Hobbes’s second law of nature
People’s natural complex instinctive is characterized by conflicting tendencies, the essential qualities of which “the laws of nature” control. A law of nature is a general rule that is found out by reason, with good sense and sound judgment, according to Hobbes.
Thus, people are selfish by nature, and conflict always with one another which Hobbes terms as ‘war with each other’. In this natural state of ‘war’ of competing interests there is no power to discover right or wrong unless an intervening authority controls or prevents such ‘war’. Nevertheless, every person has a natural right to protect himself or herself from harm or injury. Hobbes, therefore, argues that fundamental laws of nature exist, which are meant to avoid the state of ‘war.’
Also, in the natural condition, individuals often do not get with one another. People see themselves as in the constant state of competing with one another. People need glory. They expect others to treasure them as well as they treasure themselves. Thus the only way that one can arrive at peace is if one can remove the hope of invading other’s primacy, property and peace as far as others remove the hope of invading our primacy, property and peace.
The second law of nature as proclaimed by Hobbes follows the first law of nature. Hobbes contends the first law of nature is that each person should seek to live with others in peace. “From this Fundamental Law of Nature, by which men are commanded to endeavor Peace, is derived this second Law; “That a man be willing, when others are so too, as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defence of himselfe he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himselfe “
The means to reach the right to liberty, therefore, is not merely given up, but needed to transfer to a sovereign authority or a power created for the purpose, which Hobbes calls, the ‘Leviathan (or commonwealth) ‘. Such power or authority is much more powerful than anyone else who subjected himself or herself to governing by such authority.
Thus, a sovereign authority must be set up to defend the rights of individuals, and to protect people from victimized by the self-interested wants of other people. This way, according to Hobbes, people can escape their natural conditions, including the fear of ‘the war of all against all’, by using passions and reason. Motive of such matters is necessary for convenient and covenant living. With effort one can gain cohesiveness by passions that incline men to live in peace. “And Reason suggesteth convenient Articles of Peace, upon which men may be drawn to agreement.” These Articles are Hobbes’ Laws of Nature.
The need for peace and convenient living and desire for protecting themselves and their rights, for example, led to formation of Governments all over the world. Such formations may have taken place with either some expression of bestowing coercive powers of the created authority or without all coercive powers. Regional cooperative sovereigns such as ‘Commonwealth countries’, SAARC, and such world bodies as United Nations Organizations are a few more examples. The governments have set up many regulatory bodies for protecting individual rights, such as Judiciary, act of laws, protecting fundamental rights of people, providing education, civic amenities, and so on and so forth. In political expression, democratic and communistic governance has devised depending on the belief of the aboriginals. But the common purpose of all these expressions is to uphold peace between people, nations, and regions as proclaimed by Hobbes’s laws of nature.
However, Hobbes argues the ‘laws of nature must be enforced by some coercive power, if justice and harmony are to be arrived at in society’ and that ‘the sovereign should have near-absolute coercive power’. Hobbes argues that if people remain in the natural condition of ‘war’, and if there is no coercive power to govern them, then every person will become an enemy of every other person. This argument may not be fully tangible, as experienced in the universe where, for example, the USSR crumbled into smaller entities under the load of such coercive power. Whereas on the contrary, countries like China are progressing despite adopting coercive governance.
Thus, one cannot fully agree with Hobbes on this count, while one has but to agree that peaceful relations between people is governed by some form of the second law of nature in the larger context as proclaimed by Hobbes. At times it also appears the second law of the nature as envisaged by Hobbes may not be binding the people fully. People witnessed occasional wars by one nation over the other, such as America – Iraq war, Iraq-Kuwait war in recent times, and the continued terrorist attacks here and there as terrorists wanted to show and carry out their misguided idiosyncrasies.