Thomas Hobbes - Leviathon

Essay by sileas451 August 2004

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In Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, theory of the state of nature serves as a justification, legitimizing and arguing for the authority of the state, by providing the logic behind sovereignty. The theory illustrates the point that without government, man is in, Hobbes believes, an awful state of nature, where peace, order and liberty are impossible. It is difficult to interpret, however, exactly whether Hobbes' posits a pessimistic or optimistic view of human nature. To understand this view we must analysis his thought process from the state of man in nature to the state of man in the commonwealth. His purpose in writing Leviathan, and in describing man's state of nature, should be seen as being an anti-anarchical aim; that is, his point was to try and communicate why people should obey the political authority of the sovereign, in order to solve the problem of recurring disorder within society.

Hobbes asserts that life in the state of nature would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short".

This state is characterized as an existence of anarchy, where man is in a constant state of brutal competition, fuelled by the instinct of survival, and, Hobbes stresses, due to an absence of a social contract and a central authority. Without a government, Hobbes believes, man could not coexist peacefully in freedom using only his reason:

"So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel: First, Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory." (Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes, p185).

This kind of state of nature among man would create a cycle of conflict without end. The state of nature is an individualistic, self-governing existence, where everyone naturally rivals each other, and man's primarily focus is on self-preservation.

Hobbes tries to comprehend the state of man in nature. He concludes that man in a...