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Thomas Hobbes

Book I, Chapters 10-13

Book I, Chapters 6-9

Book I, Chapters 10-13, page 2

page 1 of 3

Book I
Chapter 10: Of Power, Worth, Dignity, Honour, and Worthinesse
Chapter 11: Of the difference of Manners
Chapter 12: Of Religion
Chapter 13: Of the Naturall Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery


In the previous section, Hobbes introduced the concept of "Power" and the restless human appetite to achieve it. He divides power into two kinds: Natural and Instrumental. Natural power derives from the faculties of the body or mind, such as strength, wit, and arts. Instrumental power derives from acquired faculties, such as riches, friends, and reputation. The measure of power in an individual is called "Worth," or how much would be given for the use of that individual's power. To believe someone to be of high worth is to "Honor" that person; to ascribe low worth to a person is to "Dishonor" him or her. The publicly recognized worth of an individual is "Dignity." "Worthiness," on the other hand, is not the generalized worth of an individual. but rather the measure of that person's faculties relative to a specific function. In the end, all these qualities that affect social relations--worth, worthiness, honor, and dignity--are permutations of power, and the appetite to achieve power is a central aspect of Hobbes's picture of human nature.

Hobbes writes, "I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restlesse desire for Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death." But against this continual appetite for power, Hobbes juxtaposes fear. The ultimate aversion, this "Fear of Death, and Wounds," causes people to seek peace. Fear of each other's power is the only antidote to the power struggles inherent to human appetite. The negotiations between power and fear with the ultimate goal of achieving peace are called "Manners."

Differences in manners arise from our lack of precise philosophical knowledge about the best and most expedient way to negotiate between power and fear. Hobbes declares that his philosophy will demonstrate the surest way of achieving peace. However, until the time of Hobbes's writing, ignorance of this proper philosophy and lack of science had produced a variety of manners, none of which could claim the security of his propositions. Knowing neither the causes of power nor of fear, men relied on custom, the authority of others, and religion to achieve peace, but, without science, peace is always tenuous. Unable to know the outcome of actions or foresee the future, people are in constant fear of possible dangers, evil turns of event, or sudden death. Hobbes argues that fear stems from ignorance of causes and that religions have been invented to posit causal forces in an effort to dispel fear; however, only philosophy can achieve this successfully.

Reason dictates, Hobbes writes, that the universe was first set in motion by a Prime Mover. Although the Prime Mover itself is unknowable by reason, the causes of all things are discernible by philosophy. However, improper reasoning has already caused much confusion, by producing multiple false religions (the only true religion being Christianity) and many fanciful notions (such as incorporeal spirits, pagan gods, ghosts, angels, or demons) to account for observed phenomena. Although all religious ideas and superstitions function to control fear and strive toward peace, only "true Religion" corresponds to the conclusions drawn by proper philosophy, and only proper philosophy can teach how to attain stable peace.

Hobbes's theory for peace grows out of his vision of human nature, and as we have seen, Hobbes's conception of human nature is simply the sum total of mechanic appetites and aversions, mediated by power struggles. Because human appetite is mechanical and resources are limited, when two people have an appetite for the same resource the natural result is war: "[I]f any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their End, (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only), endeavour to destroy, or subdue one an other." Even though people may differ in the strengths of their various natural powers, all people are naturally equal, because even the weakest is capable of killing the strongest by some means; thus battle is inevitable.

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Hobbes Leviathan, Important Terms: PLENUM

by HerrDay, October 12, 2014

Sparknotes editors, you need to review your definition of PLENUM in the glossary for Hobbes' Leviathan. A picture of the universe as a plenum makes a vacuum impossible.

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