Thomas Hobbes Essay Research Paper THOMAS HOBBESIntroductionThomas — страница 3

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concede its collective power to the hands of a sovereign authority. Hobbes prefers a single ruler serving as executor, legislature, and judge. Also like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, Hobbes accepted the possibility of an assembly of men being the sovereign authority. Like the early philosophers who believed in the unchallenged authority of the king, Hobbes believed that the absolute ruler possessed unlimited power, and that subjects should be suppressed if they try to rebel. If the ruler should fail to exercise his power in an effective manner, then he should relinquish sovereignty. The subjects should then transfer their loyalty to another ruler so that their peace would be secure (Spielvogel, 1991). A sovereign authority is a necessity in keeping the covenant between men,

since mans desire for power and glory may lead him to break any covenant made with words only. This means that the proverbial sword must enforce the word in any agreement between men. Hobbes was careful to explain that the covenant, which gives sovereign power to a single ruler or assembly of men, is a covenant of everyone with everyone, including those who voted against it. This hints at Hobbes’ democratic mechanism at deciding on the single ruler or assembly of men. However, once that covenant has been made there is no withdrawing from it; and “they that have already instituted a commonwealth, being thereby bound by covenant to own the actions and judgements of one, cannot lawfully make a new covenant, among themselves, to be obedient to any other, in any thing whatsoever,

without his permission” (Ebenstein & Ebenstein, 1991: 413). This means that once a king or assembly has been elected, the power cannot be taken from the ruler or assembly of men and given to another. If this is done, then the covenant would have been broken, and according to Hobbes, breaking a covenant is injustice. In making the covenant to give authority to the sovereign, “they have also every man given the sovereignty to him that bears their person, and therefore if they depose him, they take from him that which is his own, and so again it is injustice” (413). Hobbes agrees that the sovereign can commit iniquity, but not “injustice or injury in the proper signification” (400). This is because the covenant, or social contract as he calls it, is made between

subjects and subjects, and not between the subjects and the sovereign. The sovereign cannot break the covenant because the sovereign was not author of the contract, but was given the authority by the subjects. “Consequently, he that complains of injury from his sovereign, complains of that whereof he himself is author, and therefore ought not to accuse any man but himself” (414). Hobbes’ preference of a single ruler or monarchy is based on practical grounds. He believed that an aristocratic form of government has less unity of focus and consensus building than can be realized with a monarchy. This is because aristocracy suffers from a competition for office and influence, and he believed that a monarch can more easily act in a resolute and consistent manner than the

assembly. Hobbes opposed the separation of power or mixed government, and Ebenstein and Ebenstein (1991) state that he blamed the civil war in England on “the widespread opinion that sovereignty was divided between King, Lords, and Commons” (401). Although it seems that Hobbes speaks mostly of two forms of government, monarchy (government by one) and aristocracy (government by a few), he identifies the third form of government as a democracy (government by the people). This is consistent with the political classifications discussed by the early philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato; but he disagrees with them on the idea that governments can be despotic – tyranny, oligarchy, and anarchy. To Hobbes, these terms are only used when a particular person dislikes a

monarchical, aristocratic, or democratic form of government. This argument displays his belief and support for authority, regardless of much of the negativity that may be attributed to the ruler or rulers. To him, as long as the subjects are protected from danger from outside or within, then the price that they pay is justifiable. His main drive was to strengthen the idea of an absolute state, but he did this without subscribing to the concept of the divine-rights-of-kings, or to the idea that monarchy was a moral institution. He did not agree with the early philosophers that the monarchs are naturally predisposed for the job. Leo Strauss (1961) sees Hobbes’ political philosophy as being characterized by “the movement away from the idea of monarchy as the most natural form of