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The law of nature states that human beings should seek peace. Hobbes Being born in Malmesbury in 1558 was abandoned at sixteen by his father who was a poor minor clergyman (Morgan 558). Hobbes felt the patriotism of kinship or ethnic solidarity and felt it so strongly that he imaged that his society was bound together by blood. He also appreciated human nature according to his thinking and in his life (Morgan, p. 548). This article will look at Hobbes’s intention to contribute to the establishment of civic peace and how he disposed of humankind towards fulfilling their civic duties. It will also explain why he believed that he succeeded while others failed.
In 1629, Hobbes produced a publication which he translated from Thucydides which talked about prudence and the dangers of democracy (Morgan, p. 548). Hobbes believed that since international is an anarchy state of nature, war could lead to international peace only if a victor is capable of imposing its will on all other states. There was conflict over what to praise or morally to approve which resulted in discord. Such things as wars of religion and other ideological wars were also observed. Nevertheless, Hobbes believed that there existed a solution to the moral conflict. The traditional moralist’s response to the ethical disagreement was that sooner or later everyone would come to see the moral facts clearly and rationally. On the other hand, Hobbes proposed that the route to agreement lies in politics. He believed that everybody has a right to defend himself against an attack.
Morgan (p. 548) states that by the end of 1640 Hobbes’ thinking scientific thinking had matured and thus joined his political interests. He came up with a draft that contained systematic work which he referred to as elements of the law. He followed Machiavelli as a political realist and rejected classical political philosophers like Aristotle, as hopeless idealists. Though contrary to Machiavelli, Hobbes believed that only an absolute sovereign could establish and maintain civil peace. He conceived the absolute sovereign as a commonwealth or state. Hobbes in his contribution towards the establishment of civil peace, argues from two perspectives. In his first argument he presented the science of politics while in the other, he argued from the scripture.
Morgan (p. 548) notes that at around 1651, Hobbes published leviathan which explained his famous topic of the state of nature and its laws. In this publication, Hobbes argued for sovereignty which was not divided into all functions (p. 548) In his first argument of political science, he viewed humans as being in a state of nature where all are roughly equal physically and mentally. This state of nature causes the desire for power after power which results in one’s death places a person in constant competition and with fear of others. Thus the state of nature is like a constant war. That is every man against the other and no one stands above the other. There is no personal security, no societal advancement and also no cultural development (Morgan, p. 449). For this reason, according to Hobbes, humans would prefer to protect themselves from the natures resulting from the state of nature. Thus in order to achieve security, each person should enter into a covenant with others that places all rights and power in one absolute sovereign.
In his publication, he attacked Roman Catholics, Aristotelianism and the Anglican Church but he defended Erastianism (Morgan, p. 548). He also defended a movement that supported the control and independence of the congregation against episcopacy. The Leviathan maintains civil peace and order by wielding absolute police power. Each person knows that any breach of the peace or criminal action can result in swift and legitimate punishment. The sovereign itself is above the law because the subjects of the covenant made an agreement with each other and not with the sovereign itself. Hobbes reasoned that sovereign cannot breach the covenant and subjects have relinquished to resist unjust sovereign, though it is obligated to protect the subjects from violence. Therefore, Hobbes claimed to have proven that political society originated from humans and that the state existed in order to maintain civil peace and security. He helped to turn political theory towards modernism by arguing that sovereign power rose from human minds and actions and did not descend from God directly.
In the second argument of Hobbes, he turned to read scripture. He insisted that the scripture must be understood to reinforce and complement his first argument of political theory. He believed that the secular power depends on a proper understanding of the scripture. Though religious disputation was not the paramount cause of the English civil war, religion contributed heavily to the political chaos (Morgan, p. 548). He believed in the old testament of the word of God and emphasized the fall of Adam as the original sin. This sin deprived humans of eternal life and cursed them with pride. According to Hobbes, this sin pleased God to make a covenant with the people of Israel through Abraham and Moses. In the New Testament, Hobbes stated that the Jews had no faith and thus practiced idolatry until Jesus came. The coming of Christ renewed the covenant of the kingdom of God.
Hobbes had presented the Leviathan’s kingdom as occupying the present interval between the direct rule of God exercised in Mosaic theocracy and the direct rule of God that would be exercised by the risen Christ. The original sin of man resulted in two problems which are loss of eternal life and human pride. The coming of Christ solved the first problem but until the second coming of Christ, the other problem of human pride remained. Political science was meant to solve the second problem by compelling peace and order. Hobbes reasoned that if the Leviathan were to be effective in maintaining civil security, then the sovereign should establish the state as a Christian commonwealth.
Hobbes believed that his contribution to the establishment of civil peace succeeded while those of others failed. Mandeville did not succeed because though he shared a similar conception of the state of nature, at some point their theories diverged. Mandeville states in his theory that the transition of the political society was not based on the purposeful design of social contract at all. He also does not account for the achievement of civil peace through the establishment of sovereign power (Morgan, p. 548). He was also not a rational constructivist thus he could not succeed in establishing civil peace.
Opinions are what drive men to act and thus the earthly master must be given the authority to decide the opinion that men should hold. Since men develop opinions by means of receiving instructions then the sovereign should limit the kind of things that are taught. Hobbes thought that education was the answer to some form of human conflict. He believed that security could be achieved through penalties. This is because men cannot be held to their promises without the threat of penalty in case they break the promise. Hobbes denoted that it is possible to prevent quarrels from arising than to settle them afterward. This resulted in the sovereign institutions investing in instructing subjects of what is good and penalizing those who act wrongly. This helped in stabilizing the thoughts of people so that their opinions could prevent conflict and on the other hand to ensure permanent security.
Hobbes succeeded in establishing civil peace because he believed in training people to be peace-loving. Peace-loving is a virtue that leads to one’s preservation. A peace-loving person according to Hobbes is not a pacifist or one who refuses to fight no matter what, but rather it is a person who does peace. Without peace, men could not enjoy security. Hobbes’s description of nature is designed to deter people from civil war. Every human being is vulnerable and fallible and no one can expect to live very long in a state of nature. So in order to achieve peace, everyone must be prepared to give much of his right of nature as he wants others to give up. Equality was central to Hobbes’s Concept of morality.
Justice is a concept that Hobbes believed in his contribution towards the achievement of peace. Justice helps people to keep a covenant and thus avoid conflicts. When talking about justice, Hobbes means a genuine moral virtue and not a prudential substitute for it. Fear of punishment is a proper motive of justice (Morgan, p. 548). A man who just obeys the law because he has obliged himself to obey it by laying down his right of nature to decide how to act. Hobbes regarded justice as keeping one’s covenant as the most important virtue of citizens because it requires people to obey the law. When citizens obey the law they lead to a stable state which results in long-term peace.
Hobbes in his effort to establish peace noted that mercy is very important because it helps one to forgive those who repent genuinely. Those in power should not inflict evil because they have the authority to inflict it but rather they should be merciful and forgive those who repent. A conqueror should also be merciful to an enemy who repents and promises to obey. Hobbes claimed that a law of nature requires the practice of mercy because failing to show mercy is to be vindictive which is a moral vice. This law of nature was not primarily directed to the ordinary citizen but to the sovereigns. Hobbes claimed that having a disposition to exact revenge is contrary to peace and hence to one’s preservation.
Being respectful of other people helped in achieving civil peace according to Hobbes. Having the disposition to avoid declaring hatred to another person either through deed or word is a moral virtue. The virtue of being respectful involves treating everyone with respect and refraining from insulting others even those who are guilty of any crime. Morality is only required for beings who are vulnerable to being harmed by others and thus God being invulnerable is not subject to laws of nature.
Hobbes’s contribution to the establishment of civil peace was successful. This article has explained how Hobbes established peace through his political science and also through the scripture. He denoted that sovereignty was important in ensuring civil peace because the law of nature made people be equal and thus the need to protect themselves. Covenant helped those who fulfilled their promises to be rewarded while those who fail to be punished and this resulted in people living peacefully. The article also explains some virtues like respect, justice and mercy that Hobbes taught people to acquire in order to achieve civil peace.
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Morgan, Michael. Classics of moral and political theory, 4th Ed. New York: Hackett Publishing, 2005.