Elements of Law, Natural and Political

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But one branch of the Cavendish family, the Wellbecks, were scientifically and mathematically minded, and Hobbes' growing interest in these realms was stirred mainly through his association with certain family members and through various conversations he'd had and reading he'd done on the Continent.

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In or , it is reported that Hobbes found a volume of Euclid and fell in love with geometry and Euclid's method of demonstrating theorems. Later, he had gained enough independent knowledge to pursue research in optics, a field he would lay claim to as a pioneer.

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In fact, Hobbes was gaining a reputation in many fields: mathematics especially geometry , translation of the classics , and law. He also became well known notorious, in fact for his writings and disputes on religious subjects. As a member of Mersenne's circle in Paris, he was also respected as a theorist in ethics and politics. His love of mathematics and a fascination with the properties of matter--sizes, shapes, positions, etc. The trilogy was his attempt to arrange the components of natural science, psychology and politics into a hierarchy, from the most fundamental to the most specific.

The works incorporated Hobbes' findings on optics and the work of, among others, Galileo on the motions of terrestrial bodies and Kepler on astronomy. The science of politics discussed in De Cive was further developed in Leviathan , which is the strongest example of his writings on morality and politics, the subjects for which Hobbes is most remembered. Descartes saw some of the comments and sent a letter to Mersenne in response, to which Hobbes again responded.

Hobbes disagreed with Descartes' theory that the mind was the primal certainty, instead using motion as the basis for his philosophy regarding nature, the mind and society. To expand the discussion, Mersenne convinced Hobbes to write a critique of Descartes' Meditationes de Prima Philosophia "Meditations on First Philosophy" , and of course he did so. Hobbes' thoughts were listed third among the set of "Objections" appended to the work.

In these exchanges and elsewhere, Hobbes and Descartes regarded each other with a unique mixture of respect and disregard, and at their one personal meeting, in , they did not get along very well. The relationship, however, helped Hobbes develop his theories further. In , Thomas Hobbes released De Cive , his first published book of political philosophy.


  • The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic [1640].
  • Elements of Law : Natural and Political by Thomas Hobbes (1969, Hardcover, Revised).
  • An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers..

The book focuses more narrowly on the political comprising sections titled "Liberty," "Empire" and "Religion" and was, as previously noted, conceived as part of a larger work Elements of Philosophy. Although it was to be the third book in Elements , Hobbes wrote it first to address the particularly relevant civil unrest roiling in England at the time.

Elements of Law, Natural and Political | Taylor & Francis Group

Parts of the work anticipate the better-known Leviathan , which would come nine years later. While still in Paris, Hobbes began work on what would become his magnum opus and one of the most influential books ever written: Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil usually referred to as simply Leviathan.

Leviathan ranks high as an essential Western treatise on statecraft, on par with Machiavelli's The Prince. In Leviathan , written during the English Civil Wars , Hobbes argues for the necessity and natural evolution of the social contract, a social construct in which individuals mutually unite into political societies, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept resultant duties to protect themselves and one another from whatever might come otherwise.

He also advocates rule by an absolute sovereign, saying that chaos--and other situations identified with a "state of nature" a pre-government state in which individuals' actions are bound only by those individuals' desires and restraints --could be averted only by a strong central government, one with the power of the biblical Leviathan a sea creature , which would protect people from their own selfishness.

He also warned of "the war of all against all" Bellum omnium contra omnes , a motto that went on to greater fame and represented Hobbes' view of humanity without government. As Hobbes lays out his thoughts on the foundation of states and legitimate government, he does it methodically: The state is created by humans, so he first describes human nature. He says that in each of us can be found a representation of general humanity and that all acts are ultimately self-serving--that in a state of nature, humans would behave completely selfishly.

He concludes that humanity's natural condition is a state of perpetual war, fear and amorality, and that only government can hold a society together. After his return to England in , Hobbes continued to write. De Corpore was published in , and De Homine was published in , completing the Elements of Philosophy trilogy.

In his later years, Hobbes turned his attention to a boyhood favorite--classics--publishing translations of Homer's The Odyssey and The Iliad.

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Hugely influential, Hobbes' ideas form the building blocks of nearly all Western political thought, including the right of the individual, the importance of republican government, and the idea that acts are allowed if they are not expressly forbidden. Recent scholarly debate has suggested that we understand Hobbes either as a descriptive and analytic theorist, or as a normative theorist. While this logical distinction has didactic value, it is apt to produce a misunderstanding of the dynamics of political thinking.

All discourse does not rest upon logic: we must distinguish political argumentation, which often goes beyond the confines of logic by manipulating our factual perceptions, from disinterested philosophical debate, which aims at clarity. Hobbes manipulates his readers' perceptions in such a manner as to preclude a number of assumptions underlying traditional moral arguments for political disobedience.

While moral argument at least of a sort is possible , it is not necessary to the argument of the Leviathan. Terror hence provides a strategy of fear-avoidance, a logic of survival to which the individual must conform in order to avoid future encounters with death. Thus, while Hobbes's answer to the problem of political obligation is nonmoral in the traditional sense, it is more than merely prudential. Hobbes's conception of homeostasis as informed by fear is, like morality, both universal and imperative. I am very grateful to Victor Wolfenstein, Duane Smith, Wayne Swanke, and the anonymous referees of the American Political Science Review for their invaluable assistance in the final preparation of this paper.

Stuart M. Brown, Jr. Brown , Keith C. Raphael's , D. Although Warrender was quite tentative in grounding Hobbesian natural law in God, he has, nonetheless, inspired several theistic interpretations of Hobbes. IV, No. See Diderot's Jacques le Fataliste for an uneasy parody of this position. However, he apparently views this mutual influence merely as constituting a limitation within which a thinker must function, rather than as a manipulative weapon.

Hans Kelsen, an advocate of relativism, observes that such a position must assume both equality and mutual conformity among knowing subjects What is Justice? Friedrich , Carl J. Laslett , Peter and Runciman , W. See also Sluckin's , W.

Elements of Law, Natural and Political

Minds and Machines Baltimore : Penguin Books , Both Watkins' , J. It supersedes morality with politics. LX , No. If this were the case, we could legitimately expect Socrates to explicate the standard according to which he was making such an evaluation; yet he does not offer a standard. He does remind his judges, in the Apology , that he has disobeyed political edicts in the past, but his disobedience was motivated by a deep sense of commitment to political legality, not to transpolitical morality. Haldane , Elizabeth S. Cambridge : Dover Publications, Inc. See also Krailsheimer's , A.

Hobbes deplored this as cowardly, despite his own views about the power of fear.

This conception of truth appears to be confined to Hobbes's political writings, however. Concerning scientific troth, he appears to have accepted Descartes' self-evidence theory. Oakeshott argues for an individualist interpretation of reason, even in Hobbes's political writings. See his Introduction, p. Comparisons with Kant obtrude themselves into discussions of Hobbes's epistemological, as well as his ethical doctrines. Engel , S. Morris , for instance, views Hobbes as proto-Kantian in his conception of knowledge.

See Ch.

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