Ken Hanly khanly at mb.sympatico.ca
Wed Mar 22 19:23:25 PST 2000

I haven't any Hobbes' texts at hand but I will do the best I can and you can correct me where I go astray.

On his psychological egoism: Hobbes psychological egoism is definitional and as you suggest odd. In fact in some ways he is not a psychological egoist at all. He claims that all things that are desired insofar as they are desired are called good by the person who desires them. It follows that everyone desires and acts to obtain what they regard as good. This is formally psychological egoism However, he also defines benevolence, good will, and charity as desire for the good of another. Hobbes believes such desires and other desires for the good of others do exist. This on the face of it, seems to allow for altruistic desires and conflicts with the traditional notion of psychological egoism in which altruistic desires are not really such.

Hobbes talks about personal virtues and moral virtues. Personal virtues are defined in terms of one's self-interest in preservation. They are courage, prudence, and temperance--shades of Aristotle. Moral virtues are those which help preserve everyone by promoting peace. But they also protect each invidual in the multitude from the state of nature, or the state of war of all against all. Reason declares peace to be the good and also those virtues which are a means to peace: modesty, equity, trust, etc. But all the virtues are a means to the end of self-preservation which is one's own interest. It is in this sense that the laws of nature and the rights of nature are ethical egoist in that they are obligations (in the state of nature binding only in conscience) that aim at one's own good. Even the right of nature is ethical egoist in that it allows anyone to use anything in his or her power for achieving self-preservation That is why I consider Hobbes an ethical egoist.

However the "contract" in Hobbes is actually a contract among subjects to give to the sovereign the right each had to decide what was for long-term self-preservation. The right to self-defence to counter an immediate threat to one's life is preserved. Presumably because it could not be regarded in one's self-interest to do this. Here is where injustice comes in:

"By making a free gift of one's right to the sovereign, the subject becomes obliged to obey the sovereign and is unjust if he disobeys, for injustice is doing what one has given up the right to do." and

"Hobbes regards injustice as the only kind of immorality that can be legitimately punished and this is why it is important for him to show that the sovereign cannot commit injustice.He never claims that the sovereign cannot be immoral or that there cannot be immoral or bad laws."

p. 370 Oxford Companion to Philosophy ed Honderich

According to this interpretation the law, or will of the sovereign, cannot be unjust but only immoral or bad. That was my understanding too. Note that one is obligated to obey the sovereign. My point is that very often it is not in one's interest to obey and that now obligation is not conceptually tied to what one would regard as good or desire but with the command of the sovereign. The moral terminology of justice is deontological, not tied to God as in some theological ethics but to the will of the sovereign. My point is that this seems contradictory. It may be that Hobbes could be considered a rule egoist. We should adopt those rules which will best advance our own self-preservation and desires. Following the will of the sovereign is such a rule. However, I find this just as implausible as Hobbes infamous attempts to square the circle.

CHeers, Ken Hanly JKSCHW at aol.com wrote:

> Ken: I cannot but see {hobbes] as some
> sort of rule ethical egoist or deontologist who defines the just as the will
> of the sovereign.
> Why do you think H is an ethical egoist? Surely he is a sort of psychological egoist, although of a peculiar sort, since he acknowledges the importance of glory as a motivation, and glory as a motive can lead to what most people would call self-sacrifice to gain a reputation for honor. (Don Herzog thinks that glory is Hobbes' real bugaboo, that he views the desire for glory as the cause of the disorders he feared, and he thiks the sov's main job is replacing glory with more humble bourgeois avarice.)
> But what is the textual evidence that he thinks we ought only to seek our own gain? In fact, Hobbes' 2d law lf nature is that when peace and security men will be willing to law down their natural (pre social) right to all things (L, ch. 14). Likewise, his famous discussion of motivation in ch. 11 posits three main motives: restlress desire for power, 2) love of contention from cpompetition, and 3) civil obedience from love of ease and fear of death or wounds.
> Now, this jus goes to the sort of psychological egoist he is, but he certainly thinks we have the equipment not to "defect" (as the decision theorists say), and, in view of the 2d law of nature, he seems to suggest that we morally should use it. Not, of course in all circumstances, for example not in the state of war, but certainly if the sov will assure that others will do likewise. Love of ease as well as fear of death then counsel against my upsetiing the order that brings me such advantages.
> As to your claim that justice is the will of the sov, i do not find that in Hobbes. See ch. 15, of the laws of nature, where H says that justice is pretty much what all the pioius writers say, giing each his own, do unto others, etc. But, he says, these laws bind on in foro interno, that is, you know they're right, but won;t act on them outside civil society, which provides the foro externo that allows us to act on them by assuming that someone who does will not be blindsided by some egoist.
> Maybe you are confusing justice with law. Hobbes does think that law is the command of the sov. Ch. 26. But of course, not being an idiot, he knows that not all laws are just. He distinguishes absolutely clearly between the laws of the commonwealth and the laws of nature. see ibid.
> --jks

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