Hobbes's Commonwealth

Essay by iainUniversity, Bachelor'sB, December 2002

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Before I look at the Social Contract and Hobbes' commonwealth under the sovereign, I think its important to briefly look at why he believed that a social contract had to be established and also why it came about. Hobbes obviously had a negative view on the human state of nature stating:

"Men have no pleasure...on the contrary a great deal of grief...where there is no power able to over-awe them all... it is manifest, that during the time when men lived without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war, as is of every man, against every man ... on society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short..."

He went on to say:

"The only way to erect such a common power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners, and the injuries of one another and live contentedly; is, to confer all their power of strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that they reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will"

Hobbes believes that as long as everyone does so in this manner then they will have created a commonwealth, one in which the majority will all experience security and safety even though perhaps they may have lost some of their freedom and liberty.

Hobbes describes two ways of entering the world of society and peace, two methods by which commonwealths may be formed. They can be established either by institution- that is by the mutual agreement of free individuals, or by acquisition, which is the conquest of a previously existing sovereign. Both these methods involve convention...