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Idol#1: The Free Individual

by: Mariam Nagi

Idol#1: The Free Individual POL113

Marketplace > University of Toronto > Political Science > POL113 > Idol 1 The Free Individual
Mariam Nagi
University of Toronto

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About this Document

Lecture notes.
Ideas and Ideologies
Mark Lippincott
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Mariam Nagi on Sunday September 25, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to POL113 at University of Toronto taught by Mark Lippincott in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 3 views. For similar materials see Ideas and Ideologies in Political Science at University of Toronto.

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Date Created: 09/25/16
Idol #1: The Free Individual We need conceptual framework—guidance—to help us differentiate right and wrong, what’s relevant and what’s not, what to focus on and what to ignore. Only then can we utilize the endless information all around us and use it efficiently. How do we evaluate this framework? We look at it from others perspectives. We break apart different ideologies and examine them in relation to each other. Hobbes’s state of nature. According to Hobbes, life is short, solitary, brute. His state of nature is an act of imagination, a hypothetic situation in which he describes us in a what-if situation. He’s not talking about the past, not some otherworldly destination. He’s talking about us, as we currently are. A made-up situation. IF this were to happen to us, WHAT would it be like? Hobbes says to imagine ourselves, as we currently are, with all our fears, desires, ambitions, without any external control. Without any enforcement mechanisms, police, laws. That as single entities, we each determine what is best; we are all judges in this hypothetic state of nature. It’s related to our own grasp of knowledge of self-interest. This is a proposed reality in which we only think of ourselves. If we were freed from the shackles of authority, would it be good or bad? If we imagine ourselves in a perfect reality, what would that be like? The problem, Hobbes says, isn’t the authority. The authority is what helps us, maintains order and peace. The problem is ourselves, what’s inside and alongside us. We are naturally anxious creatures, uncertain of others. In a perfect reality in which there are no external forces to bound us, the possibility of misunderstanding is astronomical. They key dynamic of Hobbes’ Leviathan is this anxiety and uncertainty of others. In Hobbes’ state of nature, we preserve self-rationalization. We think only of ourselves and what is best for us. To protect ourselves, we’ll do anything. And if there’s no law to stop one from doing everything he can to make sure only he wants, there would be an endless cycle of conflict. In this hypothetic reality, we can’t stop to look at things from others’ perspectives. We can’t stop to assume that maybe they aren’t out to get us. That breaks the fundamental law of Hobbes’ state of nature. “Why would you believe them?” If someone banged on your door in the middle of the night asking to be let in for whatever reason, what reason do you have to trust their words? You would not let them in, according to Hobbes. You’d play it safe, protect yourself. According to Hobbes’s state of nature, there are three main causes of conflict: 1. Competition. We hate losing; all of us want to be at the top. We fight to be above others, to be the best. 2. Glory. A sense of pride and belonging. “You’re not one of us. You’re a threat.” Gangs, for example. 3. Diffidence. Fear and uncertainty. Rational fear of the unknown. “If I don’t know, I better shoot first.” Self- preservation. “Shoot them before they shoot me.” According to Hobbes, these three causes are written into human nature. Of course, that’s not all there is. Hobbes is saying that these are logical deductions of nature. He says to imagine what we would be like if we weren’t trained to be civil and controlled, conditioned by authority. We’d be barbaric, living in a society where “only the strong survive.” The pacifist is disregarded. Focus on the people who do shoot. What do they need to get out of this circle of conflict and violence? Enforcement. Authority. Until we get that, according to Hobbes, we’ll be at each other’s throats. In the Leviathan, Hobbes is basically posing a question: “Can you see yourself in this hypothetic state of nature, where we’re no longer bound by the shackles of authority?” His real concern is civil war. How do we end the situation in Syria, for example? According to him, it will only end when we have the Leviathan—it will end through superior use of force and power. If we don’t have it, these civil wars will go on forever. How do we get that? 1. We have to admit to ourselves. Hobbes wants us to look at ourselves and admit we are selfish, self-preserved creatures. We all want to live; we all want to stay alive. We have to recognize that we all share this common goal. 2. Impose laws equally and clearly on all of us with immediate, well-known, effective punishments for violating these laws. But we shouldn’t make any law we can’t enforce. People should get comfortable with the fact that they don’t have to take the law into their own hands—it will be taken care of by the authority. “If someone steals from me, I don’t have to shoot them. They will receive proper repercussion.” People should be able to trust the authority, the enforcement mechanism, otherwise they’ll start thinking about themselves (“Maybe I can speed up on the highway,”; “Maybe I can get away with plagiarizing my essay”, etc.). The more we think like that, the more we edge towards Hobbes’ state of nature. The Leviathan, in short:  sets forth these principles of authority—sovereignty—and how they are absolutely crucial for preserving peace,  and provides this hypothetical state of nature to show us what it would be like if these principles are violated. In the Leviathan, Hobbes is basically posing a question: “Can you see yourself in this hypothetic state of nature, where we’re no longer bound by the shackles of authority that are so crucial in keeping the peace?” We need sovereignty. Absolute power and force to rule over us and keep us contained. Guidance. Trust. If we don’t have that, if we’re left with no one but ourselves to govern over us; it’s a state of nature that is hellish.


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