Study questions on Hobbes’s conceptions of ethics and politics
1. In the last paragraphs of chapter 13, what, according to Hobbes, is the basis of “justice,”— that is, of ethics and morals?
2. Why do men seek peace?
1. What does Hobbes mean by “right,” as in the “right of nature” or “natural right”?
2. What does Hobbes mean by a “law of nature”? What is the purpose of a “law of nature”?
3. In light of the last couple of paragraphs in chapter 13, are Hobbes’s “laws of nature” ethical laws/norms?
4. What is the first law of nature, according to Hobbes?
5. What is the second law of nature?
6. Notice how Hobbes transitions from the singular “right of nature” to the plural “rights” that men may possess. What may we do with our rights, according to Hobbes?
7. What is a “contract” or “covenant”?
8. Are we always obligated to fulfill our promises, also called our contracts or covenants? Under what conditions are we obligated to do so? Under what conditions are we not obligated?
9. What if we are forced at gunpoint to make a promise: are we bound by our promise?
10. Are we obligated to fulfill our promise? Always? Never? Sometimes? When?
1. What is a “person”? What does it mean to be “personated”? What is an “actor”?
2. What is a “representative” or “representer”?
3. What is an “author”? What is the difference between an “author,” an “actor,” a “representative,” and a “person”?
4. What is the meaning of “authority,” according to Hobbes?
5. E pluribus unum: according to Hobbes, how is a nation or a single people made out of many individuals?
(Now, putting the arguments of the three earlier chapters together,)
1. What is the purpose of leaving the state of nature and entering or forming a civil society? (“Society,” “civil society,” “political society,” and “commonwealth” are synonyms in this account.)
2. How large must the population of a society be in order to benefit from the formation of a civil society?
3. Why do some animals form societies? What can’t people simply imitate these animals?
4. According to Hobbes, what is absolutely necessary for the existence of a civil society?
5. What, according to Hobbes, is the only way that a sufficiently large civil society can be formed? If we refer to this as a formula, what is Hobbes’s formula for establishing a civil society.
6. What is the leader or representer of a civil society called? Does the representer “personate” the society?
7. What are the two basic ways in which a civil society can be formed?
1. What are the eleven “rights” or powers of the sovereign?
2. How are these rights or powers different from the constitutional powers of the United States government?
1. What is a “commonwealth by acquisition”?
2. Is the power and authority of a sovereign who has conquered another society based entirely on his conquest or military victory?
3. What does a commonwealth by acquisition (“despotical dominion,” Hobbes calls it) have in common with the “commonwealth by institution” described in chapter 17?