Thomas Hobbes was a 17th century English Philosopher.
Who is on hand to guide us through one of the thorniest issues of politics.
To what extent should we patiently obey rulers, especially those who are not very good
and to what extent should we start revolutions and depose governments, in search of a better world.
Hobbes’s thinking is inseparable from one major event that began when he was 64 years old
and was to mark him so deeply, it colored all his subsequent thinking.
Remarkably he died when he was 91
and so everything he’s remembered for today he wrote after the age of 60.
This event was the English civil war.
A vicious, divisive, costly and murderous conflict that raged across England for almost a decade
and pitted the forces of king against parliament, leading to the death of some 200 000 people on both sides.
Hobbes, was by nature a deeply peaceful and cautious man.
He hated violence of all kinds.
A disposition that had begun at the age of 4
在他的牧师父亲因为在威尔特郡里的村庄 一个他教区内的教堂的楼梯上 与另一名牧师发生了冲突而遭到贬谪
when his own father, a clergyman was disgraced and abandoned his wife and family
after he got into a fight with another vicar on the steps of his parish church in a village in Wiltshire.
The work for which we chiefly remember Hobbes – “Leviathan”
was published in 1651.
It is the most definitive, persuasive and eloquent statement ever produced
as thy why one should obey government authority.
Even of a very imperfect kind in order to avoid the risk of chaos and bloodshed.
To understand the background of Hobbes’s conservatism.
It helps to realize that across the western Europe in the 17th century,
political theorists were beginning to ask with a new directness, on what basis subjects should obey their rulers.
For centuries, way back into the Middle Ages there’d been a standard answer to this:
contained in a theory called: “the divine right of kings.”
This was a blunt, simple but highly effective theory, stating that it was none other than god
who had pointed all kings and that one should obey these monarchs for one clear reason.
Because god said so and he would send you to hell if you didn’t agree.
But this was no longer proving quite so persuasive to many thoughtful people
who argued that the rule ultimately lay not with kings but with ordinary people who gave kings power
and therefore should only expect to take orders from kings so long as ,but only so long, as things were working out quite well for them.
This was known as “the social contract” theory of government.
Hobbes could see that the divine right of kings theory
was nonsense and what more was going to be increasingly unpersuasive as religious observance declined.
He himself was privately an atheist.
At the same time Hobbes was deeply scared of the possible consequences of “the social contract theory.”
Which could encourage people to depose rules whenever they felt a little unhappy with their lot.
Hobbes had received a firsthand of the beheading of the King Charles I
on the scaffold in front of the banqueting house of the palace of Whitehall in 1649
And his intellectual labors were directed at making sure that such ghastly primitive scenes would never be repeated.
So, in “Leviathan” Hobbes puts forward
an ingenious argument that tries to marry up social contract theory
with the defence of total obedience and submission to traditional authority.
The way he did this was to take his readers back in time to a period he called “the state of nature”.
Before there were kings of any kind
and to get them to think about how governments,
would have arisen, in the first place.
Key to Hobbes’s argument was, that the state of nature would not have been a pretty place
because humans left to own devices
without the central authority to keep them in awe
would quickly have descended into
squabbling, infighting and intolerable bickering
It would be a little like the English civil War
but with people in bearskin bashing each other around with flint tools.
在霍布斯的著名构想中 生命在自然状态下的生存是险恶的 野兽般并且短暂的
In Hobbes’s famous formulation, life in a state of nature would have been nasty, brutish and short.
As a result out of fear and dread of chaos, people were led to form a governments.
They had done this willingly as social contract theorists maintained.
But also under considerable compulsion:
fleeing into the arms of strong authority,
并因此 霍布斯争论道 他们有系列的义务去保持服从
which they therefore, Hobbes argued, had a subsequent duty to keep obeying.
With only a few rights to complain if they didn’t like it.
The only right the people might have to protest about absolute ruler or Leviathan as Hobbes called him
was if he directly threatened to kill them.
然而 如果统治者仅仅是压制反对派 征收重税 损害经济以及毫无缘由的关押持不同政见者
However, if the ruler merely stifled opposition, imposed onerous taxes, crippled the economy and locked up dissidents willy-nilly
this was absolutely no reason to take to the streets and demand a change of government.
As Hobbes wrote:
Though of so unlimited a power, men may fancy many evil consequences.
Yet the consequences of the want of it,
which is perpetual warre of every man against his neighbour, are much worse
He admitted that a ruler might come along with an inclination to do wicked deeds.
But the people would still have a duty to obey this person as humane affairs cannot be without some inconvenience
But these inconvenience is anyway the fault of the people, not the sovereign because
as Hobbes adds
if men could rule themselves their would be no need at all of common coercive power.
As he went on:
He that complaineth of injury from his Sovereign, complaineth of that thereof he is the author himself
and therefore ought not to accuse any man but himself
Hobbes’s theory was dark, cautious and not especially hopeful about government.
In a more optimistic moments we want him to be wrong.
But it seems, Hobbes’s name will always be relevant and fresh again.
When revolutions, motivated by a search for liberty go horribly awry
Hobbes maintained in the preface to Leviathan that he had written the book
不偏不倚 不忮不求 除开向人们阐明
without partiality, without application and without other design than to set before men’s eyes
the mutual relation between protection and obedience