Hobbes and Natural Laws Term Paper

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Hobbes and Natural Law

Hobbes' argument is that the laws of nature are immutable and eternal, and that issues such as injustice, pride, and arrogance cannot be made lawful, which is an opinion largely verifiable by looking at how humanity addresses the issues that occur naturally and how it creates social contracts and agreements that do not allow specific types of treatment of other human beings to be acceptable. There are reasons why Hobbes takes this opinion, most of which come from the idea that the true state of nature is that nothing is just or unjust, and that everything belongs to everyone. With that, however, comes the idea that violent death is a real possibility, because there are no protectors.

There are only other humans, who are just as interested in getting a particular thing as any other human. Because everyone believes he or she has the same rights to things as everyone else, there are difficulties with people fighting over things.

That fighting is also not necessarily wrong, because the laws of nature are not the same as the laws of man. Hobbes suggests that natural laws cannot really be called "laws" at all, because they do are not available for enforcement.

They simply are, and they simply exist. They are, actually, what happens when there are no laws that have been created by humans, and they are the baseline state of nature when left alone. That makes them very different from the kinds of laws that are created by people, under the social contract theory that Hobbes addressed based on his work regarding natural laws.

Opponents of Hobbes make the argument that these laws that are not actually laws cannot be quantified, and so they cannot accurately be measured in the sense that they will be unchanging and immutable. This is generally believed to be the case because Hobbes himself argues that they cannot really be called laws. Despite Hobbes' admission that "laws" may not be a truly accurate term for the natural state of things, his argument itself is not negated.

The laws of nature being different than the laws created by human beings only makes sense, because nature and humanity are very different from one another. However, the laws of nature must be real and true, or there would be no need to develop social constructs to keep those laws from being in force. In other words, if there were no natural laws at all, there would be nothing that human beings would be trying to avoid by creating a social construct with one another. Mostly, what humans are trying to avoid through social constructs is a violent death that can come to them through natural law.

With the laws of nature, and everyone being entitled to everything, there is no right and wrong, or just and unjust. If it is not unjust to take another human's life, that human has no protection from that taking place. The only way to gain protection from that potentiality is to enter into an agreement with other humans that taking lives is wrong.

That law, then, comes from the laws that already exist in nature, and not from the absence of there being any previous law.

One could argue that there are no laws, and that humans create laws, but this does not hold to be true. There is a natural law, even if that law is only that there are no laws. The "anything goes" laws of nature are, in and of themselves, a type of law. The only way to mitigate the damage that can be caused by them, though, is to address them with social constructs whereby human beings agree to do things in a certain way, and agree that some people have dominion over others, at least in certain aspects of life.

These humans also need to agree that some humans have the right to enforce the laws, and that some humans will be the ones who will offer protection to other humans.

The price that has to be paid for protection will have to be worked out between humans, and that price will become a part of the law so protection cannot be withheld.

One of Hobbes' statements in his argument was that war cannot preserve life and peace cannot destroy it.

This is true, on a societal level. People die in war, and they live in peacetime. There are still crimes, even when there are no wars, but there are not mass casualties such as would be seen if there was a war. Humans waging war on one another causes the largest losses of life, and those losses are often ongoing for some time. Until that war is resolved the people will continue to fight and argue, and lives will continue to be lost. Wars can occur based on human laws and also based on natural laws, but there are many human laws that can be created in an effort to avoid war and conflict. With natural laws, the avoidance of war is not realistic because there are no social constructs.

Avoiding war is something humans may or may not agree to, which is far different than the ways natural laws are handled, because there is no agreement with natural law. There is nothing over which to agree or disagree, since the entire law itself is immutable and eternal.

Human beings can make all the laws they wish to between one another, but if those laws were to be dissolved all that would remain is the natural law that everything belongs to everyone and there is no reason not to take what a person wants. There may be consequences for taking something, but that will generally come from how another human reacts to having something taken that he or she may want. The consequences do not come from a system where a particular group of humans have an opportunity to punish or penalize another human on the grounds of laws they have all created.

Instead, it is an every person for themselves style of mentality that is very different from what is seen based on human-created laws and regulations that are designed to make things "fair" for everyone.

Being fair, however, does not always equate to being "just." Human laws may be fair, but natural laws are more just. The strongest people survive and the weaker people do not, which many would call natural selection. The kinds of things that take place under natural law, such as a stronger person taking something from a weaker person, would be expected there. Under human laws, there are many times when this taking of something is unacceptable, as human laws are designed to help make people more equal. They work toward fairness for everyone, and they also work toward protection for everyone.

That, in many ways, is a good thing, but it does not change the fact that natural laws are still the dominant laws. The main reason people follow human created laws is that they have been taught to, and they feel that failing to follow those laws would result in punishments they find unacceptable. This keeps them in line, but has little to do with how they really are on the inside, or what they would do if they were subject only to natural laws.

Hobbes argued that the commonwealths that are created come into being because people agree that natural law is, essentially, too dangerous.

They are fearful of never having any protection, and of the idea that they may have to give up what matters very much to them because they are not strong enough to continue to hold onto those things.

Naturally, that is a serious concern for a number of people and has to be addressed. The main way it is addressed is through the development of human laws that allow people to give up some rights to control and freedom so they can have some protection from other humans who would otherwise take their things with no recourse.

Not everyone feels comfortable with the laws of humanity, but most people are happy with the trade-off they have. Others are simply used to the way things are, and do not question the issue of natural law that may be very different from the kinds of laws that are created by human beings.

The concern that is raised by studying what Hobbes had to say, however, is that the issue of control may be one that asserts too much control over other people. When a person is required to give up freedom for protection, it can seem like a fair trade. However, eventually, there may be more protection wanted, which will result in the giving up of more freedom.

At some point, to much freedom will be given up and there will be dissent among the ranks. People may also balk at giving up certain freedoms, even though they know they will not get the protection they would prefer if… [END OF PREVIEW]

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