Thomas Hobbes was the most prominent European scientist, thinker, philosopher, lawyer, religious scholar, a scholar of state, the creator of the social contract theory, who influenced the formation of civic and patriotic education. During his lifetime, he was criticized by his contemporaries for his philosophical and social views and was permanently suspected of dissent and sedition (Prokhovnik, 2019). This paper will examine Thomas Hobbes’ hypothetical views of our time’s new political and social phenomena.
Representative democracy is a political regime in which, although the people are recognized as the primary source of power, the administration of the state is delegated to representative bodies whose members are elected by the citizens. Such a political system is recognized in countries worldwide, particularly in the United States. Thomas Hobbes would not have approved of such a system because he was critical of democracy at the time. He argued that monarchy was the best system of government because democracy encouraged irresponsible policies. The philosopher justified this by arguing that democracy promotes the narrow interests of some at the expense of others and even pits different segments of society against one another. Representative democracy today is also criticized for promoting the interests of some people and negating the interests of others since only the majority vote counts in elections. I believe that Thomas Hobbes would have joined in this criticism and spoken out against such a political regime.
The Power of the Sovereign and the People
According to Hobbes, man was inherently aggressive, the so-called “war of all against all” characteristic (2019). However, man moves to a social state, accompanied by the conclusion of a social contract. He, in turn, assumed the existence of a mechanism guaranteeing the fulfillment of the provisions of this contract. Hobbes proposed considering the sovereign as to such a mechanism, consisting of a collective ruler or a sole ruler. According to the philosopher, this mechanism would be implemented thanks to all members of society by transferring their powers to the sovereign. The latter would act as a guarantor of the treaty’s provisions. On this basis, Hobbes would endorse the idea of the power of the sovereign and the people and advocate it as a restraining mechanism for society.
Making Laws Within a Society
Thomas Hobbes advocated the importance of the social contract and the regulation of society. From this, we can conclude that he would also have supported the creation of laws in society. However, modern laws in society are far from conservative and have a more significant bias toward liberalism. Hobbes was much closer to conservative public policy. In the first place, this was expressed in the fact that he viewed it only as a regulator, not as an opening of new opportunities for members of society. Therefore, Hobbes probably would not have approved of the introduction of liberal public laws, but he would have agreed with conservative ones.
Religion’s Relationship to Government
Hobbes’s attitude toward religion is quite complex. From his point of view, man cannot but be a spiritual being, for otherwise, he would never be able to answer the question of who created the world and governs its destiny. In Hobbes’ view, the church should be subordinated to the state, the supreme sovereign capable of making fateful decisions and establishing laws. He argued that the head of secular authority must also be the head of spiritual authority. Otherwise, there can be no tranquility in the state. There will inevitably be people who support this or that ruler.
The State of Nature
Life in the natural state, according to Hobbes, would be nothing less than a war of all against all. This is a situation remedied by creating a civil society in every respect. At least, that is Hobbes’s initiative, a justification for the marriage of security and political existence governed by an all-powerful figure, the sovereign. The same can be said of Hobbes’ support for a pluralistic regime. As understood today, life in the natural state goes toward greater comfort, contradicting the philosopher’s notions.
The Social Contract
The original notion of the social contract, discussed by Hobbes, suggests that individuals agree to transfer some of their rights to the state at a particular stage of social development. It, in turn, becomes the guarantor of the rules of social interaction. Thus, there is a universal agreement on the delimitation of rights and freedoms. The modern interpretation expands the circle of participants in the social contract and equalizes their relationship (Prokhovnik, 2019). According to this approach, the most effective way to develop sustainable solutions is to organize a negotiation process between groups representing different interests. I am sure that Thomas Hobbes would have supported this interpretation since more negotiating parties produce better results.
Thomas Hobbes argued that the right to transfer property belongs only to the sovereign. However, in modern law, property laws are more on the side of the citizens to whom the property belongs (Prokhovnik, 2019). Thus, the modern interpretation of property laws does not fit Hobbes’s ideas. Nevertheless, if society is controlled and the sovereign does not need absolute power, the philosopher would agree with these laws.
To sum up, Thomas Hobbes’ views on many things are ambiguous. Some of them, such as the attitude towards religion in power, coincide with the views of modern society. Others, such as his opinion on the law of property, differ from the modern one, and he would indeed criticize some aspects of it. Nevertheless, the study of the opinion of philosophers about modern concepts allows us to understand their views better and draw interesting scientific parallels.
Hobbes, T. (2019). The elements of law: Natural and politic (2nd Ed.). Routledge. Web.
Prokhovnik, R. (2019). Rhetoric and philosophy in Hobbes’ Leviathan. Routledge. Web.