17th Century England – Onwards to Restoration.

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In the 17th century England, the middle class had carried forward their rebellion against absolute monarchy based on divine rights. The Parliament was the representation of this class and its fight. The men who now fought the Stuart Kings were precisely those who had profited from Tudor absolutism, which now began to irritate them. The lower middle class then split from their upper counterpart and rallied Cromwell. So far as the untitled and unmoneyed class was concerned, they stood largely by the throne, although they had as little to gain by the King as by the Parliament. The middle class was so afraid of the poor people as of the King. When the parliamentarians talked of a government based on consent, they had no intention of extending the franchise to the people; it was to be their own consent. Right to property, which they held to be sacred, meant to them the principle that the King had no right to tax them without their consent; it also meant a denial of property to the people who were poor.

Coke, who was appointed the Attorney General (and also the Chief Justice) in 1594, was attacking the divine rights of Kings and he regarded both King and the Parliament, as subject to common law which, to him, was the truly sovereign power in the land. Common law had to be interpreted by the judges. Throughout Europe, absolute state was becoming the order of the day. Louis XI had first subjugated the feudal nobility. The Reformation then enabled the monarchs to better the Church. Henry VIII had claimed jurisdiction and powers, which earlier no British King had done. To the discomfiture of Hobbes, the cursed Puritans had undone the work so artistically done by Henry VIII and the price had to be redesigned so that the fabric may be saved from total destruction in the hands of the rabble. Someone, like Thomas Hobbes agrees with Machiavelli that man is selfish and that human nature is bad but insists that the state could transfer the man into a moral being by the exercise of the master’s rod.  He is indebted to Bodin for his concept of sovereignty, but, unlike Bodin, would impose no limitations of Divine, Natural or Constitutional law on his subjects. He agrees with Grotius that, reason is the basis of law but insists that it must be sovereign’s reason alone. He modifies the Divine Right theory by discarding the divine origin of state and by giving Divine Right to the State instead to the King. Hobbes like Machiavelli, subordinated ethics and religion to politics and was the first prophet of unlimited sovereignty.

Elizabeth (1558 – 1603)

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She ascended to the throne at the age of 25 in 1558 on the death of Queen Mary. She was not only regal but also human. Like her father, she had courage, determination and self-confidence. She was willful and domineering in all matters. Like her mother she was fond of pomp and pleasure. Her great virtue was that she loved the people of England and for their sake she was prepared to make any sacrifices. Her conservative mind made extreme Protestantism suspect to her, separated the foreign policy from any enthusiasm and fitted her to be the real maker of Anglicanism.

When she ascended to the throne, she had to face many difficulties. There was the danger of the civil war in the country. The orthodox Catholics regarded Elizabeth as an usurper and they were prepared to take up arms against her in order to support the cause of Mary Stuart. The Protestants were also bitter. They were determined to carry the Reformation further. There was also a danger of foreign invasion and conquest. A lot of money had been wasted in the French war during the reign of Mary Tudor. The coinage had also been debased. The credit goes to Elizabeth that she not only surmounted all these difficulties but were also able to make her country great and strong.

Religion at her time of ascension

The first great achievement of Elizabeth was her religious settlement. The policy followed by her was that she stopped the burning of the people. The “Act of Supremacy” eliminated the authority of the Pope in England and made Elizabeth the head of the Church of England. She took up the title of “Supreme Governor” and not “Supreme Head” as had been done by her father. The monasteries were dissolved and their lands were passed to the crown. A Book of Common Prayer in English was issued. Extremists among the Catholics and the Protestants were not prepared to reconcile themselves with her religious settlement. However, Elizabeth did not take any strong action against them so long as the people attended the Church. The Church settlement got a setback after 1570, when the Pope issued an excommunication and deposed Elizabeth and declared her to be longer a Queen of England. Her subjects were absolved from their allegiance to her. In 1571, the British Parliament passed an Act, which declared to be high treason for anyone in England to call the Queen a heretic, and usurper or an infidel. The puritans also attacked the Church settlement. They were utterly dissatisfied by the moderate character of it. Most of the ceremonies prescribed by the Church were considered by them to be a relic of Popery and they would like to abolish the same. However, the fact remains that, Elizabeth succeeded in attaining a large unity in the Church and that is the reason why she was successful against Spain, when the Armada attacked England in 1558.

Her foreign policy

The foreign policy of Elizabeth was essentially that of peace. Since England had been weakened in the reigns of Edward VI and Mary Tudor, it was not in her interest to fight against any foreign power in that condition. Her great danger was an invasion from France or Spain, both Catholic countries. However, Elizabeth took advantage of the bitter rivalry going on between France and Spain and was successful in playing off the one against the other. Her foreign policy approach was not dogmatic, but was guided by enlightened national interest. The reign of Elizabeth saw the beginning of English maritime activity. It brought naval supremacy to England.

Her rule in general

Elizabeth can rightly be called as one of the greatest rulers of England. No other ruler was called upon to face so many difficulties and none else faced them so boldly and successfully. She addressed in these words a deputation of both the houses of Parliament: “Though I be a woman, I’ve as good a courage answerable to my place as ever my father had. I’m your anointed Queen. I’ll never be by violence constrained to do anything. I thank God that I’d been endued with such qualities that if I were turned out of the realm in my petticoat, I were able to live in any place in Christendom.” She was the child of the Renaissance rather than that of the Reformation. Skeptical and tolerant in the age of intolerance, she was born and brought up to re-establish the Anglican Church and to evade religious war by a compromise between the Catholics and Protestants.

Tudor rule 

Tudor rule was arbitrary and autocratic in nature. It was despotism, under more or less parliamentary forms. Though despots, their rule was not a tyranny. It was popular despotism based upon the assent of the people and it was assented to because in the main it identified itself with national interests. Their rule in nature was of the dictatorship. The rising middle class called for a strong ruler and was ready to overlook his violence and unconstitutional acts if he would maintain peace and order. The policy of the Tudors was to rule with the support of the subservient Parliament. As a result, Parliament was degraded into an instrument of royal will. The Tudors had broken the power of the great nobles. Monarchs could influence elections and so secure the return of members who favoured his views. Thus, as against the sovereign, Parliament had little influence. The Tudors, however, never sought to override the authority of the Parliament. On the contrary, they encouraged the parliamentary action of the commons. Grave and momentous questions were brought before it such as the anti-papal measures, which cut off Pope’s authority in England. As a consequence, the importance of Parliament increased. The commons grew more self-reliant and were gradually fitted to shake off their tutelage to the crown. There was little friction between the Crown and the Parliament. Parliament submitted to royal guidance and the sovereign in its turn never sought to override its legislative authority.

One of the most important characteristics of the Tudor rule was the growth of the strong monarchy built upon the ruins of the feudal system. That was partly due to the decline of the power of the nobility and the invention of the gunpowder. Another important point was the broadening of the people’s minds on account of the Renaissance movement. The new spirit paved the way for the Reformation movement.

James I (1603 – 1625) 

James I ruled from 1603 to 1625. He was born in 1556 and he came to the throne after the expulsion of his mother from Scotland. When his mother was a prisoner in England, he was the King of Scotland. He did nothing to support the cause of his mother. The result was that Elizabeth accepted him as her successor to the throne of England. He had been brought up under rigid Calvinist discipline. He failed as the King of England, even though he was a man of great learning. He was so fond of “unbuttoning his royal stores of wisdom for the benefits of his subjects” that Henry IV of France called him the “wisest fool in Christendom”. He was intolerant to any criticism. He believed that Kings should have supreme authority over all. He believed that people had no right to revolt. “The state of monarchy is the supremest thing on Earth; for Kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon Earth and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God Himself, they are called Gods…it is sedition in subjects to dispute what a King may do in the height of his power. I will not be content that my power be disputed on.” 

Here is an extract from the Vicar of Bray, an old ballad:

                  To teach his flock he never missed,

                  Kings are by God appointed,

                  And damned are they, who do resist,

                  Or touch the Lord’s Anointed.

He had fixed views about politics and the status of Kings. He believed in the Divine Rights of Kings. This view was that Kings were Kings because God made them Kings and they were responsible to God alone for whatever they did and the people had no right to either find fault with them or to challenge their authority. It was this concept of monarchy that was responsible for all his troubles. James I stood for universal peace. He raised the slogan of “Beati Pacifici” (Blessed are the peace makers). His ideas of religious toleration were a cry in the wilderness. In spite of his good intentions, he was a complete failure as a king.

His relations with the Parliament

The relations between James I and the Parliament were not cordial. He believed in the Divine Rights of Kings, but the Parliament claimed certain rights on the basis of tradition, customs and evolutionary growth. Parliament based its rights and privileges on the score of History. Parliament, during the reign of James I, asserted with success its right to impeach the ministers of the King. It protested against the new impositions. It passed its law against monopolies. It asserted its rights to discuss all the affairs of the State although the King strongly protested against the claim. It failed to secure the right of meeting regularly. From these relations, it was clear that the struggle between the two had begun.

Common law

No account of the reign of James I can be complete without a reference to the common law lawyers headed by the Chief Justice Coke. In 1594, Coke was appointed Attorney General. He was a great champion of the common law. His view was that the propriety of all actions must be judged by the common law. There was no place for the Divine Rights of the Kings. The judges alone could resolve the conflicts between the prerogatives and the statutes. The view of Coke was different from that of Bacon who held that judges were lions, but lions under the throne. It was during the reign of James I that many English colonies were established beyond the seas. In 1612, the English East India Company set up its factory at Surat (Gujarat, India). Thus, the beginnings of the future British Empire in India and America were laid during the reign of James I.

Charles I (1625 – 1649)

James I died on the 27th March 1625 and was succeeded by his second son, Charles I. Charles I loved those who were close near him, but was cold towards others. He was devoted to the Church of England and was punctual in his devotion to it. To Charles I, the Divine Right was the question of his faith, as deeply rooted as his belief in the Church. He was a bad judge of public questions and political men. He viewed them through the lens of his affections. He saw only rebellion in the critics of the Church of England. The reign of Charles I can be divided into four periods. The first four years of his reign from 1625 to 1629 covered the first period. During this period foreign wars were fought but lost and the relations between the King and the Parliament were bitter. The second period was covered by the years from 1629 to 1640. During this period, he ruled without a Parliament. The third period was covered by the years 1640 to 1642. It was also a period of short and long Parliament. The fourth period is covered by the two Civil wars (1642 – 1649). Charles I was executed in January 1649.

Relations with the Parliament 

The fundamental dispute between the King and the Parliament was that the Parliament was determined to become the sovereign of the country and was not prepared to allow the King to do whatever he wanted to do. The execution of Charles I shocked the people. The people were not in favour of Parliament going to such an extreme. The dignified behaviour of the King at the time of his execution also excited universal admiration. There was a strong reaction in favour of the monarch. Many called him the martyr who died for the Church of England. There were others who gave him the credit for having died for the laws and liberties of the English men. A few days after his death, a book entitled “Sikon Basilike” was published. It purported to give the views of the King on Government. It was felt that the dictatorship of the army was no guarantee to safeguard the popular institutions of England and the liberties of the people. The army could fight but could not reconstruct society. This execution was followed by military despotism, which was as bad as the tyranny of the King himself. The question has been asked whether the execution of Charles I was justified or not. From the legal point of view, there was no justification for trying the King as no process could be issued against the monarch. Moreover, the members of the court were partisans and did not come up to the ideal of impartiality as required by the judges. The only justification for the execution of Charles I was moral and political. Cromwell was right in saying that it was a cruel necessity. It was cruel because it was an extreme measure involving the execution of the King. It was a necessity because without it there would have been no liberty for Englishmen. Charles I was not at all prepared to accept any limitations on his powers. He was given many opportunities both by the Parliament and the army to come to reasonable compromise but he was declared dishonest by these very bodies and hence it was difficult to come to any sort of an agreement with him. The Parliament and the army always thought of him as extremely cynical and his dealings with these two constitutional bodies were inherently insincere in nature and thus no wonder such an insincere man was put to death.

Commonwealth 

The Commonwealth was established in England on January 4, 1649 by a proclamation by the Rump Parliament that “the people are, under God, the origin of all just power…that the commons of England in Parliament assembled, being chosen by and representing the people have the supreme power in this nation”. On February 5, the Rump decided that the House of Lords, being dangerous and useless, should be abolished. On February 6, it was resolved that “it hath been found by experience and this House doth declare that the office of the King in this nation and to have power thereof in any single person, is unnecessary and burdensome and dangerous to the liberty, safety and public interest of the people of this nation and thereof ought to be abolished”. On March 17 and 19, 1649, two Acts were passed by which the offices of the King and the House of Lords were abolished. Thus the House of Commons became the sole governing body of England. The chief organ of administration of the Commonwealth was the Council of the State. It was annually chosen by the Parliament. The council was concerned with the army, the navy, foreign affairs etc. In July 1649, was passed the “Treason Act”, which made it treasonable for anyone who published maliciously that “the Government is usurped or unlawful or that the Commons assembled in Parliament are not the supreme authority of this nation”. In September 1649, was passed the “Press Act” which muzzled the freedom of the press. The publication of any printed material without a license from the Government was forbidden. A special court of justice consisting of 12 judges was established to liquidate the enemies of the Commonwealth.

The members of the Parliament were Presbyterians and they insisted on imposing “certain fundamentals before a man should be free to propagate his opinions”. Cromwell was in favour of religious toleration for all except the Roman Catholics. Certain changes were introduced in the Church whereby it became less Presbyterian. It lost its autonomy and became subordinate to the State. Rump Parliament was “the first English Government to appreciate the importance of sea power”. It also was responsible for England a great sea power. The Rump Parliament also attended to foreign trade and the overseas empire of England. In 1651, was passed the “Navigation Act”. This Act was intended to strike a blow at the commercial power of Holland and no wonder it aroused the indignation of that country. The Rump had become unpopular with the army because it was a small body, which did not represent the whole nation. Moreover, many of its members were guilty of favouritism and corruption. Cromwell and his army urged the dissolution of the Parliament but the Rump refused to be dissolved. Cromwell could not tolerate the pride ambition and self-seeking of the members of the Parliament. On April 20, 1653, Cromwell himself went to the House of the Commons and turned out the members of the House and had the doors locked. The same afternoon, the Council of State also fell before military violence. After the dissolution of the Rump, Cromwell set up a new council of State which recommended that a Parliament of saints composed of 140 Godly men, 129 from England, 5 from Scotland and 6 from Ireland be summoned. This Parliament met in 1653. it is also known as Barebone’s Parliament. This Parliament was a unique one and it passed many laws like the solemnization of marriage a civil institution, public registration of births, marriages and death. Another law provided for the better custody of insanes. But this Parliament too failed. Cromwell was essentially a reluctant and an apologetic dictator. Lambert drew up a constitutional document called the “Instrument of Government”. It was the first and the last written English constitution. By this instrument, Cromwell was made Lord Protector for life with Council of State to help him. England, Scotland and Ireland were to be united in a single commonwealth with a Parliament representing the three countries. Parliament consisting of one House was to possess the legislative power and was to be elected every three years by a reformed electorate. This instrument gave Cromwell a limited monarchy for life. While the peculiarity of the English constitution was that it was flexible and unwritten, but the instrument tried to make it rigid and written.

Cromwell

Cromwell was one of the greatest figures in the History of England. He was born in 1599 at Huntington. He was a son of a country gentleman and was educated in a college in Cambridge. He emerged as a leader of his country when she was plunged in a Civil war on account of the conflict between the King and the Parliament. He not only won victories for the Parliament but also restored law and order in the country. Cromwell was the first pronounced imperialist in the history of England. His objective was to extend the power of England overseas and he did not hesitate to use all possible means to achieve that end. In his foreign policy, he showed zeal for Protestantism, but while doing so, he did not ignore the trade and commerce of his country. He was himself a Republican, but circumstances forced him to act as a military despot. He tried to govern by a system involving the division of power between himself and the Parliament. When he failed in that objective, he ruled despotically. He levied taxes without the sanction of the Parliament. He imprisoned people without trial. As a matter of fact, he set up a military tyranny. He wished for the Parliament to be supreme and did not wish to take up the title of the King. His faith in God was both a source of his strength and his weakness. In all that he did, whether good or evil, in the three kingdoms, his conviction was that God would support him in everything that he undertook. What he judged to be necessary for the present, that he thought to be predestined for the future. His victories seemed to him, not the result of the means, which he employed, but proofs that his policies were also the will of the Divine. Although he is regarded by some as the greatest patriot and by others as the greatest traitor, he was without doubt one of the greatest men of his country. He possessed military capacity of a very high order. He organized and maintained an army, which was so efficient that he did not meet with any defeat. Oliver Cromwell died on September 3,1658. When his strong hand was removed, the country was plunged into confusion. The Levellers stood for a Republic in which the common people were to rule without Lords, Priests or Lawyers. They had a very treatment from Oliver Cromwell but now they felt that they could do whatever they pleased. Another set known as the Fifth Monarchy Men was led by Harrison. They foretold the immediate end of the world. According to their reading of Daniel, the four monarchies of antiquity, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome were to be succeeded by the fifth monarchy, now at hand, the reign of Christ and his Saints.

Oliver Cromwell had named his son Richard Cromwell to succeed as the Lord Protector. He lacked political capacity and had no advisers. The gulf between Richard and the army was widening. In order to strengthen his position, Richard decided to summon the Parliament and the members of the Parliament were hostile to the army. The army did not like the law, which forbade the army officers from having political meetings. Parliament was dissolved by force in April 1659 and the Rump was recalled. Richard resigned his charge. About the period between 1649 and 1660, monarchy had gone and the House of Lords was established as “useless and dangerous”. This “freedom” was to rise to a climax of Puritan democracy, to decline by reaction into military dictatorship and at last to expire through faction. But it left a legacy. Puritanism released an energy, which called for liberty in religion and every department of life with efficiency greater than anything England had seen. It took long strides towards union with Scotland and Ireland. Its administrative machinery pointed towards the cabinet and its economic doctrine led to the capitalist Britain of the next two centuries.

Restoration

The Restoration of Charles II to the throne of England in 1660 was not merely the restoration of the King but also of Parliament, the Anglican Church, the historic law courts and the old system of local governments in the country. It is wrong to say that the monarchy that was restored was the unlimited and absolute monarchy of Charles I and James I. The “Triennial Act” of 1641 had not been repealed and it meant that the King could not carry on Government without calling a Parliament at least once in three years. Thus, the “Triennial Act” put a check on the power of the King. The result was that Charles II had to be less arbitrary and act according to the law. The very fact that Parliament had made Charles II, the King of England implied that in the last resort Parliament could also unmake him. The Divine Right of Kings to rule was practically dead. A point of conflict between the first two Stuart Kings and the Parliament was the question of taxation. Charles I had levied taxes without the consent of the Parliament. Now it was clearly understood that new taxes could be levied only with the consent of the Parliament. It is clear that although monarchy was restored, it was restored with a difference. Restoration gave to Parliament its old form and organization, which had so radically been changed during the Commonwealth period. The two Houses of the Parliament were restored and the House of Commons became more powerful than the House of Lords. Charles II never questioned the privileges of the Parliament. As a matter of fact, most of his important laws were passed through the Parliament.

Restoration of the Church

Restoration was also the restoration of the Church of England. The Parliament, which was elected in 1661 after the dissolution of the convention Parliament, was predominantly Anglican in nature. The Presbyterian element had disappeared altogether. The so-called Cavalier Parliament ended the work of the Presbyterian majority and restored the Anglican Church to its former position. The “Act of Uniformity” of 1662 provided that all clergymen and teachers were to declare their acceptance of the Anglican Prayer Book. The “Conventicle Act” of 1664 forbade under severe penalties, attendance of any public worship, which was not of Anglican form, of more than four persons, unless they belonged to the same family. The “Test Act” of 1673 provided that all civil and military officers were to take the oath of allegiance and accept the supremacy of the Church of England. In 1679, was passed the “Parliamentary Test Act” which provided that no person was to be a Member of Parliament unless he belonged to the Church of England. 1679 was also the year of Hobbes’ death. It is clear that the Anglican Church was established as a State Church, but with the difference that the headship of the Church no longer belonged to the King as a prerogative right. The leadership of the Church lay with the King-in-Parliament. As has been rightly put by Sir D. L. Keir that the restoration of monarchy in 1660 was especially a return to Government by Law. In this period, the legislative union with Scotland and Ireland was dissolved.

The reign of Charles II

During the reign of Charles II, some constitutional progress was made. The system of appropriation of supplies was established. While granting money to the King, the Parliament laid down the specific purpose for which the money was granted. The responsibility of the Ministers of Parliament was also secured to some extent. During the reign of Charles II, parliamentary parties with definite political programmes were formed and that also added to the strength of the Parliament. The passing of the “Habeas Corpus Act” in 1679 has become a cornerstone of the liberties of the people of England. The Parliament, which placed Charles II on the throne, was known as the Convention Parliament because it was summoned without a royal writ. The lands of the Royalists, which were confiscated, were restored. The Royal revenue was fixed at a fixed sum. Feudal dues and purveyance were abolished. A permanent excise tax was granted to the King as a compensation for the loss of his feudal revenues. The Convention Parliament was dissolved in 1661 and fresh elections were held. The new Parliament, which met in 1661, sat for 18 years and is known as the Cavalier Parliament. It was so called because the cavalier spirit was present among its members. This Parliament was royalist in nature in politics and Anglican in religion. It hated the Puritans and stood for the strengthening of the Church of England. It is true that during the reign of Charles II, the court was corrupt and there were pleasures all around. However, during this period, humanity and refinement spread rapidly in England. Literature, art and science, architecture and etiquette and fashions were copied from the court off Louis XIV, the grand monarch of France. One of the most notable men of this age wasIsaac Newton (1642 – 1727). There were great strides made in the disciplines of Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry and Medicine.

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The Second Trichotomy. Thought of the Day 120.0

Figure-2-Peirce's-triple-trichotomy

The second trichotomy (here is the first) is probably the most well-known piece of Peirce’s semiotics: it distinguishes three possible relations between the sign and its (dynamical) object. This relation may be motivated by similarity, by actual connection, or by general habit – giving rise to the sign classes icon, index, and symbol, respectively.

According to the second trichotomy, a Sign may be termed an Icon, an Index, or a Symbol.

An Icon is a sign which refers to the Object that it denotes merely by virtue of characters of its own, and which it possesses, just the same, whether any such Object actually exists or not. It is true that unless there really is such an Object, the Icon does not act as a sign; but this has nothing to do with its character as a sign. Anything whatever, be it quality, existent individual, or law, is an Icon of anything, in so far as it is like that thing and used as a sign of it.

An Index is a sign which refers to the Object that it denotes by virtue of being really affected by that Object. It cannot, therefore, be a Qualisign, because qualities are whatever they are independently of anything else. In so far as the Index is affected by the Object, it necessarily has some Quality in common with the Object, and it is in respect to these that it refers to the Object. It does, therefore, involve a sort of Icon, although an Icon of a peculiar kind; and it is not the mere resemblance of its Object, even in these respects which makes it a sign, but it is the actual modification of it by the Object. 

A Symbol is a sign which refers to the Object that it denotes by virtue of a law, usually an association of general ideas, which operates to cause the Symbol to be interpreted as referring to that Object. It is thus itself a general type or law, that is, a Legisign. As such it acts through a Replica. Not only is it general in itself, but the Object to which it refers is of general nature. Now that which is general has its being in the instances it will determine. There must, therefore, be existent instances of what the Symbol denotes, although we must here understand by ‘existent’, existent in the possibly imaginary universe to which the Symbol refers. The Symbol will indirectly, through the association or other law, be affected by those instances; and thus the Symbol will involve a sort of Index, although an Index of a peculiar kind. It will not, however, be by any means true that the slight effect upon the Symbol of those instances accounts for the significant character of the Symbol.

The icon refers to its object solely by means of its own properties. This implies that an icon potentially refers to an indefinite class of objects, namely all those objects which have, in some respect, a relation of similarity to it. In recent semiotics, it has often been remarked by someone like Nelson Goodman that any phenomenon can be said to be like any other phenomenon in some respect, if the criterion of similarity is chosen sufficiently general, just like the establishment of any convention immediately implies a similarity relation. If Nelson Goodman picks out two otherwise very different objects, then they are immediately similar to the extent that they now have the same relation to Nelson Goodman. Goodman and others have for this reason deemed the similarity relation insignificant – and consequently put the whole burden of semiotics on the shoulders of conventional signs only. But the counterargument against this rejection of the relevance of the icon lies close at hand. Given a tertium comparationis, a measuring stick, it is no longer possible to make anything be like anything else. This lies in Peirce’s observation that ‘It is true that unless there really is such an Object, the Icon does not act as a sign ’ The icon only functions as a sign to the extent that it is, in fact, used to refer to some object – and when it does that, some criterion for similarity, a measuring stick (or, at least, a delimited bundle of possible measuring sticks) are given in and with the comparison. In the quote just given, it is of course the immediate object Peirce refers to – it is no claim that there should in fact exist such an object as the icon refers to. Goodman and others are of course right in claiming that as ‘Anything whatever ( ) is an Icon of anything ’, then the universe is pervaded by a continuum of possible similarity relations back and forth, but as soon as some phenomenon is in fact used as an icon for an object, then a specific bundle of similarity relations are picked out: ‘ in so far as it is like that thing.’

Just like the qualisign, the icon is a limit category. ‘A possibility alone is an Icon purely by virtue of its quality; and its object can only be a Firstness.’ (Charles S. PeirceThe Essential Peirce_ Selected Philosophical Writings). Strictly speaking, a pure icon may only refer one possible Firstness to another. The pure icon would be an identity relation between possibilities. Consequently, the icon must, as soon as it functions as a sign, be more than iconic. The icon is typically an aspect of a more complicated sign, even if very often a most important aspect, because providing the predicative aspect of that sign. This Peirce records by his notion of ‘hypoicon’: ‘But a sign may be iconic, that is, may represent its object mainly by its similarity, no matter what its mode of being. If a substantive is wanted, an iconic representamen may be termed a hypoicon’. Hypoicons are signs which to a large extent makes use of iconical means as meaning-givers: images, paintings, photos, diagrams, etc. But the iconic meaning realized in hypoicons have an immensely fundamental role in Peirce’s semiotics. As icons are the only signs that look-like, then they are at the same time the only signs realizing meaning. Thus any higher sign, index and symbol alike, must contain, or, by association or inference terminate in, an icon. If a symbol can not give an iconic interpretant as a result, it is empty. In that respect, Peirce’s doctrine parallels that of Husserl where merely signitive acts require fulfillment by intuitive (‘anschauliche’) acts. This is actually Peirce’s continuation of Kant’s famous claim that intuitions without concepts are blind, while concepts without intuitions are empty. When Peirce observes that ‘With the exception of knowledge, in the present instant, of the contents of consciousness in that instant (the existence of which knowledge is open to doubt) all our thought and knowledge is by signs’ (Letters to Lady Welby), then these signs necessarily involve iconic components. Peirce has often been attacked for his tendency towards a pan-semiotism which lets all mental and physical processes take place via signs – in the quote just given, he, analogous to Husserl, claims there must be a basic evidence anterior to the sign – just like Husserl this evidence before the sign must be based on a ‘metaphysics of presence’ – the ‘present instant’ provides what is not yet mediated by signs. But icons provide the connection of signs, logic and science to this foundation for Peirce’s phenomenology: the icon is the only sign providing evidence (Charles S. Peirce The New Elements of Mathematics Vol. 4). The icon is, through its timeless similarity, apt to communicate aspects of an experience ‘in the present instant’. Thus, the typical index contains an icon (more or less elaborated, it is true): any symbol intends an iconic interpretant. Continuity is at stake in relation to the icon to the extent that the icon, while not in itself general, is the bearer of a potential generality. The infinitesimal generality is decisive for the higher sign types’ possibility to give rise to thought: the symbol thus contains a bundle of general icons defining its meaning. A special icon providing the condition of possibility for general and rigorous thought is, of course, the diagram.

The index connects the sign directly with its object via connection in space and time; as an actual sign connected to its object, the index is turned towards the past: the action which has left the index as a mark must be located in time earlier than the sign, so that the index presupposes, at least, the continuity of time and space without which an index might occur spontaneously and without any connection to a preceding action. Maybe surprisingly, in the Peircean doctrine, the index falls in two subtypes: designators vs. reagents. Reagents are the simplest – here the sign is caused by its object in one way or another. Designators, on the other hand, are more complex: the index finger as pointing to an object or the demonstrative pronoun as the subject of a proposition are prototypical examples. Here, the index presupposes an intention – the will to point out the object for some receiver. Designators, it must be argued, presuppose reagents: it is only possible to designate an object if you have already been in reagent contact (simulated or not) with it (this forming the rational kernel of causal reference theories of meaning). The closer determination of the object of an index, however, invariably involves selection on the background of continuities.

On the level of the symbol, continuity and generality play a main role – as always when approaching issues defined by Thirdness. The symbol is, in itself a legisign, that is, it is a general object which exists only due to its actual instantiations. The symbol itself is a real and general recipe for the production of similar instantiations in the future. But apart from thus being a legisign, it is connected to its object thanks to a habit, or regularity. Sometimes, this is taken to mean ‘due to a convention’ – in an attempt to distinguish conventional as opposed to motivated sign types. This, however, rests on a misunderstanding of Peirce’s doctrine in which the trichotomies record aspects of sign, not mutually exclusive, independent classes of signs: symbols and icons do not form opposed, autonomous sign classes; rather, the content of the symbol is constructed from indices and general icons. The habit realized by a symbol connects it, as a legisign, to an object which is also general – an object which just like the symbol itself exists in instantiations, be they real or imagined. The symbol is thus a connection between two general objects, each of them being actualized through replicas, tokens – a connection between two continua, that is:

Definition 1. Any Blank is a symbol which could not be vaguer than it is (although it may be so connected with a definite symbol as to form with it, a part of another partially definite symbol), yet which has a purpose.

Axiom 1. It is the nature of every symbol to blank in part. [ ]

Definition 2. Any Sheet would be that element of an entire symbol which is the subject of whatever definiteness it may have, and any such element of an entire symbol would be a Sheet. (‘Sketch of Dichotomic Mathematics’ (The New Elements of Mathematics Vol. 4 Mathematical Philosophy)

The symbol’s generality can be described as it having always blanks having the character of being indefinite parts of its continuous sheet. Thus, the continuity of its blank parts is what grants its generality. The symbol determines its object according to some rule, granting the object satisfies that rule – but leaving the object indeterminate in all other respects. It is tempting to take the typical symbol to be a word, but it should rather be taken as the argument – the predicate and the proposition being degenerate versions of arguments with further continuous blanks inserted by erasure, so to speak, forming the third trichotomy of term, proposition, argument.

Utopia as Emergence Initiating a Truth. Thought of the Day 104.0

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It is true that, in our contemporary world, traditional utopian models have withered, but today a new utopia of canonical majority has taken over the space of any action transformative of current social relations. Instead of radicalness, conformity has become the main expression of solidarity for the subject abandoned to her consecrated individuality. Where past utopias inscribed a collective vision to be fulfilled for future generations, the present utopia confiscates the future of the individual, unless she registers in a collective, popularized expression of the norm that reaps culture, politics, morality, and the like. The ideological outcome of the canonical utopia is the belief that the majority constitutes a safety net for individuality. If the future of the individual is bleak, at least there is some hope in saving his/her present.

This condition reiterates Ernst Bloch’s distinction between anticipatory and compensatory utopia, with the latter gaining ground today (Ruth Levitas). By discarding the myth of a better future for all, the subject succumbs to the immobilizing myth of a safe present for herself (the ultimate transmutation of individuality to individualism). The world can surmount Difference, simply by taking away its painful radicalness, replacing it with a non-violent, pluralistic, and multi-cultural present, as Žižek harshly criticized it for its anti-rational status. In line with Badiou and Jameson, Žižek discerns behind the multitude of identities and lifestyles in our world the dominance of the One and the eradication of Difference (the void of antagonism). It would have been ideal, if pluralism were not translated to populism and the non-violent to a sanctimonious respect of Otherness.

Badiou also points to the nihilism that permeates modern ethicology that puts forward the “recognition of the other”, the respect of “differences”, and “multi-culturalism”. Such ethics is supposed to protect the subject from discriminatory behaviours on the basis of sex, race, culture, religion, and so on, as one must display “tolerance” towards others who maintain different thinking and behaviour patterns. For Badiou, this ethical discourse is far from effective and truthful, as is revealed by the competing axes it forges (e.g., opposition between “tolerance” and “fanaticism”, “recognition of the other” and “identitarian fixity”).

Badiou denounces the decomposed religiosity of current ethical discourse, in the face of the pharisaic advocates of the right to difference who are “clearly horrified by any vigorously sustained difference”. The pharisaism of this respect for difference lies in the fact that it suggests the acceptance of the other, in so far as s/he is a “good other”; in other words, in so far as s/he is the same as everyone else. Such an ethical attitude ironically affirms the hegemonic identity of those who opt for integration of the different other, which is to say, the other is requested to suppress his/her difference, so that he partakes in the “Western identity”.

Rather than equating being with the One, the law of being is the multiple “without one”, that is, every multiple being is a multiple of multiples, stretching alterity into infinity; alterity is simply “what there is” and our experience is “the infinite deployment of infinite differences”. Only the void can discontinue this multiplicity of being, through the event that “breaks” with the existing order and calls for a “new way of being”. Thus, a radical utopian gesture needs to emerge from the perspective of the event, initiating a truth process.

Paradox of Phallocentrism. Thought of the Day 34.0

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The paradox of phallocentrism in aIl its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world. An idea of woman stands as lynch pin to the system: it is her lack that produces the phallus as a symbolic presence, it is her desire to make good the lack that the phallus signifies. The function of woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is two-fold. She first symbolises the castration threat by her real absence of a penis, and second thereby raises her child into the symbolic. Once this has been achieved, her meaning in the process is at an end, it does not last into the world of law and language except as a memory which oscillates between memory of maternal plenitude and memory of lack. Both are posited on nature (or on anatomy in Freud’s famous phrase). Woman’s desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it. She turns her child into the signifier of her own desire to possess a penis (the condition, she imagines, of entry into the symbolic). Either she must gracefully give way to the word, the Name of the Father and the Law, or else struggle to keep her child down with her in the half-light of the imaginary. Woman then stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his phantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.

Biogrammatic Vir(Ac)tuality. Note Quote.

In Foucault’s most famous example, the prison acts as the confluence of content (prisoners) and expression (law, penal code) (Gilles Deleuze, Sean Hand-Foucault). Informal Diagrams are proliferate. As abstract machines they contain the transversal vectors that cut across a panoply of features (such as institutions, classes, persons, economic formation, etc), mapping from point to relational point, the generalized features of power economies. The disciplinary diagram explored by Foucault, imposes “a particular conduct upon a particular human multiplicity”. The imposition of force upon force affects and effectuates the felt experience of a life, a living. Deleuze has called the abstract machine “pure matter/function” in which relations between forces are nonetheless very real.

[…] the diagram acts as a non-unifying immanent cause that is co-extensive with the whole social field: the abstract machine is like the cause of the concrete assemblages that execute its relations; and these relations between forces take place ‘not above’ but within the very tissue of the assemblages they produce.

The processual conjunction of content and expression; the cutting edge of deterritorialization:

The relations of power and resistance between theory and practice resonate – becoming-form; diagrammatics as praxis, integrates and differentiates the immanent cause and quasi-cause of the actualized occasions of research/creation. What do we mean by immanent cause? It is a cause which is realized, integrated and distinguished in its effect. Or rather, the immanent cause is realized, integrated and distinguished by its effect. In this way there is a correlation or mutual presupposition between cause and effect, between abstract machine and concrete assemblages

Memory is the real name of the relation to oneself, or the affect of self by self […] Time becomes a subject because it is the folding of the outside…forces every present into forgetting but preserves the whole of the past within memory: forgetting is the impossibiltiy of return and memory is the necessity of renewal.

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The figure on the left is Henri Bergson’s diagram of an infinitely contracted past that directly intersects with the body at point S – a mobile, sensorimotor present where memory is closest to action. Plane P represents the actual present; plane of contact with objects. The AB segments represent repetitive compressions of memory. As memory contracts it gets closer to action. In it’s more expanded forms it is closer to dreams. The figure on the right extrapolates from Bergson’s memory model to describe the Biogrammatic ontological vector of the Diagram as it moves from abstract (informal) machine in the most expanded form “A” through the cone “tissue” to the phase-shifting (formal), arriving at the Strata of the P plane to become artefact. The ontological vector passes through the stratified, through the interval of difference created in the phase shift (the same phase shift that separates and folds content and expression to move vertically, transversally, back through to the abstract diagram.)

A spatio-temporal-material contracting-expanding of the abstract machine is the processual thinking-feeling-articulating of the diagram becoming-cartographic; synaesthetic conceptual mapping. A play of forces, a series of relays, affecting a tendency toward an inflection of the informal diagram becoming-form. The inflected diagram/biogram folds and unfolds perception, appearances; rides in the gap of becoming between content and expression; intuitively transduces the actualizing (thinking, drawing, marking, erasing) of matter-movement, of expressivity-movement. “To follow the flow of matter… is intuition in action.” A processual stage that prehends the process of the virtual actualizing;

the creative construction of a new reality. The biogrammatic stage of the diagrammatic is paradoxically double in that it is both the actualizing of the abstract machine (contraction) and the recursive counter-actualization of the formal diagram (détournement); virtual and actual.

It is the event-dimension of potential – that is the effective dimension of the interrelating of elements, of their belonging to each other. That belonging is a dynamic corporeal “abstraction” – the “drawing off” (transductive conversion) of the corporeal into its dynamism (yielding the event) […] In direct channeling. That is, in a directional channeling: ontological vector. The transductive conversion is an ontological vector that in-gathers a heterogeneity of substantial elements along with the already-constituted abstractions of language (“meaning”) and delivers them together to change. (Brian Massumi Parables for the Virtual Movement, Affect, Sensation)

Skin is the space of the body the BwO that is interior and exterior. Interstitial matter of the space of the body.

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The material markings and traces of a diagrammatic process, a ‘capturing’ becoming-form. A diagrammatic capturing involves a transductive process between a biogrammatic form of content and a form of expression. The formal diagram is thus an individuating phase-shift as Simondon would have it, always out-of-phase with itself. A becoming-form that inhabits the gap, the difference, between the wave phase of the biogrammatic that synaesthetically draws off the intermix of substance and language in the event-dimension and the drawing of wave phase in which partial capture is formalized. The phase shift difference never acquires a vectorial intention. A pre-decisive, pre-emptive drawing of phase-shifting with a “drawing off” the biogram.

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If effects realize something this is because the relations between forces or power relations, are merely virtual, potential, unstable vanishing and molecular, and define only possibilities of interaction so long as they do not enter a macroscopic whole capable of giving form to their fluid manner and diffuse function. But realization is equally an integration, a collection of progressive integrations that are initially local and then become or tend to become global, aligning, homogenizing and summarizing relations between forces: here law is the integration of illegalisms.

 

Leibnizian Mnemonics

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By any standard, Leibniz’s effort to create a “universal calculus” should be considered one of the most ambitious intellectual agendas ever conceived. Building on his previous successes in developing the infinitesimal calculus, Leibniz aimed to extend the notion of a symbolic calculus to all domains of human thought, from law, to medicine, to biology, to theology. The ultimate vision was a pictorial language which could be learned by anyone in a matter of weeks and which would transparently represent the factual content of all human knowledge. This would be the starting point for developing a logical means for manipulating the associated symbolic representation, thus giving rise to the ability to model nature and society, to derive new logic truths, and to eliminate logical contradictions from the foundations of Christian thought.

Astonishingly, many elements of this agenda are quite familiar when examined from the perspective of modern computer science. The starting point for this agenda would be an encyclopedia of structured knowledge, not unlike our own contemporary efforts related to the Semantic Web, Web 2.0, or LinkedData. Rather than consisting of prose descriptions, this encyclopedia would consist of taxonomies of basic concepts extending across all subjects.

Leibniz then wanted to create a symbolic representation of each of the fundamental concepts in this repository of structured information. It is the choice of the symbolic representation that is particularly striking. Unlike the usual mathematical symbols that comprise the differential calculus, Leibniz’s effort would rely on mnemonic images which were useful for memorizing facts.

Whereas modern thinkers usually imagine memorization to be a task accomplished through pure repetition, 16th and 17th-century Europe saw fundamental innovation in the theory and practice of memory. During this period, practitioners of the memory arts relied on a diverse array of visualization techniques that allowed them to recall massive amounts of information with extraordinary precision. These memory techniques were part of a broader intellectual culture which viewed memorization as a foundational methodology for structuring knowledge.

The basic elements of this methodology were mnemonic techniques. Not the simple catch phrases that we typically associate with mnemonics, but rather, elaborate visualized scenes or images that represented what was to be remembered. It is these same memory techniques that are used in modern memory competitions and which allow competitors to perform such superhuman feats as memorizing the order of a deck of cards in under 25 seconds, or thousands of random numbers in an hour. The basic principle behind these techniques is the same, namely, that a striking and inventive visual image can dramatically aid the memory.

Leibniz and many of his contemporaries had a much more ambitious vision for mnemonics than our modern day competitive memorizers. They believed that the process of memorization went hand in hand with structuring knowledge, and furthermore, that there were better and worse mnemonics and that the different types of pictorial representations could have different philosophical and scientific implications.

For instance, if the purpose was merely to memorize, one might create the most lewd and absurd possible images in order to remember some list of facts. Indeed, this was recommended by enterprising memory theorists of the day trying to make money by selling pamphlets on how to improve one’s memory. Joshua Foer’s memoir Moonwalking with Einstein is an engaging and insightful first-person account of the “competitive memory circuit,” where techniques such as this one are the bread and butter of how elite competitors are able to perform feats of memory that boggle the mind.

But whereas in the modern world, mnemonic techniques have been relegated to learning vocabulary words and the competitive memory circuit, elite intellectuals several centuries ago had a much more ambitious vision the ultimate implications of this methodology. In particular, Leibniz hoped that through a rigorous process of notation engineering one might be able to preserve the memory-aiding properties of mnemonics while eliminating the inevitable conceptual interference that arises in creating absurdly comical, lewd, or provocative mnemonics. By drawing inspiration from the Chinese alphabet and Egyptian hieroglyphics, he hoped to create a language that could be learned by anyone in a short period of time and which would transparently – through the pictorial dimension – represent the factual content of a curated encyclopedia. Furthermore, by building upon his successes in developing the infinitesimal calculus, Leibniz hoped that a logical structure would emerge which would allow novel insights to be derived by manipulating the associated symbolic calculus.

Leibniz’s motivations extended far beyond the realm of the natural sciences. Using mnemonics as the core alphabet to engineer a symbolic system with complete notational transparency would mean that all people would be able to learn this language, regardless of their level of education or cultural background. It would be a truly universal language, one that would unite the world, end religious conflict, and bring about widespread peace and prosperity. It was a beautiful and humane vision, although it goes without saying that it did not materialize.

Hyperstructures

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In many areas of mathematics there is a need to have methods taking local information and properties to global ones. This is mostly done by gluing techniques using open sets in a topology and associated presheaves. The presheaves form sheaves when local pieces fit together to global ones. This has been generalized to categorical settings based on Grothendieck topologies and sites.

The general problem of going from local to global situations is important also outside of mathematics. Consider collections of objects where we may have information or properties of objects or subcollections, and we want to extract global information.

This is where hyperstructures are very useful. If we are given a collection of objects that we want to investigate, we put a suitable hyperstructure on it. Then we may assign “local” properties at each level and by the generalized Grothendieck topology for hyperstructures we can now glue both within levels and across the levels in order to get global properties. Such an assignment of global properties or states we call a globalizer. 

To illustrate our intuition let us think of a society organized into a hyperstructure. Through levelwise democratic elections leaders are elected and the democratic process will eventually give a “global” leader. In this sense democracy may be thought of as a sociological (or political) globalizer. This applies to decision making as well.

In “frustrated” spin systems in physics one may possibly think of the “frustation” being resolved by creating new levels and a suitable globalizer assigning a global state to the system corresponding to various exotic physical conditions like, for example, a kind of hyperstructured spin glass or magnet. Acting on both classical and quantum fields in physics may be facilitated by putting a hyperstructure on them.

There are also situations where we are given an object or a collection of objects with assignments of properties or states. To achieve a certain goal we need to change, let us say, the state. This may be very difficult and require a lot of resources. The idea is then to put a hyperstructure on the object or collection. By this we create levels of locality that we can glue together by a generalized Grothendieck topology.

It may often be much easier and require less resources to change the state at the lowest level and then use a globalizer to achieve the desired global change. Often it may be important to find a minimal hyperstructure needed to change a global state with minimal resources.

Again, to support our intuition let us think of the democratic society example. To change the global leader directly may be hard, but starting a “political” process at the lower individual levels may not require heavy resources and may propagate through the democratic hyperstructure leading to a change of leader.

Hence, hyperstructures facilitates local to global processes, but also global to local processes. Often these are called bottom up and top down processes. In the global to local or top down process we put a hyperstructure on an object or system in such a way that it is represented by a top level bond in the hyperstructure. This means that to an object or system X we assign a hyperstructure

H = {B0,B1,…,Bn} in such a way that X = bn for some bn ∈ B binding a family {bi1n−1} of Bn−1 bonds, each bi1n−1 binding a family {bi2n−2} of Bn−2 bonds, etc. down to B0 bonds in H. Similarly for a local to global process. To a system, set or collection of objects X, we assign a hyperstructure H such that X = B0. A hyperstructure on a set (space) will create “global” objects, properties and states like what we see in organized societies, organizations, organisms, etc. The hyperstructure is the “glue” or the “law” of the objects. In a way, the globalizer creates a kind of higher order “condensate”. Hyperstructures represent a conceptual tool for translating organizational ideas like for example democracy, political parties, etc. into a mathematical framework where new types of arguments may be carried through.

Genesis and Evaluation of Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Part 2.

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Hobbes recognizes the nature of the ideal of an exact philosophical morality,which is paradoxical and makes it the backbone of his political philosophy. In his moral philosophy also, the antithesis between the virtue and pseudo-virtue forms a constituent part. He also teaches that true virtue and pseudo-virtue differ only in their reason. Like Plato, he also recognizes only political virtues. Hobbes also distrusts rhetoric, in a way, which recalls Plato.

A pleader commonly thinks he ought to say all he can for the benefit of his client, and therefore has need of a faculty to wrest the sense of words from their true meaning, and the faculty of rhetoric to seduce the jury, and sometimes the judge also, and many other arts which I neither have, nor intend to study.

Basing his reason on Platonic approach, he thought that the difference between the analysis of ordinary values and of passions given in Aristotle’s rhetoric on the one hand, and the theory of ethics on the other, not nearly great enough. While in Aristotle’s view the common passionate valuations have a peculiar consistency and universality, Hobbes, by reason of his radical criticism of opinion as such, cannot but deny them this dignity. 

What Hobbes’ political philosophy owes to Platonism is the antithesis between truth and appearance, the fitting and the great, between reason and passion. From the very outset, Hobbes’ conviction was the antithesis between vanity and fear and for him, it was of fundamental importance for morals. But in the beginning, Hobbes understood this antithesis as an antithesis within the domain of the passions. But when he turned to Plato, he began to conceive this antithesis between vanity and fear as the antithesis between passion and reason. However, resolutely Hobbes demands a completely passionless, purely rational political philosophy, he desires, as it were, in the same breath, that the norm to be set by reason should be in accord with the passions. Respect for applicability determines the seeking after the norm from the outset. With this, Hobbes does not merely tacitly adopt Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s political philosophy but he goes much beyond Aristotle.

Primary reason for Hobbes’ opposition to Plato, is the motive for turning to Euclid as to the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method. In this method, the given object of investigation is first analysed, traced back to its reasons, and then by completely lucid deduction the object is again reconstituted. The axioms, which Hobbes gains by going back from the existing State to its reasons, and from there he deduces the form of the right State; are according to him, the man’s natural selfishness and the fear of death. Hobbes’ political philosophy differs from Plato in that, in the latter, exactness means the undistorted reliability of the standards, while in the former, exactness means unconditional applicability, under all circumstances. Hobbes took the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method over from Galileo. He believes that by this method he can achieve for political philosophy what Galileo achieved for physics. But the adequacy for physics does not guarantee its adequacy for political philosophy. For while the subject for physics is the natural body, the subject of political philosophy is an artificial body, i.e. a whole that has to be made by men from natural wholes. Thus the concern of political philosophy is not so much knowledge of the artificial body as the production of that body. Political philosophy analyses the existing State into its elements only in order that by a better synthesis of those elements the right State may be produced. Political philosophy thus becomes a technique for the regulation of the State. Its task is to alter the unstable balance of the existing State to the stable balance of the right State. The introduction of Galileo’s method into political philosophy from the outset renounces all discussions of the fundamental political problems, i.e. the elimination of the fundamental question as to the aim of the State.

Hobbes doesn’t question the necessity of political philosophy, i.e. he doesn’t ask first, ‘What is virtue?’ and ‘Can it be taught?’ and ‘What is the aim of the State?’, because for him, these questions are answered by tradition, or by common opinion. The aim of the State is for him as a matter of course peace, i.e. peace at any price. The underlying presupposition is that violent death is the first and greatest and supreme evil. After finding this presupposition as a principle when he analysed the existing State, he proceeds to deduce from it the right State; opposed to Plato, whose consideration of the genesis of the State seems superficially akin, but has the character of reflection, of deliberate questioning of what is good and fitting. Convinced of the absolutely typical character of the mathematical method, according to which one proceeds from axioms to self-evident truths/conclusions, Hobbes fails to realize that in the ‘beginning’, in the ‘evident’ presuppositions whether of mathematics or of politics, the task of ‘dialectic’ is hidden. Hobbes considers it superfluous, even dangerous, to take as one’s point of departure what men say about justice and so forth: ‘the names of virtues and vices…can never be true grounds of any ratiocination’. The application of the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method to political philosophy is of doubtful value as it prevented Hobbes from asking the questions as to the standard. He begins his political philosophy with the question as to the nature of the man in the sense of that which falls to all men before education. If the procedure of deducing the right State is to be significant, the principles themselves contain the answer to the question as to the right State, as to the standard. Hobbes characterizes the two principles viz., limitless self-love on the one hand and that of violent death on the other as he principles of the wrong and the principles of the right. But this characterization does not arise from the analysis, for the analysis can only show the principles of the existing State, and cannot, therefore, teach anything about the rightness and wrongness of those principles, and, on the other hand, this characterization is the presupposition of the synthesis, which as a synthesis of the right State cannot arise until it has been established what is the right. This qualification, which follows the analysis and precedes the synthesis, is certainly into the frame of the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method; but it is not to be understood from this method, either in general or even in particular. The justification of the standard, which is the fundamental part of the political philosophy, is hidden by the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method and even made unrecognizable.

What is justified in this way is indeed not a standard, an obligation; but a right, a claim. According to Hobbes, the basis of politics is not the ‘law of nature’, but the ‘right of nature’. This right is the minimum claim, which as such is fundamentally just, and the origin of any other just claim; more exactly, it is unconditionally just because it can be answered for in face of all men in all circumstances. A claim of this kind is only the claim to defend life and limb. Its opposite is the maximum claim, which is fundamentally unjust, for it cannot be answered for in face of any other man. The maximum claim, the claim man makes by nature, i.e. as long as he is not educated by ‘unforeseen mischances’, is the claim to triumph over all other men. This ‘natural’ claim is checked by fear of violent death and becomes man’s rational minimum claim, and thus ‘right of nature’ comes into being, or atleast comes to light. That is to say, the ‘right of nature’ is the first juridical or moral fact, which arises if one, starts from man’s nature i.e. from man’s natural appetite. The ‘law of nature’ belongs to a much later stage of the progress from human nature to the State: ‘natural right’ is dealt with in the first chapter of De Cive, ‘natural law’ in the second and third chapters.

The ‘law of nature’ owes all its dignity simply to the circumstances that it is the necessary consequence of the ‘right of nature’. We may ask the question as to what is the peculiarity of modern political thought in relation to the classical political thought?  While modern thought starts from the rights of the individual, and conceives the State as existing to secure the conditions of his development, Greek thought starts from the right of the State. Modern and classical political philosophy are fundamentally distinguished in that modern political philosophy takes ‘right’ as the starting point, whereas classical political philosophy has ‘law’ as its starting point.

Hobbes marked an epoch not only by subordinating law to right. He was at the same time ‘the first writer to grasp the full importance of the idea of sovereignty…he must take the credit of being the first to see that the idea of sovereignty lies at the very root of the whole theory of the State; and the first to realize the necessity of fixing precisely where it lies, and what are its functions and its limits’. By this also Hobbes stands in contrast to classical political philosophy: ‘Amongst the most notable omissions of Greek philosophy is the absence of any clear attempt to define the nature of sovereignty, to determine its seat, or settle the ultimate sanction on which it rests’. In classical times, the question, ‘who or what shall rule?’ has the antiquity answer running, ‘the law’. Philosophers who could not acquiesce in the Divine origin of the law justify this answer in the following way: the rational should rule over the irrational (the old over the young, the man over the woman, the master over the slave) and therefore law over men. Granting that there are men who by force of reason are undoubtedly superior to others, would those others submit to them merely on this ground, and obey them? Would they recognize their superiority? But doubt does not stop at that. It is denied that any considerable difference in reasonableness exists between men. Because reason is essentially impotent, it is not enough to reply that reason is the origin and the seat of sovereignty. Thus it becomes fundamentally questionable, which of the men who are equal and alike is to rule over the others, and under which conditions and within which limits, they have a claim to rule. Because all men a re equally reasonable, the reason of one or more individuals must arbitrarily be made the standard reason as an artificial substitute for the lacking natural superiority of the reason. Because reason is impotent, the rational ‘law of nature’ also loses its dignity. In its place we have the ‘right of nature’ which is, indeed, according to reason but dictated not by reason but by the fear of death. The break with rationalism is thus the decisive presupposition for the concept of sovereignty as well as for the supplanting of ‘law’ by ‘right’.

Hobbes in his writings conceives sovereign power not as reason but as will. Hobbes expressly turns against the view still predominant in his age that the holder of the sovereign power is in the same relation to the State as the head to the whole man. The holder of the sovereign power is not the ‘head’, that is, the capacity to deliberate and plan, but the ‘soul’, that is, the capacity to command, in the State. The explicit break with rationalism is thus the reason for the antithesis of modern political thought to classical and is characterized thusly: ‘the Greeks believed in the need of education to tune and harmonize social opinions to the spirit and tone of a fixed and fundamental law. The modern belief is the need of a representation to adjust and harmonize a fluid and changing and subordinate law to the movement of a sovereign public opinion or ‘general will’.

The view of classical rationalism, that only reason justifies dominion, found its most radical expression in Plato’s saying that the only necessary and adequate condition for the weal of a State is that the philosophers should be Kings and Kings philosophers. This amounts to stating that the setting up of a perfect commonwealth depends exclusively on ‘internal policy’ and not at all on foreign policy. From here on, Plato’s theory of justice can be summed up thus: there is no happiness for men without justice; justice means attending to one’s own business, bringing oneself into the right disposition with regard to the transcendent unchanging norm, to which the soul is akin, and not meddling into other people’s affairs; and justice in the State is not different from justice in the individual, except that the State is self-sufficient and can thus practice justice; attending to its own business; incomparably more perfectly than can the individual who is not self-sufficient. The citizens of the perfect State, for this very reason to foreigners, happen to be either allies to be esteemed or foes to be feared. Let us take Plato’s example; if the essence of the thing is to be preferred to its external conditions, to the self-realization and self-assertion of that thing against its external conditions, then, for instance, the right constitution of the body, its health, is to be preferred to its return to its health, to its recovery after its loss of health. By this example, Plato makes clear that the good statesman carries out his legislation with an eye to peace, which is to the good internal constitution of the State, and not with an eye to war, that is, to the assertion of the State against external conditions. Hobbes differs from Plato and asserts that the recovery of health is to be preferred to the undisturbed possession of health. While for Plato and to an extent for Aristotle, and in accordance with the primary interest they attach to home policy, the question of the number of inhabitants of the perfect State, that is, the limits set to the State by its inner necessity, is of decisive importance; Hobbes brushes this question aside in these words: ‘The Multitude sufficient to confide in for our security, is not determined by any certain number, but by comparison by the enemy we feare…’ The primacy of foreign policy is not specifically taught by Hobbes, but it is an integral part of all of modern political philosophy. Immanuel Kant in one of his works has a phrase, which runs like: ‘The problem of establishing a perfect civil constitution is dependent on the problem of a lawful external relation between the States and cannot be solved independently of the solution of the latter problem’.

The antithesis between Platonic and Hobbesian political philosophy, reduced to principle, is that the former orientates itself by speech and the latter from the outset refuses to do so. This refusal originally arises from what may be called natural valuations. While Plato goes back to the truth hidden in the natural valuations and thereof seeks to teach nothing new and unheard of, but to recall what is known to all but not understood, Hobbes, rejecting the natural valuations in principle, goes beyond, goes forward to a new a priori political philosophy, which is of the future and freely projected. Measured by Aristotle’s classical explanation of morals, Platonic moral philosophy is as paradoxical as Hobbes’. But whereas the paradoxical nature of Platonic moral philosophy is as irreversible as the  ‘cave’ existence of men bound to the body, Hobbes’ moral philosophy is destined sooner or later to change from paradox to an accepted form of public opinion. The paradoxical nature of Hobbes’ moral philosophy is the paradox of the surprisingly new, unheard of venture. Whereas Plato retraces natural morals and the orientation provided by them to their origin, Hobbes must attempt in sovereignty, and without this orientation, to discover the principles of morals. Hobbes travels the path, which leads to formal ethics and finally to relativist skepticism. The enormous extension of the claims made on political science leads at least to a denial of the very idea of political science and to the replacement of political science by sociology. Plato does not question the virtue character of courage, to which speech bears witness but simply opposes the over-estimation of courage, which underlies the popular opinion. Hobbes, because he renounced all orientation by speech, goes so far to deny the virtue character of courage. And just as disdain of speech finally leads to relativist skepticism, the negation of courage leads to the controversial position of courage, which becomes more and more acute on the way from Rousseau by Hegel to Nietzsche and is completed by the reabsorption of wisdom by courage, in the view that the ideal is not the object of wisdom, but the hazardous venture of the will.

Relinquishing orientation by speech does not mean that Hobbes ‘forgets’ the question of standards, but that he poses this question only as an afterthought, and, therefore, inadequately. Whereas Plato distinguishes between two kinds of reasons, the good and the necessary, Hobbes recognizes only one kind, the necessary. Since as a result of this he is obliged to take into account the inevitable difference between the good and the necessary within the necessary itself, the question of the standard, of the good, becomes for him the question of what is par excellence necessary, and he discovers the retreat from death as the necessary par excellence. For Hobbes, the denial of natural standards was irrefutably evident on the basis of his materialist metaphysics. Thus this metaphysics is the implicit pre-supposition even of his turning to Euclid, provided that the acceptance of the ‘mathematical’ method presupposes the negation of absolute standards. For the question arises; why did Hobbes decide in favour of materialism? On the ground of what primary conviction was materialism so vividly evident for him? The answer can be based on rough indications i.e. Hobbes’ turn to natural science is to be explained by his interest not so much in nature as in man, in self knowledge of man as he really is, i.e. by the interest that characterized him even in his humanist period. His scientific explanation of sense perception is characterized by the fact that it interprets perception of the higher senses by the sense of touch; and the preference for the sense of touch, which this presupposes is already implied in Hobbes’ original view of fundamental significance of the antithesis between vanity and fear. If Hobbes’ natural science is dependent on his ‘humanist’, that is moral, interests and convictions, on the other hand a particular conception of nature is the implicit basis of his views on moral and political philosophy. It is certain that the conception of nature, which is the presupposition of his political philosophy and the conception of nature, which he explains in his scientific writings, has a kinship and which in principle are to be kept separate. It is for these reasons that his scientific investigations could exert a powerful influence on the evolution of his political philosophy. He could not have maintained his thesis that death is the greatest and supreme evil but for the conviction vouched for by his natural science that the soul is not immortal. His criticism of aristocratic virtue and his denial of any gradation in mankind gains certainty only through his conception of nature, according to which there is no order, that is, no gradation in nature. From this standpoint we can understand the difference between Hobbes’ conception of Pride and the traditional conception. ‘Pride’ in the traditional sense means rebellion against the gradation of beings; it presupposes, therefore, the existence and the obligatory character of that gradation. Hobbes’ conception of ‘Pride’, on the other hand, presupposes the denial of natural gradation; this conception is, indeed, nothing other than a means of ‘explaining’, i.e. of denying that gradation: the allegedly natural gradation concerning the faculties of the mind proceeds from a ‘a vain concept of ones own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater degree, than the Vulgar’. The idea of civilization achieves its telling effect solely by reason of the presupposition that the civilization of human nature can go on boundlessly, because what tradition in agreement with common sense had understood as given and immutable human nature is for the main part a mere ‘natural limit’, which may be over passed. Very little is innate in man; most of what is alleged to come to him from the nature is acquired and therefore mutable, as conditions change; the most important peculiarities of man; speech, reason, sociality are not gifts of nature, but the work of his will. This example creates a duality in his political philosophy. The idea of civilization presupposes that man, by virtue of his intelligence, can place himself outside nature, can rebel against nature. The antithesis of nature and human will is hidden by the monist (materialist-deterministic) metaphysic, which Hobbes found himself forced to adopt simply because he saw no other possibility of escaping the ‘Kingdom of darkness’. This signifies that the moral basis of his political philosophy becomes more and more disguised, the farther the evolution of his natural science progresses. In other words, with the progressive evolution of his natural sciences, vanity, which must of necessity be treated from the moral standpoint, is more and more replaced by the striving for power, which is neutral and therefore more amenable to scientific interpretation. But Hobbes took great care not to follow this path as he thought that consistent naturalism would ruin his political philosophy. To compare Spinoza with Hobbes, Spinoza was more naturalistic than Hobbes. Spinoza relinquished the distinction between ‘might’ and ‘right’ and taught the natural right of all passions. Hobbes, on the other hand, by virtue of the basis of his political philosophy asserted the natural right only of the fear of death. On the other hand, if we consider Montesquieu, who carried the naturalistic analysis of the passions to its logical conclusion, came forward with the result that the State of nature cannot be the war of all against all this clearly exemplifies that if inconsistent naturalism is compatible with Hobbes’ political philosophy, the consistent naturalism, which Hobbes displays in his scientific writings cannot be the foundation of his political philosophy. This foundation must be another conception of nature, which although being related to naturalism is by no means identical to it.

Therefore, the foundation of Hobbes’ political philosophy, which is the moral attitude to which it owes its existence, is objectively prior to the mathematical scientific founding and presentation of that philosophy. The mathematical method and the materialistic metaphysics each in their own way contributed to disguise the original motivation to undermine Hobbes’ political philosophy. Hence, Leviathan is by no means an adequate source for an understanding of Hobbes’ moral and political philosophy, although the presuppositions and conclusions dealing with moral attitude are clearly manifest in the Leviathan.

Hobbesian Morality and State

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Political Philosophy, as that branch of knowledge which consists of moral philosophy on the one hand and, and politics on the other, was treated systematically and in details by Hobbes in three different pieces of work viz., Elements of Law (1640), in the second and third parts of the Elementa Philosophiae, and in the Leviathan (1651). In all of these three presentations, his political philosophy shows traces of Galilean science and more so of Galileo’s ‘resolutive – compositive’ method. Everyone who has written about Hobbes’ political philosophy has interpreted his treatises as heavily dependent upon natural science, either for his material or method, which he heavily incorporates through out his works. However, the recognition of this fact on closer and meticulous scrutiny proves to be extremely questionable.

The propensity of natural sciences in his political philosophy is questioned, because Hobbes very well knew the fundamental differences between the two disciplines in the contest of material and method. On this awareness lay his basic conviction that political philosophy is essentially independent of natural science. This independence is corroborated because the principles of political philosophy are not borrowed from natural science, and indeed not from any sciences, but borrowed from experience, which one has of him, or to put it more accurately, are discovered by the efforts of self-knowledge and self-examination of everyone. The evidence of political philosophy on the one hand, is much easier to understand: its subjects and its concepts are not so remote from the average man as are the subjects and concepts of Mathematics which form the basis of natural science. On the other hand, ‘the politiques are the harder study of the two’; by reason of their passions, men obscure the, in itself, clear and simple knowledge of the norms which political philosophy builds up. Moreover, man with his passions and his self-seeking is the particular subject of political philosophy, and man opposes by every kind of hypocrisy the self-knowledge on which the proof of these norms rests.

Hobbes considered both political philosophy and the natural sciences as the main components of human knowledge. It can be said that Hobbes’ classification of the sciences is based on a classification of existing things into natural and the artificial. It is not so much the artificially produced things that are basically different from all natural things as the production, the human activity itself, i.e. man as an essentially productive being, especially as the being who by his art produces from his own nature the citizen or the State, who, by working on himself, makes himself into a citizen. In so far as man works on himself, influencing and changing his nature, so that he becomes a citizen, a part of that artificial being called the State, he is not a natural being. ‘Manners of men’ are something different from ‘natural causes’. The basic classification of existing things which in truth underlies Hobbes’ classification of the sciences is classification under nature on the one side, and under man as productive and active being on the other.

The question whether his political philosophy is intended to be naturalistic or anthropological, bears not only on the method, but above all on the matter selected. The significance of the antithesis between naturalistic and anthropological political philosophy for the matter becomes fully apparent if one grasps that this antithesis is only the abstract form of a concrete antithesis in the interpretation of and judgment of human nature which extends throughout the whole of Hobbes’ work. Hobbes summed up his theory of human nature as it underlies his political philosophy in ‘two most certain postulates of human nature’. The first postulate being that of ‘natural appetite’. Eclectic as he was, this postulate takes its roots as rooted in man’s sensuousness, in his animal nature. Like that of all animals, his is constant movement. But, the specific difference between man and other animals is that of reason. Thus man is less at the mercy of momentary sense impressions, he can envisage the future much better than can animals; for this very reason he is not like animals hungry only with the hunger of the moment, but also with future hunger, and thus he is the most predatory, the most cunning, the strongest, and most dangerous animal. This view of human appetite is a specifically Hobbesian view, but then is contradicted in Hobbes’ writings by his repeated and emphatic statement that human appetite is infinite in itself and not as a result of the infinite number of external impressions. Seeing this, one can note that human appetite is essentially distinguished from animal appetite in that the latter is nothing but reaction to external impressions, and, therefore, the animal desires only finite objects as such, while man spontaneously desires infinitely and this corresponds to the intention of Hobbes’ political philosophy. The two conceptions viz., mechanistic and vitalistic conceptions differ not only in substance, but also in method. The mechanistic conception is based on the mechanistic explanation of perception and on the general theory of motion; on the other hand, the apparently vitalistic conception is based not on any general scientific theory, but on insight into human nature, deepened and substantiated by self-knowledge and self-examination. In spite of these differences, the two conceptions below the surface have something in common, which allows us to characterize them both  as naturalistic. 

The naturalistic conception of human appetite is clearly expressed in the proposition that man desires power and ever greater power, spontaneously and continuously, in one jet of appetite, and not by reason of a summation of innumerable isolated desires caused by innumerable isolated perceptions

‘…in the first place, I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in Death’. And the cause of this, is not alwayes that a man hopes for a more intensive delight, than he has already attained to; or that he cannot be content with a moderate power: but because he cannot assure the power and the means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more’.

According to him, only the irrational striving after power, which is found more frequently than the rational striving, is to be taken as the natural human appetite. The only natural striving after power, and thus man’s natural appetite, is described by Hobbes as follows: ‘men from their birth, and naturally, scramble for everything they covet, and would have all the world, if they could, to fear and obey them’.1 In the case of man, animal desire is taken up and transformed by a spontaneous infinite and absolute desire which arises out of the depths of the man himself.

We find a more detailed definition of the irrational striving after power:

‘because there be some, that taking pleasure in contemplating their own power in the acts of conquest, which they pursue farther than their security requires; if others, that otherwise would be glad to be at ease within modest bounds, should  not by invasion increase their power, they would not be able, long time, by standing only on their defence, to subsist. And by consequence, such augmentation of dominion over men, being necessary to a man’s conservation, it ought to be allowed him’.

It is clearly seen here that rational permissible striving after power is in itself finite. The man guided by it would remain ‘within modest bounds’, would ‘be content with a moderate power’. Only the impermissible, irrational, lustful striving after power is infinite.

In four different arguments, Hobbes designated the characteristics in the difference between man and animal as the striving after honour and positions of honour, after precedence over others and recognition of this precedence by others, ambition, pride, and the passion for fame. Since man’s natural appetite is a striving after precedence over others and recognition of this precedence by others, the particularities of natural appetite, the passions, are nothing other than particular ways of striving after precedence and recognition. Speaking about the cause of madness, Hobbes says: “The Passion, whose violence, or continuance maketh Madnesse, is either great vaine-glory; which is commonly called Pride, and selfe-conceipt; or great Dejection of mind”. All passions and all forms of madness are modifications of conceit or of a sense of inferiority, or in principle, of the striving after precedence and recognition of that precedence.

The same conclusion is reached if one compares the arguments by which Hobbes in the three presentations of his political philosophy proves his assertion that the war of everyone against everyone arises of necessity from man’s very nature. Every man for that reason is the enemy of every other man, because each desires to surpass every other and therefore offends every other. The discrepancies between the three presentations shows that Hobbes himself never completed the proofs of his fundamental assertion, and, as is seen on closer inspection, did not complete them simply because he could not make up his mind explicitly to take as his point of departure the reduction of man’s natural appetite to vanity. At the end of the most important part of his work, “Leviathan”, Hobbes says:

‘Hitherto I have set forth the nature of Man, (whose Pride and other passions have compelled him to submit himselfe to Government;) together with the great power of the Governour, whom I compared to Leviathan, taking that comparison out of the last two verses of the one and fortieth of Job; where God having set forth the great power of Leviathan, called him the King of the Proud’.

The state is compared to Leviathan, because it and it especially is the ‘King of all the children of pride’. Only the State is capable of keeping pride down in the long run, indeed it has no other raison d’etre except that man’s natural appetite is pride, ambition, and vanity. 

Why could not Hobbes take man’s natural appetite, which is vanity as the basis of his political philosophy?  If this conception of natural appetite is right, if man by nature finds his pleasure in triumphing over all others, then man is by nature evil. But he did not dare to hold this consequence of his theory. For this very reason, in the Leviathan, he puts vanity in the end. Because man is by nature animal, he is not by nature evil, therefore he is as innocent as the animals; thus vanity cannot characterize his natural appetite. Hobbes in defence against the reproach that according to his theory man is by nature evil does not mention vanity at all. In laying the foundations of his political philosophy, Hobbes puts vanity more and more into the background in favour of innocent competition, innocent striving after power, innocent animal appetite, because the definition of man’s natural appetite in terms of vanity is intended as a moral judgment. He is finally obliged to attribute to the judges the wickedness which he disallows in the case of the guilty, the criminals; he betrays particularly in his description of the striving after power itself, that the innocence, neutrality, and moral indifference of that striving is only apparent. The apparent moral indifference arises simply and solely through abstraction of the necessary moral difference. Hobbes’ political philosophy rests not on the illusion of an amoral morality, but on a new morality, or, so to speak according to Hobbes’ intention, on a new grounding of the one eternal morality.

The second of the ‘two most certain postulates of human nature’ is ‘the postulate of human reason’. In accordance with the naturalistic reasoning this postulate is reduced to the principle of self-preservation: since the preservation of life is the condition sine qua non for the satisfaction of any appetite, it is the ‘primary good’. As a logical conclusion of this thought, Hobbes attempts to deduce natural right, natural law, and all the virtues from the principle of self-preservation. It is noteworthy that Hobbes prefers the negative expression ‘avoiding death’ to the positive expression ‘preserving life’. That preservation of life is the primary good is affirmed by reason alone. On the other hand, that death is the primary evil is affirmed by passion, the passion of fear of death. And as reason itself is powerless, man would not mind to think of the preservation of life as the primary and the most urgent good, if the passion of fear of death did not compel him to do so. According to Hobbes, the preservation of life is the primary good, an unhindered progress to ever further goals, a ‘continuall prospering’, in a word, happiness is the greatest good, but there is no supreme good in the enjoyment of which the spirit might find repose. On the other hand, death is the primary as well as the greatest and the supreme evil. For death is not only the negation of the supreme good; but at the same time, it is the negation of all the goods. Only through death has man an aim, the aim that is forced upon him by the sight of death, the aim of avoiding death. For this reason, Hobbes uses the negative expression ‘avoiding death’ to the positive expression ‘preserving life’. This is also because we fear death infinitely more than we desire life. 

But Hobbes also does not adhere to the theory of death as the supreme evil, since for him the tortured life is a greater evil as compared to death. So for him, an agonizing death is much more evil than death. But in contradiction, if Hobbes had considered agonizing death as the supremest evil, he would have attributed an ever-greater importance on medicine, which he tends to forget. When he says of an agonizing death that it is the greatest evil, he thinks exclusively of violent death at the hands of other men. This fear of getting killed at the hands of other men, is a mutual fear, i.e. it is a fear each man has of every other man as his potential murderer. This fear of a violent death, pre-rational in its origin, but rational in its effect, and not the rational principle of self-preservation, is, according to Hobbes, the root of all right and of all morality. He finally denied the moral values of all virtues which do not contribute to the making of the State, to consolidating peace, to protecting man against the danger of violent death, or, more exactly expressed, of all virtues which do not proceed from the fear of violent death.

Since, Hobbes reduces man’s natural appetite to vanity, he cannot but recognize the fear of a violent death, not the fear of a painful death, and certainly not the principle of the preservation of life as the principle of morality. The ever-greater triumph over others, and not the ever-increasing, but rationally increasing, power is the aim and happiness of natural man. ‘Continually to out-go the next before is felicity’. Man’s life may be compared to a race: ‘but this race we must suppose to have no other goal, nor other garland, but being foremost’. Absorbed in the race after the happiness of triumph, man cannot be aware of his dependence on the insignificant primary good, the preservation of life and limb; failing to recognize his bodily needs, man experiences only joys and sorrows of the mind, i.e. imaginary joys and sorrows. Living in the world of his imagination, he need do nothing, in order to convince himself of his superiority to others, but simply think out his deeds for himself; in this world, in which indeed ‘the whole world obeys him’, everything is accomplished according to his wishes. He can awaken himself from this dream world only when he feels in his own person, by bodily hurt, the resistance of the real world. ‘Men have no other means to acknowledge their own Darknesse, but onely by reasoning from the unforeseen mischances, that befall them in their ways’. Because man by nature lives in the dream of the happiness and triumph, of a glittering, imposing, apparent good, he requires a no less imposing power to awaken him from his dream: this imposing power is the imperious majesty of death.

The ideal condition for self-knowledge is, therefore, unforeseen mortal danger. The vain man, who, in his imagination, believes himself superior to others, cannot convince himself of the rightness of his estimate of himself; he requires the recognition of hiss superiority by others. He therefore steps outside his imagination. Now, either the others take his claim seriously and feel themselves slighted, or they do not take his claim seriously and he feels himself slighted. In either case the making of the claims leads to contempt. The one slighted longs for revenge. In order to avenge him he attacks the other, indifferent whether he loses his life in so doing. Unconcerned as to the preservation of his own life, he desires, however, above all that the other should remain alive; for ‘revenge aimeth not at the death, but at the captivity and subjection of an enemy…revenge aimeth at triumph, which over the dead is not’. The struggle which thus breaks out, in which, according to the opinion of both opponents, the object is not the killing, but the subjection of the other, of necessity becomes serious, because it is a struggle between bodies, a real struggle. From the beginning of the conflict, the two opponents have, without realizing and foreseeing it, completely left the imaginary world. At some point in the conflict, actual injury, or, more accurately, physical pain, arouses a fear for life. Fear moderates anger, puts the sense of being slighted into the background, and transforms the desire for revenge into hatred. The aim of the hater is no longer triumph over the enemy, but his death. The struggle for pre-eminence, about ‘trifles’, has become a life and death struggle. In this way natural man happens unforeseen upon the danger of death; in this way he comes to know this primary and greatest and supreme evil for the first time, to recognize death as the greatest and supreme evil in the moment of being irresistibly driven to fall back before death in order to struggle for his life. Only for a moment can he free himself from the danger of death by killing his enemy, for since every man is his enemy, after killing of the first enemy he is ‘again in the like danger of another’, indeed of all others. The killing of the enemy is thus the least far-sighted consequence of the withdrawal from death. In order to safeguard his life, not only for the moment, but also in the long run, man needs companions, with whose help he can successfully defend his life against the others. Companions can be gained in two ways, by force or by agreement. The former appears as if it stands in the midway between the killing of the enemy and agreement with him; so it is natural enough for him to try out the latter. Since fear can hardly be made manifest, but by some action dishonourable, that betrayeth the conscience of one’s own weakness; all men in whom the passion of courage or magnanimity have been predominated, have abstained from cruelty…In one word, therefore, the only law of actions in war is honour. Thus arises the relationship of master and servant. The victor who has safeguarded his honour becomes the master. The vanquished, who ‘submitteth…for fear of death’, who admits his weakness and with that has forfeited his honour, becomes the servant. The dominion of the master over the servant, despotic rule, is one form of the natural State, and as the other part of the natural State, patriarchy, is construed by Hobbes entirely according to the pattern of despotic rule, we may even say: despotic rule is the natural State. The artificial State, which is as such more perfect, arises when the two opponents are both seized with fear for their lives, overcome their vanity and shame of confessing their fear, and recognize as their real enemy not the rival, but ‘that terrible enemy of nature, death’, who, as their common enemy, forces them to mutual understanding, trust, and union, and thus procures them the possibility of completing the founding of the State for the purpose of providing safeguards for the longest possible term, against the common enemy. And while in the unforeseen life-and-death struggle, in which vanity comes to grief, the futility of vanity is shown, it is revealed in the concord of living, and of living in common, to which their pre-rational fear of death leads them, that the fear of death is appropriate to human conditions, and that it is ‘rational’. It is even ostensibly shown that it is only on the basis of fear of death that life comes to concord and that the fear of death is the only ‘postulate of natural reason’.

Hobbes distinguishes no precisely than any other moralist between legality and morality. Not the legality of the action, but the morality of the purpose, makes the just man. That man is just who fulfils the law because it is law and not for fear of punishment or for the sake of reputation. Although Hobbes states that those are ‘too severe, both to themselves, and others, that maintain, that the First motions of the mind, be Sinnes’, he yet ‘confesses’ that ‘it is safer to erre on that hand, than on the other’. In believing that the moral attitude, conscience, intention, is of more importance than the action, Hobbes is at one with the Christian tradition. He differs from this tradition at first sight only by his denial of the possibility that just and unjust actions depend wholly on the judgment of the individual conscience. In the state of nature every action is in principle permitted which the conscience of the individual recognizes as necessary for self-preservation, and every action is in principle forbidden which according to the judgment of the individual conscience does not serve the purpose of self-preservation. If, then, in the state of nature, any and every action is permitted, even in the state of nature not every intention is permitted, but only the intention of self-preservation. Thus the unequivocal distinction between just and unjust intentions holds even for the state of nature and is, therefore, absolute.

Hobbes expressly denies the existence of a law, as if it were a natural law, which obliged man unconditionally, and therefore obliged him even in the state of nature. He says: ‘These dictates of Reason, men use to call by the names of Lawes; but improperly: for they are but Conclusions, or Theoremes concerning what conduceth to the conservation and defence of themselves; whereas Law, properly is the word of him, that by right hath command over others’. Law as an obligation is the basis of a covenant between formerly free and unbound men. Thus ‘where no Covenant hath preceded, there hath no Right been transferred, and every man has right to everything…But when a Covenant is made, then to break it unjust: And the definition of injustice, is no other than the not Performance of Covenant’. The just attitude cannot be anything but earnest striving to keep one’s given word; and is therefore far from being obedience that it is, on the contrary, nothing else but proud self-reliance. From the Leviathan, it is clearly noticeable that opinion, far from being the origin of just attitude, is rather the only origin of the unjust attitude. Not pride, and still less obedience, but fear of violent death, is according to him the origin of the just intention. It makes possible the distinction between the attitude of an unjust man who obeys the laws of the State for fear of punishment, and the attitude of the just man, who for fear of death, and therefore from inner conviction, as it were once more accomplishing in himself the founding of the State, obeys the laws of the State. 

Since man is by nature fast in his imaginary world, it is only by unforeseen mischance that he can attain to knowledge of his own darkness and at the same time a modest and circumspect knowledge of the real world. That is to say: the world is originally revealed to man not by detachedly and spontaneously seeing its form, but by involuntary experience of its resistance. The least discriminating and the detached sense is the sense of touch. This explains the place of honour which is tacitly granted to the sense of touch in Hobbes’ physiology and psychology of perception; all sense-perception, particularly that of the most discriminating and detached sense, the sense of sight, is interpreted by experience of the sense of touch.

Thus it can be seen, that the moral and humanist antithesis of fundamentally unjust vanity and fundamentally just fear of violent death is the basis Hobbes’ political philosophy. As an objection, it can be called to effect that this antithesis is to be found in Hobbes’ political philosophy only because Hobbes had not yet completely freed himself from the influence of the Christian Biblical tradition. This antithesis is the ‘secularized’ form of the traditional antithesis between spiritual pride and fear of God, a secularized form which results from the Almighty God having been replaced by the over-mighty State, ‘the Mortall God’. Is this affiliation to the antithesis in Hobbes’ moral work right by itself?

On the contrary, this antithesis is an essential indispensable element, or, more accurately, the essential basis of, Hobbes’ political philosophy. Political philosophy deprived of its moral foundations is, indeed, Spinoza’s political philosophy, but not Hobbes’. Spinoza made might equivalent to right. Thanks to the moral basis of his political philosophy, Hobbes kept the possibility of acknowledging justice as such and distinguishing between right and might. Hobbes’ political philosophy is really based on knowledge of men, which is deepened and corroborated, by the self-knowledge and self-examination of the individual, and not on a general scientific and metaphysical theory. And because it is based on experience of human life, it can never, in spite of all the temptations of natural science, fall completely into the danger of abstraction from moral life and neglect of moral difference.

The contention is that Hobbes’ humanist moral motivation of his political philosophy is more original than the naturalistic motivation. The important points of his moral motivation were firmly established well before he turned his attention to natural science and especially to Euclid’s Elements. This discovery of Euclid was an epoch in his life; everything he thought and wrote after that is modified by this happening. His discovery lent maturity to his later works and whether this is the case, can be decided only after the sparse remnants of his youthful philosophy is meticulously studied.