Discourse of Thomas Hobbes on Civic PeaceCivic Duty means just the responsibilities of any particular citizen. According to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), social scientists journeyed with a belief that humans always lived in a two-sector world viz. the market or the economy and the state or government.
However, as defined by the LSE, “Civil Society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values”1. During 16th century, it was Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, one of the great minds in the history of political philosophy, who contributed to the establishment of civic peace and disposing of mankind toward fulfilling their civic duty.
In practice, this knowledge can be attained, as Thomas Hobbes put it forth, “not by reading of books, but of men”.At issue, however, is not what the multitude of definitions of civil society is, but it is to dwell on why a civil society is needed and what the laws are that signify a state or a government.
These laws are supposed to be meant for the citizens to abide by, hence called Civil laws. A thorough inquiry into this issue can lead us to the myriad of answers and definitions not belonging to classical or modern senses; however, Hobbes pointed directly at the civil laws governed and implemented by the Commonwealth.1”What is Civil Society?” Center for Civil Society, London School of Economics. 2004.
Web. 13 Jul. 2010.The illustration of civil laws and civil duties of a citizen was crowned to thehighest intellectual level in the book of all apt and convincing expressions called ‘Leviathan’, by Thomas Hobbes.
A direct sight at the definition of civil law as given by Hobbes (162) is as follows:I define civil law in this manner. Civil law is to every subject those rules which the Commonwealth hath commanded him, by word, writing, or other sufficient sign of the will, to make use of for the distinction of right and wrong; that is to say, of that is contraryand what is not contrary to the rule.In order to take the bold step of understanding Hobbes’ words, it is, beyond doubt, highly essential to have at least the ground knowledge of what a Commonwealth is and what its functions are. In the same book, Leviathan, Hobbes gave a metaphysical meaning to the Commonwealth, by dealing with an analogy of the relation between a human body and soul with the relation between magistrates and other officers of judicature and execution, reward and punishment with the sovereignty.
Hobbes urges us to imagine an artificial animal whose limbs move by the orders of its soul. He claims that this artificial animal is analogous to a citizen and the soul is nothing but a Commonwealth. Further, he says, the Commonwealth is also an artificial man, but of a greater stature and strength than the natural man(7-8). It is suggested to go further into the inclinations of Hobbes’ life and develop an insight of those incidents in his life which drove him to what he was by approximately 1951, the author of the nation-wide popular, Leviathan.
It requires an ocean of sources to fulfill this task.The most notably influencing incident of his life was the English Civil War. In the 1999 book, Modern Moral and Political Philosophy, it is mentioned that “Hobbes claimed that he was born prematurely as a result of his mother’s fear of the impending invasion” (Cummins ; Christiano 41). Right from his birth in Malmesbury on 5th April 1588, for almost the first quarter of his life, he always observed his father as a troubled minister of the Church of England.
These troubles led eventually the Hobbes’ family to London where Hobbes joined Oxford to pursue his higher education. In 1608, Hobbes’ professional journey began and on his path, he was blessed not only with the numerous intellectual encounters with, but also with the priceless opportunities of translating the works of many philosophers and theorists like William Cavendish, Francis Bacon, Thucydides, Descartes and more significantly, Galileo Galilee. All his experiences with these highly efficacious personalities and the days of his life during the Civil War rather transformed, than forming, his life and got him totally involved in depth of the political philosophy from the mechanics of physics etc (Cummins ; Christiano 42).Narrowing our discussion down to Leviathan alone, one can find the phenomenal thoughts of Hobbes during his time and situations of England.
In one of the famous works of Hobbes, Behemoth: Or the Long Parliament, he called the span of 1640 – 60 as “the highest of time” and described the actions of men in this time as full of all kinds of injustice and folly (Tonnies 1).According to the book Philosophy: The Power of Ideas, “a Leviathan is a sea monster often symbolizing evil in the Old Testament and Christian literature” (Moore ; Bruder 316). The book also says that it was Hobbes defined justice as keeping and injustice as breaking the covenants and he believed that there must be a Leviathan always making sure that men abide by the laws of keeping the covenants, thereby, adhering to the Commonwealth (Moore ; Bruder 316). These excerpts are sufficient to claim that, through Leviathan, Hobbes was aiming at reforming the then-society into a better place for the people.
In other words, he set his goal of transforming ‘the state of nature’ of the people from a state of civil wars to a state of civic peace. In his 2005 book, Jeffrey Collins stressed that Leviathan must be understood as “a gesture of political independence” as made by Hobbes (119). Hobbes himself affirms that the significant intention of Leviathan was to make the men understand the relation between Protection and Obedience (Hobbes 445). Finally, the author advises that “any effort to understand Leviathan within the context of the Revolution must privilege the religious aspects of the masterpiece” (119).
Since it is not among the primary interests of this paper to dig further into the conflicts and controversies surrounding Leviathan and Hobbes himself, we shall move ahead towards understanding Hobbes.The real question, therefore, is how Hobbes attempted to instill the so-called civic sense in the citizens of his country. One initial way he followed was aiming at making citizens not to read books but to “read thyself”(8).He that is to govern a whole nation must read in himself, not this, or that particular man; but the mankind.
It is quite a big challenge to make an attempt to understand what exactly the viewpoint of Hobbes’ statement is. Following the marvelous design of Leviathan under the light of Hobbes’ explanations of what imagination is, or sense is, or a train of thoughts is etc., one eventually reaches his teachings “On Speech”. Here he shows that the invention of use of letters by Cadmus, son of the King Agenor, was profitable for one could continue the memory of time past using those letters (Hobbes 19).
However, he recommends that the even more astounding invention of all time was of speech without which neither the Commonwealth, nor society, nor contracts, nor peace could have existed (Hobbes 19). He develops his theory further unto the reason and science, and confirms that all these abilities of man make him greedy of knowledge, of which kind we can see in our everyday life. This will eventually able man to distinguish between good and evil or inquiring into the truth of past and future and finally, the man attains the skill of judgment. Having developed all the aforementioned skills, man finally reaches a state where he makes and improves his knowledge of several subjects like Philosophy and Physics; further, he begins to comprehend the power, worth, dignity, honor and worthiness.
At last, the man gains the knowledge of laws of nature.According to the views of Hobbes, human beings are driven by the passions of self-protection and honor. Hobbes, through his Leviathan, established a process by which a human could be counseled to stick to the laws that could give them a state of well-being (Cummins ; Christiano 43). As man already attained the state of wisdom, comprehension of all the faculties of mind and body, uncovered the skill of controlling his speech and thoughts, with reference to the reflections made by Hobbes, he exerts that “any man should be sufficiently disposed to all sorts of civil duty” as per the laws governed by the sovereignty (Hobbes 437).
Hobbes in his conclusion to Leviathan, suggested that the Universities are “the fountains of civil and moral doctrine”, and that they must consider sharing his ideology with the students and make them realize their civil duty (Hobbes 445). Therefore, According to Hobbes, the civic peace can be attained only through an agreement between individuals with the sovereign called the Leviathan. Also his thought alone, respecting the religion and theologies of the Church, as he claims, can save the mankind from the “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” life.Works CitedCollins, Jeffrey R.
The Allegiance of Thomas Hobbes. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.Cummins, Robert C.
, and T. D. Christiano, Modern Moral and Political Philosophy. California: Mayfield Publishing Co.
, 1999. Print.Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan or the Matter, Forme, ; Power of a Common- wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill.
London: St. Pauls Church Yard, 1651. Print.Moore, Brooke N.
, and K. Bruder, Philosophy: The Power of Ideas. New York: McGraw-Hill Co., 2005.
Print.Stoffell, Brian F. “Commonwealth and Civility: A Study of Thomas Hobbes”. Vancouver: U of British Columbia., 1984.
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