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PSIR 1A-10.4 Thomas Hobbes – Previous Year Questions & Answers

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] State of Nature as State of War (Hobbes) [2023/10m/150w/1c]

Hobbes’ idea of the state of nature as a state of war can be found in his book the Leviathan.

In the state of nature, Hobbes posited that there is no central political authority or government to establish and enforce laws or resolve disputes. It is a condition of anarchy, where individuals are without a sovereign power to provide order and security.

Hobbes believed that in this state of nature, individuals are inherently self-interested and in competition with one another. He argued that there is a natural scarcity of resources, which leads to a perpetual state of conflict as people compete for these limited resources.

The absence of a central authority and the presence of competition and conflict lead to a state of constant fear and insecurity. Individuals in the state of nature, according to Hobbes, live in perpetual apprehension of violence and harm from others. He famously described life in the state of nature as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Hobbes’s work has had a profound influence on modern political thought and has shaped discussions about the nature of the social contract and the role of government in maintaining order and security. [194 words]

2] Individualism is inherent in Hobbes’ absolutist ideology. Comment. [2022/15m/200w/3c]

Hobbes is often criticized for giving absolute rights to the state. However, what many fail to understand is that the end goal of Hobbes is not the absolutism of state, but rather the protection of right to life.

Hobbes supports the social contract theory which demolishes the divine rights of the king. This social contract is drawn by free men of the state of nature who have a natural right to life and liberty. But, adds Hobbes, the state of nature is a war of every man against every man in which the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. And every man is on the lookout to increase his power.

To ensure security, these rational individuals come together to constitute a state and gave up their right to liberty to an absolute monarch. The individuals will keep the right to life with themselves and can resist the monarch when his right to life is under threat. Hence, it is on the basis of radical individualism that Hobbes builds his theory of political absolutism.

Modern commentators like Oakeshott and Gauthier believe that “Hobbes’s political doctrine has greater affinities with the liberalism of the 20th Century than his authoritarian theory would initially suggest”.

Natural right is the basis of Hobbes’ theory; it is not its conclusion. Hobbes starts with the natural rights of the individual but severely restricts the rights to found a viable civil society. Unlike liberal thinkers like John Stuart Mill, he does not espouse an individual’s right to limit or resist the authority of the state. [261 words]

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