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A Man Needs A Fish Like A Woman Needs a Bicycle
Monday, January 23, 2006
WHY WE ARE HAVING PROBLEMS WITH THE WAR ON TERRORISM--Or, How a Contradiction in Worldviews Threatens Us-The Hobbesian World (& Part Two):
We start with a brief overview of Hobbes' argument for the emergence and our obedience to the State, in a lovely little book called Leviathan. [Book, Chapter]

A good place to start is with Hobbes notions of desire, because desire is the root of all the problems we face. We Love what we desire, and Hate what we wish to avoid. Desire is the “stuff” of life, and life is motion. When we stop moving, we die. Without desire we would be dead. This restless motion to fulfill our desires and run from those things we dislike is the basis of our Happiness or Felicity [Lev., 1,6] This desire is the basis of any action we undertake. Voluntary action proceeds from our Will [Lev., 1,6] which was the last desire that we had.

In order to get what I desire, I must act. To help fulfill my strivings (for desire is never satisfied, only displaced towards a continuing stream of wants [Lev., 1,11], I need to develop and use my capacities, which are the present means I have to attain some good. I desire power [Lev., 1,8]. Power is understood in instrumental terms, as capacities, as serving to acquire more power. Power can take the form of riches, friends, connections, knowledge, armaments, etc. [Lev., 1,11] The more power I have, the more I can do (and be done to), the more I can satisfy my desires [Lev., 1,11]. This is the basis for a “general inclination of all mankind, (for) a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death.” [Lev., 1,11]

When Hobbes combines this idea of the desire for power with his assumption that scarcity is a natural part of our lives, he is lead to his conception of the State of Nature. This is humanity’s situation that entails the “war of all against all.” [Lev., 1,13] All are at risk, and life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” [Lev., 1,13] This state is a result of the prevalence of our passions and desire for power and what it brings, which reason cannot alleviate. “Passions of me are commonly more potent than their reason.” [Lev., 2,19]

The way out for Hobbes to peace, security, and a better life is for each individual to recognize “that man is a wolf to man,” and give up their rights to all things in this state of nature, as others are also willing to do. In so doing, the individual becomes content to have as much Liberty against others, as others have against him or her [Lev., 1,14; 2,21] I give up my liberty and freedom which is to do as I please against whomever I please, as my strength allows unhindered by any others [Lev., 2,21] I willingly barter this state of nature for a sovereign state in a “social contract” or Covenant [Lev., 2,17]. My claim to peace [Lev., 1,14], like all other individuals’ claims, is protected by the force of the Sovereign, or ruler of the state, not by words, but by guns [Lev., 1,10; 1,14; 2,21; 2,27] I am made better off in this State of Civil Society, than in what I previously had. Hobbes considers these functions of society in the metaphor of society and the sovereign who protects it as an “artificial man.” [Lev., Cover of Book, Introduction, 1,17; 1,18; 2,22; 2,23; 2,28] I subject myself to the sovereign, who has (or must have) absolute power [Lev., 2,18; 2,21; 2,29], and who represents my interests, and the interests of all of society (since we all agreed to have him or her rule us so as to protect us from ourselves) [Lev., 2,17].

So, what am I entitled to in a state of civil society? What about the Rights of the Subjects to liberty in the face of this tremendous power? Liberty is defined as “the absence of externall impediments,” [Lev., 1, 14,] or the absence of opposition.” [Lev., 2, 21] Liberty, he goes on, is actually freedom from the obligation to perform the requirements of some covenant [Lev., 2, 21]. And this is the key. The Covenant that we all signed, was signed for the express purpose of our own self-preservation [Lev., 1, 17]. We give obedience to Leviathan, on the understanding that it will live up to its side of the bargain: that is, to protect us from harm. Thus, this obligation of ours lasts “no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them.” [Lev., 2, 21] As long as the State fulfills its side of the bargain, we have no right to leave the state of civil society. After all, the contract was voluntarily entered into. If the State fails to hold up its end, we can leave, not before. And if we do leave, we re-enter the state of nature, and we can be subject to any sanction from any person or representative of the State (of civil society) in that situation. After all, there is no justice in the state of nature. Nothing I do to anyone is wrong in the state of nature.
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