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1. Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, Or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil. (Edited by Michael Oakeshott. ©1962. Collier Macmillan / New York.) Part 1, Chapter 13. [p.98]

2. To be fair, Hobbes also extends this equality to prudence, which in itself is not obviously a quality of mortal apprehension: “For prudence, is but experience; which equal time, equally bestows on all men, in those things they equally apply themselves unto.” (Hobbes. Part 1, Chapter 13. [p.98]) If taken literally, such an assertion appears entirely absurd. No matter how varied or extended my exposure is to quantum mechanics, I will never have a grasp of the phenomena as thorough as, say, Roger Penrose or Richard Feynman. Likewise, the relationship between exposure and expertise is hardly the same for different persons in any field. From this, it is likely that prudence should not be understood here as meaning any sort of technical expertise in the discipline of political living. Rather, it seems, that prudence simply involves the degree of acquaintance each individual has with her or his mortality. Prudence is the caution of living with an eye toward the reality of death, and war. It is the one univocal teaching of experience: persons die.

3. Hobbes. Part 1, Chapter 14. [p.103]

4. He says, “... in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death. And the cause of this,..., because he cannot assure the power and means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more.” Hobbes. Part 1, Chapter 11. [p.80]

5. “... there is no such thing as perpetual tranquility of mind, while we live here; because life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear, no more than sense.” Hobbes. Part 1, Chapter 6. [p.55]

6. This is also the motive force for the entering into society originally: “Fear of oppression, disposeth a man to anticipate, or to seek aid by society: for their is no other way by which a man can secure his life and liberty.” Hobbes. Part 1, Chapter 11. [p.82]

7. This is clear by his constant appeal to the motivational primacy of fear, and the somewhat distinct notion of hope: “The passions that incline men to peace, are fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them.” Hobbes. Part 1, Chapter 13. [p.102]

8. Machiavelli frames the relationship clearly, saying “...nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it; desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it.” The Discourses. Book I, Chapter XXXVII. [p.208] And later, he continues: “...as human desires are insatiable, (because their nature is to have and to do everything whilst fortune limits their possessions and capacity of enjoyment,) this gives rise to a constant discontent in the human mind and a weariness of the things they possess;...” The Discourses. Book II, Introduction. [p.274] (from Niccolò Machiavelli. The Prince and The Discourses. Introduction by Max Lerner (The Discourses translated by Christian E. Detmold). ©1950. Random House / New York.)

9. Speaking on the origins of conspiracy, Machiavelli says: “The different wrongs which a prince can inflict upon a subject consist either in an attempt upon his possessions, his person, or his honor. In matters of personal injury, threats are worse than the execution; [...] he who is threatened, and sees himself constrained by necessity either to dare and do or to suffer, becomes a most dangerous man to the prince [...]. Besides this kind of injury, a man’s property and honor are the points upon which he will be most keenly sensitive. A Prince, then, should be most careful to avoid touching these...” The Discourses. Book III, Chapter VI. [p.411]

10. This is rendered sufficiently clear from Hobbes’s extended discussion concerning the nature of crime and punishment, in Part 2, Chapter 27. [p.216 etc.]

11. He finds no other cause of habit than a failure to apprehend truth properly: “Ignorance of the causes, and original constitution of right, equity, law, and justice, disposeth a man to make custom and example the rule of his actions;...” Hobbes. Part 1, Chapter 11. [p.84]

12. Aristotle. The Politics. (Translated by Carnes Lord. ©1984. The University of Chicago Press / Chicago) Book 1, Chapter 2, 1253a1.

13. Aristotle. Book 1, Chapter 2, 1253a15.

14. This is as relevant for obedience to the law as it is for speech generally: “...law has no strength with respect to obedience apart from habit, and this is not created except over a period of time.” Aristotle. Book 2, Chapter 8, 1269a20.

15. Hobbes. Part 1, Chapter 5. (et. al.)

16. “... I ground the civil right of sovereigns, and both the duty and liberty of subjects, upon the known natural inclinations of mankind, and upon the articles of the law of nature; of which no man, that pretends but reason enough to govern his private family, ought to be ignorant.” Hobbes. A Review and Conclusion, p.509.

Fundamentals of Political Theory
PHIL-505-01, Georgetown University
Fall 1991
(© David Foss, December 12, 1992)

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Last modified June 13, 1998

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