Hobbes' foundation for peace and property
Cust, Michael Shaun Christopher
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I defend Hobbes’ foundation for peace and property. His foundation for peace and property is his major argument for why society’s moral order (i.e. collection of rules of interaction) should be based on the principles of non-interference and exclusive use of material objects. His foundation is that in the absence of both a recognised moral order and government, it would be rational, or felicity maximising, for individuals to agree to a moral order constituted by peace and property. The cogency of his foundation depends on the accuracy of the second of the two steps of his state of nature thought experiment. In the first step, he formulates the state of nature by defining it as a social state of affairs with no government, by arguing that, as a consequence of there being no government, there would be no recognised moral order, and by assuming there would be relievable scarcity. In the second step, he theorises that interactions this anarchic state of affairs would be periodically violent. Also, the second step is informed by his theory of human nature, that is, his theory of the major characteristics common to all humans. Given that his foundation’s cogency is subject to the accuracy of the second step of his state of nature thought experiment and that the second step of his thought experiment is informed by his theory of human nature, my defence of his foundation involves arguments in favour of his theory of human nature, his state of nature, and his foundation. I first contend that the six characteristics that compose his theory of human nature are true. I next argue that the second step of his state of nature thought experiment – his theory that state of nature interactions would be periodically violent – is accurate. Lastly, I argue that his foundation is true, that it would be felicity maximising for individuals to agree to a moral order based on peace and property in the absence of government and a recognised moral order. To make my argument, I construct a hypothetical bargain between individuals in the state of nature where they choose between Hobbes moral order based on peace and property and the sort of moral order most contemporary political philosophers would propose as alternative (e.g. one based on general non-interference and a redistribution requirement) as their improvement over the state of nature. I argue that individuals would choose the former over the latter as their improvement because the former is purely mutually beneficial while the latter is only partly mutually beneficial.