeply concerned with the utopian republic, which he
created. He addressed the question of
how such a political system could ever come about and concluded that the only
hope is to rest power in the hand of philosopher king. In his book, the
republic, he advocated that the philosopher is the best leader because he is
the individual who would use his authority with utmost discretion. Plato holds
The state in its present form is like
the ship lurching around in the hands of the unskilled crew. Only in the hands
of a skilled navigator will it be kept under control: and the philosopher
despised as he might be, is the only person in possession of the knowledge
required to steer the state”.
Aristotle, like Plato,
opines that politics goes with ethic. He sees the society as natural and
virtuous life as the end of man. It is the virtuous man that should be endowed
with political authority over others. In a word, Aristotle is in support of the
moral politicians rather than the political moralist who bend morality to suit
their politics. For a person to rule, he must have rationality in order to
bring out the master plan. He maintained that for any individual to be a good
leader and a reliable authority he must be good and virtuous. And this for him
could be obtained by three means thus;
Natural endowment we have at
birth; the habit we form; and the rational principle within us .It follows that
all these three power of man be turned to agree. The power of rational
principle will play a great part in the modification…’’
Therefore, Aristotle holds that those
who should wear the mantle of authority or leadership in the society most
attain the virtues of justice, honesty and knowledge among others.
In the modern trend of thought, John
Locke holds that the criterion for acquiring political authority is by public
consent .By this he opines that it is the duty of everybody to democratically
confer political authority on the elected body to rule the rest of the people
for their common good.
Almost extremely and radically
emerged a man known as Nicollo Machiavelli with a total different view of
political authority. In his book The Prince he said that there is no limit to
the power of sovereign. Thus he opines; Politics is a do-or –die game; therefore
political authority must be acquired and maintained by all means”. In the game of politics he believes
with Thrasymachus that might is right. Hence the end justified the means, and
he is a progenitor of power politics as it is today.
Thomas Hobbes was in absolute disagreement with the Aristotle
assertion that Man is by nature a political animal. Anyone who by his nature
and not simply by ill –luck has no state is either too bad or supper human. His
view was that men become political animal only after the institution of the
THE STATE OF NATURE
that man is a creature equipped from birth for society is a view implicit in
Plato and expressly formulated by Aristotle in the genesis of his politics.
Man is by nature, a
political animal. Anyone who by his nature and not simply by ill-luck has no
state is either too bad or too good, either sub-human or super- human
Hobbes regards the assumption that man is by nature political animal as false.
In his view, man became a political animal only after the institution of the
civil society. The period prior to the civil society is what Locke, Rousseau as
well as Hobbes called ‘the state of nature’ - the apolitical state of man. In
the hypothetical state of nature, there lacks a central and sovereign power.
Life in this state is unrest, misery, constant fear, war, and insecurity and is
ruled by egoistic law of self- preservation. This is because in this state, all
men are equal and equally have the right to whatever they consider necessary
for their survival. On this Hobbes
The right of nature is the
liberty each man hath to use his own power as he will himself… and consequently
of doing any thing which in his own judgment and he shall conceive to be the aptest
means there unto.
here means simply that anyone is capable of hunting his weak neighbour and
taking what he thinks he needs for his own protection.
state of nature, there exists the survival of the fittest for instance, a physically
strong man could overcome the physically weak and take what belongs to the
weak, but the weak could by his intelligence gain advantage over the strong by
joining forces with those in the same danger with him. Therefore, a lack in one
aspect could be compensated with some other thing. We have to note also that
the right of all to all that prevails in this state does not mean that one man
has a right whereas others have corresponding duties. The word right in the state of nature is
To do what he would, and
against whom he thought fit and to possesses use and enjoy all that he would or
later identified three reasons for the disorder and quarrels: he says
nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First is competition,
secondly, difference, and thirdly, glory”.
Hobbes said that the first makes meaning for gain, the
second, for safety, and the third for reputation. Hobbes asserted that before
the formation of civil society and sovereignty, men were in continuous state of
war with each other. This situation he technically called ‘the threat of war’.
And war here does not necessarily imply battle (fighting) but portrays the
situation where man lives in continual fear, and insecurity. One sees his
neighbour as a threat to his existence and obstruction to his well-being.
There is no
common power ipso facto, no rules, no morality and justice, personal and
selfish inclination was the principle that governed all actions. Everyone feels
he is entitled to every thing. Ownership is effective only in so far as no
stronger person has interrupted. And because man is constantly in want, he
tries to eliminate the other. The continuous conflict of desire remains the
order of the day.
situation is precisely that of war of all against all. There exist a continual
fear and danger of violent death, all individual deciding how best to survive
this anarchy and disorder. Hence:
“There is no place for
industry because the fruit thereof is uncertain; no navigation nor use of the
commodities that may be imported by sea. No commodious building, no instrument
of moving and removing such things as required much force. No account of time,
no art, no letters, no society and which is worst of all continual fear and danger
of violent death. And the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and
that it was man’s continuous desire for power, honour and fame that result in
the disorderliness in the state of nature. Thus he writes;
I put for a general inclination
of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after the power, that
cease the only in death. And the cause of this, is not always that man hopes
for a more intensive delight than he has already attained to, or that he cannot
assure the power and means to live well which he hath present without the
acquisition of more. And from hence it is, that kings whose power is greatest,
turn their endeavour to the assuring it at home by laws or abroad by war”.
one of the political philosophers held that man is naturally good; but was
corrupted by contemporary society of man. He further believed that it was
competition and lust for private property that was responsible for this
corruption. He equally believes in the essential goodness and sympathetic
nature of man. For him, state of nature is of idyllic happiness since man is
free being who enjoys equality.
his own part has a very optimistic view of the Human nature. For him,
The state of nature has a
law of nature to govern which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law,
teaches all mankind… that being equal and independent, no one ought to harm
another in his life, health, liberty or possessions”.
the state of nature as proposed by Hobbes is not a historical fact. Rather it
is a situation that obtains in lawless society. The central questions how can
man agree to form society since they are according to Hobbes, antisocial,
politically and culturally apart. To fight these societal maladies, Hobbes found
out what he referred to as natural law (Lex naturals). These laws will urge
them to organize themselves into civil society.
1.2 LAWS IN PRE-POLITIAL SOCIETY (NATURAL LAW)
dates from the time of rational creation. It does not vary according to time
but remains unchangeable, because it is written in the hearts of all men, right
from birth as the scripture held it. Hobbes in his political philosophy saw
natural law as:
A precept or general rule
founded 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
omit that which he thniketh it may be best preserved.
takes the second position after the eternal law as a source of law. There are
mainly three sources of law: namely God, Nature and Sovereignty. It is from
these that we derive the eternal, natural and civil laws respectively.
Naturally, law is a divine will discovered in nature by man through the
dictates of reason, while the civil law is the law made in accordance with the
rule of nature by one who has the command over others. The natural law,
therefore, is the dictates of right reason. Men discovered that they must lay
aside the right of nature in order to preserve their lives. None of these laws
is man-made rather they are discovered by human reason which already exist from
the very nature of individual existence. They are laws which man cannot change
or influence, but can only conform and abide by.
described the condition of man before civil society as a state of equality
between individual freemen. Everyman has
the right to all things he desired. The condition was described by Hobbes as
war of all against all, hence the condition of man becoming wolf to man. It is
through nature that each man knows that he has to protect himself. Everyman quarrels. So the need to protect his
natural right of self-preservation that leads men to form a civil society. The
laws of nature are those rules that rational man must accept, if he were
conscious of his horrible predicament in the state of nature, where men are
selfish. To answer the question how men move from the state of nature to form
social state, Hobbes deduced nineteen other natural laws from the fundamental
right of self- preservation. Among
these laws, deduced by Hobbes, only three of these laws will be discussed here.
The first of these laws states that: Everyman ought to endevour peace, as far
as he has hope of obtaining it, and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek
all helps and advantage of war”. From the above quotation, we can see that it
contains the first and the fundamental law of nature; which is to seek peace
and follow it. It also contains the natural right, which we can by all means
protect and defend ourselves.
law of nature by which we are urged to endeavour peace, this law states;
That a man be willing, when
others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall
think necessary, to lay down this right to all things, and be contended with so
much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself”.
It is from
the compromise arising from the second law of nature that made it possible for
men to come together and form a social society. This is because if everyman
holds his natural right, they return to their former condition, that is,
condition before civil society. The second laws also held that man has to lay
down his right on the condition that others will do the same because he will
make himself prey to others if they refuse to lay down theirs. Right is laid
aside, either by simply renouncing it or by transferring it to another. Men are
bound not to hinder those they have entrusted their right from exercising them.
If they eventually go contrary to that, they have committed injustice or
injury. This mutual transferring of right is that which men call “CONTRACT”.
law of nature, by which we are obliged to transfer right to another, such
rights as being retained, hinder the peace of mankind, there followeth a third
law of nature which is, “that man perform
their covenants made.” Without which covenants are in vain but empty words,
and the right of all men to all things remaining, we are still in the condition
of war. This law of nature constitutes the foundation and origin of justice. To
break the covenant made is unjust and the definition of injustice is no other
than non-performance of convent. But because covenants is a mutual trust, where
there is a fear of non performance, on either part…. are invalid, therefore
before the names of just and unjust can have place, there must be some cohesive
power to compel men equally to performance of their covenants, by terror of
some punishment, greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their
according to Hobbes binds in conscience, and still maintains that all men have
an obligation to obey the natural law in a state of nature. And it is obeying
the natural laws that made it possible for the mutual transferring of rights,
and man forming political society.
J. Locke; Two Threaties
Of Civil Government, (London: Dent, 1970), p. 119.
Aristotle; The Politics, (Great Britain: Penguin Bks. Ltd, 1981), p.59