PHL 212
Instructor: Dr. Bob Zunjic


Leviathan (1651)

Part I, chs. xiii, xiv

An Outline

Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan in the late 1640s. At the time he was living in exile (Paris) which he chose voluntarily in order to avoid persecution. Not without reasons he feared that the forces of the Parliament could put him on trial because of his royalist convictions. In fact undertook writing Leviathan to defend the monarchist idea. The book was finished two years after the execution of Charles I and was presented as a special gift to his successor Charles II who was also exiled in Paris. Nonetheless the royalists of the time saw it as an attempt to undermine the traditional view that the right of the king is derived from divine law. They even suspected that Hobbes was not a true monarchist. He was, but for his own reasons. The supreme royal power is justified because only a sovereign ruler can prevent a lapse into the state of war. This was not something that anti-royalists wanted to hear. Thus Hobbes was suspected by both sides in the conflict. Almost as a confirmation of royalist suspicions, he reconciled with the regime of the Commonwealth after the publication of the book and returned to England.

Some scholars argue that the Leviathan is the 'greatest work of political philosophy ever written'. This may sound as an exaggeration but it certainly represents the most powerful study of modern politics written in English. By all means it is the most famous work of Thomas Hobbes, but no less his most misunderstood work. Whatever the final jury on this will be, it is undeniable that Leviathan, along with The Prince of Machiavelli and the Utopia of Thomas More, breaks up the classical union of ethics and politics that had defined ancient political thought. Instead it offers a political consideration of the means and conditions that are necessary for the subsistence of a society in view of imminent internal disintegration. Rather than deriving what is good for man from his ultimate purpose of realizing the true human potentials, Hobbes realistically draws conclusions about the necessary measures for survival from that what human nature actually is: selfish and aggressive, but rational. The paramount interest becomes therefore safety, not happiness. The solution suggested - entering into a kind of social contract - will become one of the most fruitful venues of modern political philosophy.


Premise 1:

Human individuals are "by nature" equal in their physical and mental abilities.
Note: Hobbes personifies nature as a kind of living creator: "Nature hath made men so equal...", but this wording is just a way of speaking. No matter whether the word 'nature' stands for God's act of creation or for some anonymous generative forces we have been created equal in decisive respects.


Some differences exist indeed (one man could be "manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind than another"). But these differences are not considerable. And they do not give somebody benefits which other people may not demand for themselves.


The differences are not sufficient to make anybody untouchable. As Hegel has noted, in Hobbes view all men are equal in their vulnerability and weakness.

A Contrario

The existing differences would be significant only if some people could be excluded as a potential source of threat or fear due to their inability to cause harm.

The weakest individual has enough physical strength to kill the strongest. If not directly then either "by secret machination" (plotting) or by allying (conspiring) with others.
Physical deficiencies could be compensated by means of joining forces with other men or by using certain devices (technology) that give us edge over the stronger.
Mental faculties are even more equally distributed among men.
Exceptions: To be sure, some individuals are more advanced in the arts and sciences. For instance, people are not equally skilled in the arts grounded upon words (literature, poetry, rhetoric, drama) or in deductive sciences like mathematics (the skills of proceeding upon infallible and general rules).


But, (1) very few possess these skills, and
(2) relatively small areas are covered by them.
Furthermore, (3) these skills are not innate faculties.
They must be sought intentionally and purposefully by working hard to turn them into lasting (permanent) skills.

Relevancy: Equality is asserted for those skills that are being acquired while looking for something else the way we acquire experience. Whatever else we may do we acquire experience owing to the flow of time and just by staying alive. And experience gives rise to prudence that serves everyone to their satisfaction.
Note: Hobbes identifies life experience with what the Ancients called prudence (practical wisdom, whit, smartness). This means that prudence ceases to be the exercise of the right reason in search of proportion and measure. Instead it turns into experientially based awareness of what is harmful or beneficial to us. As has become a conventional wisdom in Modernity, we know better than anybody else what presents danger and what is good for us.
  Inequality Equality
Physical Abilities Strength Size Vulnerability Ability to Harm
Mental Abilities Art Science Prudence Experience
Implication: While it may seem that prudence is not equally distributed among humans, it is being acquired according to the following rules that apply equally to all:
For the same amount of time spent we gain the same amount of experience.
Prudence consists in the ability to draw practical conclusions from past experiences.
Note: This is a significant departure from Aristotle who was convinced that prudence requires both right reasoning and a corresponding character. Hobbes conceives of prudence mostly as an awareness of what happened in the past, an awareness that should avert us from doing something that could put us in harms ways or cause punishment (iii, 7). The immediate consequence of this conception is that everybody possesses prudence and that nobody can judge on our own behalf whether we are satisfied or not. Aristotle's idea that a philosopher (or a prudent man) can question the feeling of contentment even against our own pronouncements becomes presumptuous - another significant change brought about by Modernity.
Objection: Some claim that they possess more wisdom than others.
Explanation: This is a sheer conceitedness that blinds many for the fundamental equality of human mind. The arrogance of this kind should be accounted for by the direct access to our own wisdom which leads people to believe that their whit is better than the one of others. In other words, it is a prejudice stemming from the natural familiarity with our own whit.
Rebuttal: Paradoxically, precisely this claim of having more wisdom than others proves the equality. What is decisive is the fact that "every man is contented with his share" in common sense. People will acknowledge that many other individuals are more witty, or more eloquent or more learned, but no one thinks that their own mind is less good than anybody else's. To understand the right implication of this statement one needs only to universalize the self-appreciation people have of their whit to all other individuals. Which proves Hobbes' point.
Equal Distribution:

Furthermore, since people do not want others to make judgments on their behalf, being convinced that everyone knows for themselves what is potentially harmful and what is not harmful for themselves, it appears that the good sense is the best distributed ability in the world.

Note: Compare Descartes' statement from A Discourse on Method: "Good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed, for everybody thinks himself so abundantly provided with it that even those most difficult to please in all other matters do not commonly desire more of it than they already possess." This reasoning derives the equal value of all individual minds from the universal individual identification with your own mind which is mostly a psychological feeling.

Consequence 1: From the equality of abilities emerges the equality of aspirations in the pursuit of ends. People believe that they can equally hope to attain their goals as any other person.
Note: For Hobbes, the equality of rights arises from the equality of abilities, not the other way round: equal opportunities from the basic equality of rights.
Premise 2: (Anthropological realism) Humans are egoists who are relentlessly after their own goals. They aggressively pursue their ends.
  Saying: 'Man is a wolf to man.' (Homo homini lupus est.)
Premise 3:
Human individuals desire the same goods, which they cannot all enjoy as they are limited in number. Total gratification of desires is not possible because of the chronic scarcity of resources.
Limited resources (a very modern idea) coupled with our selfish nature result in merciless competition. This generates a universal concern (anxiety) for subsistence.
Assumptions 1. Selfish Nature.
2. Aggressive Instincts.
3. Limited Resources.
Consequence 2: This situation creates mutual enmity (animosity). People view others as a threat or an obstacle in achieving their goals. The result is constant diffidence (= mistrust).
Response: The ultimate stage in this development is that people endeavor to destroy or subdue each other.
Equality of Aspiration
Mutual Animosity
Aggression and Destruction
Expansion and Augmentation
Men attack others for the sake of one of the three goals (or all of them):
(a) conservation (self-preservation),
(b) expansion (conquest),
(c) delectation (joy of conflict).
Strategies: What to do to safeguard one's possessions and secure safety? It seems that acting from anticipation and increasing the readiness are the most reasonable strategies. Therefore it should be allowed to everyone to act preemptively (from anticipation of threats) and to constantly increase power (arms-race) as both are the ways to secure conservation.

However, Hobbes analyses all these strategies and shows that none of them is satisfactory.

(1) Individual strength (single power) is not a sufficient protection against others. There will be always some aggressive individuals who will want to invade and conquer. And some will be successful although only temporarily. Everyone can expect others to come to dispossess them of their belongings and even to deprive them of their life.
  (2) A comprehensive subjugation of others ("master the persons of all men") is what first comes to mind. But it is physically impossible to carry out this strategy. A total indiscriminate action against all other people would eventually exhaust the agent no matter how strong he is (stretched too thin).
(3) It seems that a reasonable anticipation of possible threats that should be addressed is a better strategy. Attack only those that are imminent or potential threat. But anticipation and intelligence can never be perfect. No one can predict all potential challenges.
  (4) Defensive strategy does not work either. Just standing in defense (as moderates would probably be inclined to do) and taking care of conservation leads to a certain downfall. However, constantly increasing power drains energy and resources in that never-ending race.
Consequence 3: Given (1) and (2) people will have to constantly increase their power just for the sake of subsistence. Nobody can assure the conservation without progressive acquisition of power.
Note: There is a strong logic here. Power is powerful only if it expands and grows. "When you slow down you fall behind." Stagnation is decline.
Conservation of Power Legitimate
Augmentation of Power Necessary
Conclusion 1: Hence the augmentation of power (dominion over man) is a necessity and should be also allowed.
  In order to survive one has to be overambitious. This strategy is a necessity although it leads to a continuous fight.
Consequence 4: Absolute security can never be attained. There is no end in the endeavor to subdue others and no man can eliminate all threats and dangers preemptively. Thus even though acting for the sake of conservation is "generally allowed", it is not a goal that ever could be fully accomplished. Moreover it does not guarantee safety.
Some (dominators) will always pursue their actions further than their security requires.
  (1) Some will enjoy the excess of their own power in the acts that go beyond their own security.
  (2) Some will seek conquest for the sake of pure fame or recognition.
Strength Weakness
Individual Power Insufficient
Comprehensive Subjugation Not feasible
Anticipation of Threat Never Complete
Defensive Posture Decline
Increasing Power Arms-race
  Causes of Conflict
Premise 4: "Men have no pleasure... keeping company where there is no power able to over-awe them all." Society is not a product of natural tendency to gather and live socially. Social life is against nature. The suggestion is that we need something more potent and efficient than individual strength to keep us in check and ultimately protect ourselves.
Note: Hobbes thinks that man takes much more pleasure in conquest than in communal life. This is obviously directed against Aristotelian dictum that man is a "social animal". Early modern political philosophy tended to view people as by nature so unsocial that they would constantly clash if there were no power to keep them in check.
Question: Why is it difficult to be social without external coercion?
Answer: We expect others to accept our own self-appraisal and if this does not happen we tend to impose it by harming those who give us less than we want.
Conflict: There are three main causes for quarrels in human nature (cf. Thucyd., I, 25): Competition, Distrust and quest for Recognition.


Power (offensive)
Gains (profit)
Permanent Risk
Power (defensive)
Safety (respite)
Temporary Relief
Violence (erratic)
Recognition (honor)
Elusive State

Different means are used in these conflicts, but they are all at one in failing to be entirely effective.

*Much before Hegel, Hobbes had realized how strong motive recognition could be. He has even included a moment of delectation (pleasure) in the longing for recognition. However, as Rousseau has noted long ago, seeking recognition, reputation and honor is a strong social motive that does not feet into Hobbes' anti-social picture of human nature and the state of nature.
Vainglory Hobbes deplores the foolishness of glory seeking individuals who do not value life enough. Rash people are dangerous both for others and themselves. Fear is a better companion because it creates a necessary mood to recognize a common power that would keep all in quiet.
Conclusion 2: If men are left without any common power (a constant refrain) the result will be a permanent and universal war of every man against every man (bellum omnium contra omnes).
Note: War "of all against all" does not necessarily mean of "every person against every person all of the time".
Clarification: War does not consists only in battles and actual use of force, "but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known".
  In this respect Hobbes makes a parallel between the notion of foul weather and the notion of war time.

The nature of foul weather The nature of war time
Inclination to shower + actual showers Disposition to fighting + actual fighting

Notion: In other words, the proper notion of war is much broader than its common (superficial) version suggests. It includes time, that is to say preparations, the build up of forces, war mongering, actual or implicit threats as well as actual battles.
Note: This concept of war is more comprehensive and illuminating than any legal definition of it (cf. for the latter H. Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis, I, i, 20).
Disposition: What does the wording "the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known" point to? To a disposition to fight. A disposition is real as threat. Threat is not only a factor, but very often it is a stronger component in a stand off than the use of force itself. The longer it lasts the more difficult it is to (with)stand it. Sometimes the consumption of threat by accepting fighting brings relief from the unbearable tension.
Peace: We can talk about peace only if in a tract of time there is no threat and consequently no disposition to war.
Time: "Therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war." (The same holds true of peace.) But if the existing conditions do not provide any security beyond our personal strength, then we should not delude ourselves that we live in peace.
  Whenever men live relying only on their individual strength they are in the condition of war.
Equasion: The time of war = the time when we rely solely on individual strength.
General Conclusion: The conditions of the "state of nature" are exactly those of a permanent and universal war. The negative consequences are both individual and collective:
(a) Men are doomed to live in "continual fear and danger of violent death".
(b) The life of man becomes "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".
(a) The balance of power based only on readiness of all to fight does not bring security.
(b) Without security, no production, no trade, no culture, no society.

"No culture of the earth" - no husbandry (agriculture). (Peasants pay the highest price in every war.)
"No instruments of moving and removing" - no large scale transportation.
"No knowledge of the face of the earth" - no natural sciences.
"No account of time" - no history.

  State of Nature
Absent Present Result
Industry Idleness Poverty
Husbandry Neglect Famine
Navigation Immobility Futility
Construction Destruction Danger
Transportation Confinement Nastiness
Science Ignorance Fear of death
History Oblivion Short life
Art Boorishness Brutish life
Society Hostility Solitary life
Objection 1: How can nature thus dissociate men? Is this a plausible account? Is human nature really so aggressive? Human nature is not made up only of desires and passions. Where is the empirical evidence for that "inference" about aggressiveness, competitiveness and mistrust derived from a grim concept of man?
Refutation: You want some evidence from experience. Well, answer these questions:
(1) Why do you arm yourself when traveling? Obviously, you do not trust your fellow subjects.
(2) Why do you lock your doors? Obviously, you do not trust your neighbors.
(3) Why do you lock your chests in your own house? Obviously, you do not trust your own family members.
Human Nature: These actions are very telling about human nature precisely because they are being taken while there are laws and the police force to protect people. What would happen without them is easy to guess. This is not an accusation of human nature. Human desires and passions are not sinful in themselves. Nor are the actions that proceed from them.
Note: Notice that Hobbes does not speak about natural wickedness or the original sin of man. He simply states how human nature manifests itself.
Precondition: Human actions could be wrong or immoral only if there is a law that forbids them, but in the state of nature there are no laws.
Sovereign: These laws could be passed only when people agree upon the person who will make them.
Note: This sounds as a clear endorsement of monarchism. Later on, however, Hobbes indicates that the sovereign power is not necessarily vested in one person. What matters is that there is a common power that can keep people in check.
Objection 2: There has never been such a time nor a condition of permanent war (the state of nature).
Clarification: Although Hobbes speaks about "the time when men lived without common power" he does not make a historical thesis about certain period of the past. He concedes that such a state has never existed "generally so" and "over all the world".
If God is the true ruler of the world then we can not say that there was lawlessness even in the moment when Cain killed Abel. Therefore the concept of the state of nature should not be taken literally. But it is not an outlandish construct either.
Evidence: The empirical basis for the thesis about the war in the state of nature is threefold:
(a) There have been always spots of endemic wars (lawlessness) where conditions of instability and insecurity come close to those of the state of nature.
Note: Hobbes mentions "the savage people in many places of America" who do not have any government (except on the level of families). However, despite constant clashes and local warlords the tribes of native Americans had a kind of internal and external code which surpassed the bonds based on "natural lust". This is certainly not the best example but Hobbes could give ample empirical evidence even today ranging from Somalia and Columbia to Afghanistan and Sudan.
  (b) Civil wars are recreations on a large scale of that situation into which any civil society will lapse if government breaks down.
Note: Hobbes had in mind the historical examples of anarchy and disasters resulting from the civil wars in Ancient Greece, but modern cases like Lebanon or Bosnia are also pertinent here.
  (c) The posture of war is a permanent condition. Throughout human history we see mistrust, tensions, muscle-flexing, spying and everything else that belongs to "cold war". And "in all times" there are continual confrontations between individuals, groups and countries.
Note: If we are in a continual war why we are not miserable as we should be? This hostile posture against the external enemy does not always evolve into the war of "all against all" ("one against another") internally. The reason for this is that confrontation with external enemy mobilizes individual subjects and engages their energy in a way which prevents a direct fall into previously described misery.
Three Kinds of War
(a) Endemic War
(b) Civil War
(c) Cold War
Point: By means of a thought experiment with the state of nature Hobbes demonstrates not what was the case in the past but what would happen without the laws of politics and morality.
Consequence 1: In the state of nature there are no objective moral distinctions. The notions of justice and injustice do not have there any meaning. The only virtues are force and fraud.
  Justice requires a relationship with others in a society. It is not a quality of the body or of mind (we all possess these in the state of nature). But an isolated man cannot be just either in his thoughts or actions. Conversely, "where no law, no injustice".
Explanation: The distinction between right and wrong coincides with my appetites. In the state of nature the only principles of action are will and desire. Where there is no common power to keep everyone in awe, my will is the only law. The problem is that others will regard their will in the same way, which means that every man will regard everything as theirs.
Consequence 2: Without a common power there is no propriety and property (mine or thine), for in the state of war everything belongs to anyone who can take it and for so long as they can keep it. Even our body stands out for grabs.
Absent Present
Justice Force
Law Lawlessness
Morality Fraud
Propriety Dispossession
Insight: This is a dangerous situation. Is there any alternative to the state of war? We are egoists but we are not fools.
Exit: Passions and reason together point to the way out of the state of nature.
Solution: Make a reciprocal social contract with other opposing individuals and establish a common power "to keep them in awe" (the State = Leviathan). In return for renouncing some aspirations enjoy security and peace.

Passions that incline men to peace are:

- fear of death (better live in disgrace than die in honor)

- desire to obtain things necessary to commodious living

- hope to get them by using only industry

Means: Reason suggests convenient articles of peace upon which people can agree. These articles are what Hobbes calls the "Laws of Nature". The laws of nature are therefore the dictates of egoistic but enlightened prudence.
General Conclusion: Morality arises only after the acceptance of these laws. It is nothing else but obedience to the laws of nature. Thus morality is a form of social compromise between egoists. It reduces certain rights but brings peace and justice.
The benefit of morality does not lie that much in positive effects it brings about as in the calamities it helps to avoid.

State of Nature War Unlimited Non-Existent
State of Society Peace Limited Ruling

Moral philosophy is the study of the Laws of Nature. There are 19 laws in number but three are fundamental.


Distinction: Hobbes admonishes not to confuse right (ius) and law (lex), that is to say, the right of nature and the law of nature. He speaks about the right of nature (jus naturale) with regard to the state of nature, and consequently defines this right as unlimited liberty to pursue one's own interests. Conversely, the law of nature (ius naturale) determines human conduct in the wake and after the opposing individuals have agreed to grant away some rights. It binds to something.

Right = liberty to do or forbear something;

Law = obligation to do or avoid something.

  Note: This distinction cuts through the more general concept of the right of nature as formulated by Hugo Grotius: "A dictate of right reason indicating that some act is either morally necessary or morally shameful, because of its agreement or disagreement with man's nature as rational and social being." For Hobbes, it is the function of the law to sanction such congruence or deviation. Good is what is in accord with the laws, bad is what is contrary to them - private appetites loose ground as the standard of what is right.
Definition: For Hobbes, liberty is conceived as "the absence of external impediments" which means that those obstacles that exist are not sufficient to prevent the subject of doing what s/he wants.

As long as there are no laws to impose any constraint we have liberty to do whatever we want, but once they are in power they constrain our conduct.

Right Law
Ius Lex
Liberty Obligation
Absence of Impediments Presence of Constraints
State of Nature Rights of Nature Unlimited Freedom
State of Contract Laws of Nature Limited Freedom

A. The Right of Nature:

= the liberty every man has to use his own power for the preservation of his own life or of doing anything related to it.

Problem: If we go only by the right of nature, there are no limits in our actions: "There is nothing to which every man had not right by nature." On the contrary, "every man has a right to everything; even to one another's body." However, if only natural right exists (even though a one nobody can fully realize), there is no security.
Right State of Nature
Unlimited Aspirations No Security



A general rule of reason requires to restrict this very general right: "lay down the right to all things". In that sense the law implies obligation for individuals. It imposes external coercion, but it is in the best interest of all.

B. The Laws of Nature = the precepts found out by reason that forbid men to do what is destructive of their life.
Status: These precepts make up the minimal morality necessary for safe and good life. The fact that people observe these rules creates impression that they are like physical laws (human nature has predictable inclinations). They should be obeyed even if there is no sovereign to enforce them. Assuming, of course, that one wants to live out "the time, which nature ordinarily alloweth men to live" (this formulation sounds very autobiographical).
  The following are the most important rules of conduct for rational egoists.
1st Law of Nature:
Endeavor peace as long as there is hope of obtaining it.
Condition: If the peace is not feasible everyone has right to revert to A ("the sum of the right of nature"): use all means to defend yourself.

2nd Law of Nature:


Lay down your right to all things and restrict your our own liberty against others.

Condition: Hobbes implicitly suggests that this laws makes sense under the same condition as the first one - that the other party is willing to lay down their right. Otherwise everyone has right to revert to the right of nature.
  To lay down right to anything is to divest yourself of certain liberty. In this case this would be the liberty to hinder another man of the benefit of his own right. If you refrain from hindering the other man this will lead to the diminution of impediments for him to use his own original right.
Measure: We are expected to renounce some rights for the sake of peace and agreement, but this should not be an arbitrary act. The question is to which extent should we lay down our rights. The measure of renouncement is determined by the liberty we allow against ourselves. In this way, the benefits we allow others should befall in turn on us.
Reciprocity: Hobbes says that this law is in fact the "Law of the Gospel". The reference is to the Golden Rule as formulated by Jesus of Nazareth (Matth. 7: 12; Luke, 6: 31). Although the overall tenor of Jesus' morality is rather charitable than reciprocal the fact is that this rule occurs in the Gospels as the remnant of the Old Testament morality (cf. The Rule of Reciprocity). It is noteworthy that the rule is formulated positively.
Positive Formulation: "Whatsoever you require that other should do to you, that do ye to them."
  Given the spirit of the second Law of nature a negative formulation would better fit the requirement for self-restraint in the exercise of natural rights.
Negative Formulation: "What you do not want done to you, do not do to others" (quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris).
Repercussions: By laying down certain rights we do not give to anyone a right which he had not before. We only allow the other to enjoy his original rights "without hindrance" from us; we cannot guarantee that others will not hinder, but the effect of the mutual agreement will be that we also diminish the impediments to use our own right.
Note: A literal compliance with the rule is not always possible or admissible, but it is good as a guard against overblown self-interest even though it is less than what the principle of meekness suggests.
Two Ways of Laying Down a Right:

(a) Simply renouncing a right without caring who will benefit.

(b) Transferring a right while intending to benefit somebody.

Obligation: By doing (a) or (b) man binds himself not to hinder the beneficiaries of the renouncement (duty). On the contrary, he implies that such a hindrance would be injury or injustice.
Parallel: Injury and injustice correspond in legal controversies to absurdities and contradictions in academic disputations. This is because by renouncing some right I bound myself not to hinder those to whom such right is granted. Any violation of this would be tantamount to a contradiction in logic or sacrilege in religion.
Injury Contradiction Sacrilege
Injustice Absurdity Blasphemy

Note: Thus injustice in terms of the secular law corresponds to the absurdity or blasphemy in the language of disputations (see the illustration of this point in the two parallel columns on the frontice-piece).

  Two Methods of Laying Down Right:

(a) By means of a declaration.

(b) By means of a signification.

Signs: In both cases one uses some signs (either words or actions or both) by which men are bound or obliged = bonds. Their strength does not stem from the written words or signs but from fear of negative consequences.
Signs could be either express
(explicit, not implied) or by inference.
  Two Goals of Laying Down Right:

(a) For the sake of some reciprocal right.

(b) For some other good (instrumentally).

Motive: As transferring a right must be a voluntary act of every man, its object(ive) must be some good. Ultimately it is the security of a "a man's person, in his life".


Since the ultimate goal of renouncing some rights is "the security of man's person" it is inconceivable that somebody can voluntarily give up the right to self-defense. Or that someone voluntarily accepts wounds, chains and imprisonment. There is no benefit in accepting imprisonment. If someone accepts to be injured that person could never be certain how far the injury would go.

Exclusion: If a man, by words or signs, despoils himself of security and other related goods, we must assume that he misunderstands these words and signs by means of which he renounces his right. Hence the signs contrary to the subjective interest are null and void.
Difference: Transferring could be a transfer of the right to a thing or both a transfer to a thing and of the right to a thing.


is the mutual transferring of right or things; this could be simultaneous or consecutive. Contract exists among all subjects in transition to the state of law.
Gift (Grace) is a non-mutual transferring of right and could be made for various reasons (gains, reputation, relief).
Pact or Covenant is a contract in which one party performs first and relies on the other to fulfill his obligation later; the very existence of a covenant indicates that certain rights have been renounced or transferred.
This agreement is made between the subjects and the sovereign.
Promise (Faith) is a contract in which one or both parties perform their obligations later.
Bonds are statements or actions by which men are bound.
Foundation: Hobbes grounds the state of natural laws on a social covenant (rather than contract) but he uses the latter word as a generic expression.
Covenant could be either "express" (I give, I grant, I have granted, I will give) or "by inference".
There are no valid covenants and moral standards until the coercive power has been established. Words and integrity do not mean much to Hobbes.
A covenant is valid only in a "civil state" where there is a common power to enforce it. In the state of nature it is void upon any suspicion.
Otherwise, when there is a common power, it is not void. It is not void if the reasons for not performing it (out of fear) predate its emergence. What could not hinder a man from promising should not be accepted as an excuse for not performing what has been agreed upon. A change of heart or mind is not a sufficient reason for annulment.
However, a man cannot be expected to lay down his right to save himself from death, wounds or imprisonment. The idea of a covenant is to establish protection and safety; therefore any obligation to surrender the right for self-preservation and protection would contradict it.
Note: Nonetheless Hobbes thinks that a prisoner of war who was released for ransom has obligation to keep the promise even though there is no coercive power to enforce the obligation.
3rd Law of Nature:
Perform covenants made.

Without this law covenants are in vain and the condition of war is present.

Fountain: This is the origin of all justice: not to give everyone a "fair share" or "their own" but to stick to what was renounced "at the beginning".
Note: Hobbes implies that his definition of justice is more fundamental than the one accepted in the Schools (Platonic) as it states the precondition for having anything as your "own".
Failure: Injustice is a failure to perform the covenant made (assuming there is no justified fear not to perform).
Coercion: There must be some coercive power to compel men equally to the performance of their covenants, by the terror of some punishment, greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their covenant. Fear of punishment keeps promise.
Commonwealth: A common power could be established only if there is a commonwealth. There is no justice and propriety without commonwealth (see the symbols below). In fact, the (traditional) justice in the sense of "giving to every man his own" is derived from the fundamental notion in the sense of performing the covenant.
Leviathan The multitude is united in one mega-person (see the frontispiece). He possesses the undivided power and no one has liberty to disobey without consequences. That power is the monster Leviathan who "beholds everything that is high; he is the king over all the sons of pride" (Job 41). Only out of fear from this monster men would be ready to curb their aggressiveness. But they will be compensated for that.
  The sovereign power is not itself a party to the covenant despite the fact that his sovereignty stems from the covenant. Hence a sovereign cannot breach the covenant.
Morality: The sovereign determines what is good and what is bad. Morality exists only on the basis of a social covenant. The above three principles (Laws) define the so called "minimal morality" which is the basis for more elaborate moral codes. Their source is ultimately fear, their purpose security (safety).

Morality of the Social Contract


"Man is a wolf to man. I am here to protect everyone against everyone."

Secular power
The Symbols
Ecclesiastic power
Excommunication Lightning
Military Insignia
Weapons of Logic


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