MORALITY AND SOVEREIGNTY IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF HOBBES

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1 MORALITY AND SOVEREIGNTY IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF HOBBES

2 Also by George Shelton DEAN TUCKER: Eighteenth-Century Economic and Political Thought

3 Morality and Sovereignty in the Philosophy of Hobbes GEORGE SHELTON Palgrave Macmillan

4 ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / George Shelton 1992 Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 1992 All rights reserved. For information, write: Scholarly and Reference Division, St. Martin's Press, Inc., 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y First published in the United States of America in 1992 ISBN Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Shelton, George, Morality and sovereignty in the philosophy of Hobbes / George Shelton. p. em. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN Hobbes, Thomas, I. Title. B1248. E7S '. 2-dc OP

5 Which when Anacharsis understood, he laughed at it to see that Solon imagined with written laws to bridle men's covetousness and injustice. For such laws, said he, do rightly resemble the spider's cobwebs, because they take hold of little flies and gnats which fall into them, but the rich and mighty will break and run through them at their will. Solon answered him that men do justly keep all their covenants and bargains which one make with another, because it is to the hindrance of either party to break them, and even so he did so temper his laws that he made citizens know it was more for their profit to obey law and justice than to break it. Plutarch, Solon (Thomas North translation)

6 For Mary Who kept the home fires burning

7 Contents Preface Note on References viii x 1 Human Nature 1 2 The State of Nature and Natural Law 18 3 The Laws of Nature and Morality 41 4 Morality as Reciprocity 67 5 The Social Contract and the Golden Rule in Practice 85 6 Morality and Objectivity 98 7 The Nature of Hobbesian Morality Hobbes and Kant Contract Theory Today Reason and Moral Relativity Contract and the Commonwealth Sovereign and Subject Democracy and the Right of Revolution The Nature of Sovereignty Sovereignty and Constitutional Rights 294 Notes 310 Index 316 vii

8 Preface It is probably safe to say that the two most controversial areas in the philosophy of Hobbes are his theory of morality and his theory of sovereignty. Regarding the former, many critics do not think that he has such a theory, at least in the commonly accepted sense of the word. Those scholars who do, often attempt to give it a religious basis which the others reject as contrary to his whole outlook. The thesis I am putting forward is that Hobbes's originality lies not in his moral beliefs, which tum out to be quite traditional, but in the way he attempts to justify them. His method is to derive them by elementary logic from a couple of premises about human nature. Thus, if one accepts his premises and also the rules of logic, one is able to re-erect morality on a firmer foundation, without supernatural assistance. As I, myself, find his argument quite convincing, I believe it can be used just as effectively today as it was when he proposed it. Accordingly, I go on to test his theory against a number of modem alternatives, as well as the still influential moral philosophy of Kant. In the case of sovereignty, it is my aim to demonstrate that because his theory works as well for sovereignty of the people as it does for the sovereignty of a monarch, it is incorrect to see in him a supporter of absolutism rather than of absolute sovereignty. However, since the concept of sovereignty itself is looked upon with suspicion by many critics, I try to defend it by using historical examples drawn mostly from American experience. One of the main challenges in dealing with Hobbes is to extract from his words the meaning he intended them to have. As a result, I follow his text quite closely in those chapters where I am attempting to explicate what I believe his ideas actually are. One has to be constantly on guard against a number of problems: his tendency to exaggerate for the sake of effect, his occasional use of one word in two different senses, and possible changes in the meaning of words since the seventeenth century. Paying attention to context is extremely important if one hopes to avoid common misunderstandings. As he himself said in Leviathan: For it is not the bare words, but the scope of the writer, that giveth viii

9 Preface ix the true light, by which any writing is to be interpreted; and they that insist upon single texts, without the main design, can derive nothing from them clearly... (602,626)

10 Note on References In order to avoid the unnecessary multiplication of footnotes, I have adopted the following procedures: For works by authors other than Hobbes I give the first reference in a footnote and after that the page number in parentheses following the quotation. Where there is more than one title I add the name of the work. For Leviathan, my quotations are from Volume III of The English Work of Thomas Hobbes edited by Sir William Molesworth (London, 1839). However, for the convenience of readers I have also provided the page number from the more accessible Penguin Classics paperback edition, edited by C. B. Macpherson (London, 1985). Thus all references from Leviathan appear as two numbers in parentheses after the passage quote as, for example, (72, 149). Since the other Hobbes works which I have used are divided into sections, I have used the following forms: The Elements of Law: (EL,II,7,4) De Cive: (DC,3,16) De Homine: (DH,I,3) For works not included here, the volume number of Molesworth's edition is used after the reference as follows: (English Works, 1,223). x

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