Essay: Hobbes and the Intercession of Justice, Law

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Hobbes and the Intercession of Justice, Law, And State

A cursory definition of power might quickly pose the argument that such is founded upon the strength of leadership. To view a king or a president or a company CEO as an exemplar of empowerment is traditional as it adheres to a socially constructed view of authority as being hierarchical and being constituted upon the relationship between law, justice and the state. Subject to chance and forged upon infinite human interactions which are given oversight by no omnipresent mortal force, the decisions we make and the actions we assume, traditional views of government have argued, should be accounted for as appendages of a larger power structure. In his consideration on the balance between the presence of central leadership and the will of the individual, Thomas Hobbes denotes that the capacity of rogue individuals to behave in such a fashion as might undermine the ethical justice available to others might tend to threaten the security of assumptions presumed by this hierarchy. In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes offers a prescient comprehension of the dangers in unrestrained individuality, writing in 1651 on the structural integrity of society, morality and authoritarianism through what he identifies as a 'social contract.' This, in the view of Hobbes, is the all-encompassing force which demands powerful central leadership and popular acquiescence to the wisdom, will and entitlement assumed by said leadership.

Indeed, Hobbes warned most primarily in his text of the dangers in provoking the free will of every man. Thomas Hobbes saw no such natural governing force as reason to benefit the unattended inter-relations of man, and instead saw a reality in which the divergent will of the individual would be an impediment to order. In his framework it can be suggested that one interactant may negatively effect another to the end of might-makes-right in an endless and boundary-absent state of intra-societal and inter-societal warring. It is for this reason that Hobbes had adopted his decisively authoritarian bent on understanding power. Even to the extent that he does not speak of the individual when he describes the reality of human power dynamics, Hobbes concedes that in referencing 'power', he speaks "not of the men, but (in the Abstract) of the Seat of Power, (like to those simple and unpartial creatures in the Roman Capitol." (Hobbes, Intro.) in his version of the true nature of power, Hobbes sees the frailty of human self-interest as an obstruction to social good, and thus imposes the suggestion of a power-concentration which revolves around the virtue of selfless rule.

If some of his ideological opponents may be accused of idealism for necessitating the presence of 'reason' in every individual as he attributes power to each, so too may one suggest that Hobbes' view, albeit a far more negative conception of man's nature, is nonetheless naive in its total deference to leadership. A notorious opponent of democracy, Hobbes actually helps give way to the logic most essentially present in Locke's work. For it is not the victory of reason which necessarily determines the power of free will. Instead, it is the 'choice' which one exercises -- and which any 'one' can exercise at his volition -- to pursue reason. According to such intellectual opponents of Hobbes as John Locke, "this is the perfect condition of slavery" (Locke, Section 24) a man chooses to be a slave insofar as, ultimately, he controls his own fate. No man can own another, Locke notes, assessing that no one man can deprive another of his ability end his own life. To a slaveholder, this suicide is a demonstration that a man, contrary to an object, is given the rational choice to be actively or passively free.

While certainly suicide is an objectionable path to resolution, the example is helpful in bringing a focus to the discussion. Locke is a long distance from Hobbes' on the nature of free will, with the latter asserting that society may function only through subjugation of individual will to a real and materialist-based power of authoritarianism. (Note: Briefly, it should be qualified that materialism in this case refers to a power derived of wealth, ownership, gatekeeping of resources/property and the capacity to levy armed authority over a population). To this extent, Hobbes endorses a social hierarchy which is also very much concerned with the relevance of materialist-derived power in a way that slants his view of democracy toward economic imperatives, such as the defense of one's property against the irrational oppression of theft.

This is compelling because it casts Hobbes in an unusual position of balance, or of hypocrisy, depending upon one's moral disposition.

Though Hobbes is a clear and strong advocate for the imperative provided by the Church and the moral inherency of an empowered central government, he also speaks on all affairs of justice and state law without the restrain of presumed moral absolutes. This does distinguish him from many thinkers before and successive to Hobbes, many of whom, especially in their commitment to the rational authoritarianism of the Church, might tend to argue with explicitness that man can behave in ways which are both good and evil. Hobbes seeks in a manner to remove this prejudices from a discussion on how law and justice tend instead to be allotted to the people.

Hobbes makes the argument that good is something which will inherently produce positive ends, thus assessing that there will be nothing short of a necessity for man to exact a will concurring with notions of 'good.' As he tells in the primary text, "THE POWER of a man, to take it universally, is his present means to obtain some future apparent good, and is either original or instrumental. Natural power is the eminence of the faculties of body, or mind; as extraordinary strength, form, prudence, arts, eloquence, liberality, nobility. Instrumental are those powers which, acquired by these, or by fortune, are means and instruments to acquire more; as riches, reputation, friends, and the secret working of God, which men call good luck." (Hobbes, X)

This is indeed a revealing particular of the Hobbesian perspective, which ties wealth, authority and faith into a singular absolute, denoting that it is by the grace of divinity, rather than by some more pedestrian force such as inheritance or industry, that one has both arisen to a state of great possession and, consequently, to a state of great influence.

Hobbes produces an understanding for us of the social contract, which by its declaration of intent promotes a sense of order and respect for the sovereignty of a powerful central leader. The implications of God and affluence with respect to this contract help us to place Hobbes distinctly in line with the ideology of the British hegemonic order of his time, which produced a long of sturdy affinity between monarchy and Church.

To the rationality of this relationship, however, Hobbes attributes a certain entrustment that the social contract will bind the behaviors of those who provide laws, governance and authority. It is a core presumption of his framework for governance that leadership will inherently be accorded a degree of necessary integrity, with his belief being that this integrity is that which has elevated him to the deferred status. To the point, he tells that "affability of men already in power is increase of power; because it gaineth love. Reputation of prudence in the conduct of peace or war is power; because to prudent men we commit the government of ourselves more willingly than to others." (Hobbes, X) the argument here is that power and authority have been granted to those who have done justly and ethically in their lives, and have conducted themselves with nobility and restraint in the face of conflict, marking such figures as admired and obeyed by fellow man.

In this regard, Hobbes does abide what he sees as certain inherencies delineated by predecessors like Plato. The revered Greek thinker offered a text which, longer than perhaps any other doctrine on the subject, has remained constantly relevant to the discussion on effective and just governances. Plato's the Republic composes a canon for proper government by channeling Plato's mentor, Socrates, in a host of discourse-based anecdotes and plumbing the depths of such questions as the appropriate relational nature of man and woman in a civilized society and the most suitable identity for one who might be a ruler. The crucial ideological building block to the composition of modern governorship, Plato indicates, is the intercession of that which is best for the people as a whole and that which qualifies a legitimate model for proper leadership. As Hobbes will eventually conclude, this means that the individuals and forces which have come to occupy this singular authority of state and law are there by logical ascendancy relating to their suitability to conduct affairs in the interests of the greater majority of men and women. As we understand through his own explication, this does imply a preeminence of such moralizing forces as the Church, which Hobbes… [END OF PREVIEW]

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