The Second Law Of Nature Essay

1438 Words Oct 25th, 2016 6 Pages
In order to understand why Hobbes believes that people cannot live peacefully in the absence of government, one must examine his conception of the laws of nature. He begins in Chapter XIV, stating the first law of nature as simply “to seek peace and follow it” (XIV, 322). He goes on to identify the second law of nature as to “lay down [one’s] right to all things” and to not seek more power over others than one would have others hold over them (XIV, 322). The third law of nature follows from the agreement implied in the previous law, that all people ought to honour their agreements (XV, 324). While Hobbes identifies many more, these three are most significant to this paper. Nonetheless, this passage appears to be inconsistent with Hobbes’ defence of an absolute government, or indeed any government at all. If people are to live by these laws of nature, they ought to be able to do so peacefully in the absence of any authoritative presence. These laws are not arbitrary or imposed, according to Hobbes they are discovered by reason, and exist entirely for people’s own benefit and the preservation of their lives (XIV, 321). However, Hobbes goes on to assert that they are improperly called laws and rather in the absence of enforcement they are nothing more than more than a series of premises on what is most conducive to peace (XVI, 330). In order to understand why Hobbes believes people would directly contradict what they themselves know by reason to be in their best interest, we…

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