Hobbes’ complex concepts such as the state

 

Hobbes’
the State of Nature and Complete Sovereignty

in
Relation to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf

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Thomas
Hobbes is considered to be a very modern and analytical thinker who’s views on
the state of nature and the idea of a complete sovereignty are quite compelling
and worthy of appraisal. Even though he was inspired by Plato and other
contemporary thinkers, his thoughts on these subjects are truly unique. His
works, especially Leviathan, explains
some complex concepts such as the state of nature and absolute sovereignties,
which are the key topics I will be covering in this paper. This work has
inspired other thinkers to promote similar ideas on the state of nature and
what one can do to create a perfect society or absolute sovereignty and the
Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler is no exception. In this paper, I will be analyzing Hobbes’
theory on the state of nature as well as his views on complete sovereignty. I will
then provide further explanation of his meanings while also providing
explanations of similar views stated in Hitler’s controversial book, Mein Kampf. Following this analysis, I
will then reflect critically on their viewpoints.

Firstly,
to be able to grasp these concepts and fully understand the reasoning and logic
behind them, one must look at the broader spectrum of things and recognize them
as significant and complex thoughts that can still be applied to a modern
setting. One should also be aware of the history of their respective time
periods that brought forth these beliefs. The past of these two thinkers is
important as well if one wishes to fully understand their reasoning and logic. So,
allow me to provide some context on Hobbes’ background and theories.

Thomas
Hobbes was a scientist, author and philosopher and is best known for his
theories on political philosophy and natural law. After he wrote the book, The Leviathan, he became one of the most
influential philosophers of the early modern era. His inspiration to write this
book stemmed from the political and economic strife that plagued England during
the English Civil Wars. He believed feuds and civil wars were caused by
political disagreements and that the only solution, from his perspective, was
to create an absolute sovereignty. This would ensure the survival of man and
the ending of war or the state of nature. The fear of death is the main premise
of his book and is something that unites all of us, so he argues that since
everyone fears a violent death, it leads them to endorse a strong authority.
And by having this newly united nation or complete sovereignty, this fear would
dissolve, and everyone would be able to live in peace.

In
regards to his theory on the state of nature, he states that the state of
nature follows a natural order or natural law and some of the key features that
make up this thought experiment are equality, competition, war, anticipation and
peace, to name a few. In the beginning of the chapter, “The Natural Condition
of Mankind,” he touches base on just this; “the natural condition of mankind”
is what would exist if there was no government, no laws nor civilization. Being
in this state implies that in order to survive in it, one must fight against
all in the state of war if he wishes to survive and gain power (Hobbes 87). It
is the “war of all against all,” or “every man is against every man” (Hobbes
88).

He
explains that all men are equal in the faculties of the body and mind, except
in certain circumstances where one person might be naturally bigger and
stronger than others or naturally smarter and more cunning than others (Hobbes
86-87). Although, in relation to the state of nature, he argues that all men
are equal despite these differences. He claims there is equality in experience
and also in the hope of achieving our ends (Hobbes 87). Not to mention, that in
this state, all men don’t believe they are equals because in the state of
nature, they all consider themselves to be wiser, smarter, and wittier than all
the rest (Hobbes 87). He remarks that “if any two men desire the same thing,
which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way
to their End, (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their
delectation only,) endeavor to destroy, or subdue one another” (Hobbes 87).
What he implies here is that whenever there is a limited amount of resources
and both parties desire it, this will automatically result in war. And since
men are equals in the state of nature, this is inevitable.

Considering
that everyone is in a constant state of war and in fear of a violent death,
there is no sense of security or purpose other than survival. In other words,
this means that there is no culture, no industry, no buildings, no knowledge of
the Earth, no account of time, no letters and no society. Hobbes believes this
is not a good way to live but if one were to live like this, the life of man
would be “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes 89). He then
asserts that humans live in constant anticipation and fear since there is no
government nor common power (Hobbes 87-88).

The
concept of anticipation is another key to understanding the state of nature
because it helps explain why man is always at war. It states that, since every
man is at war with each other or on the verge of war, man takes every
precaution to ensure his survival as well as his family’s. This is called anticipation.
Hobbes defines it as “there is no way for any man to secure himself, so
reasonable, as Anticipation; that is, by force, or wiles, to master the persons
of all men he can, so long, till he see no other power great enough to endanger
him: And this is no more than his own conservation requireth, and is generally
allowed” (Hobbes 87-88). So, this implicates that if there is a threat to one’s
safety and security, they have the right to take matters into their own hands,
as in they are allowed to kill a person first before that person kills them.

Seeing
that the state of nature is a “war of all against all,” in which humans are
constantly at war with one another, there is no hope for peace unless a
dominant force or state arises, along with a general set of rules. Hobbes believes
that the desire for peace stems from man’s fear of death, hence the reason why
he provides a sub set of rules called “the Natural Laws” to help clarify why
man seeks peace (Hobbes 90). When he stated that fear was the primary culprit
for the nature of man, he concluded that man must seek peace in order to ensure
survival. So, the general rule specifies “That every man, ought to endeavor
Peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it,
that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of Warre” (Hobbes 92).
This leads up to the first natural law and that is “to seek Peace, and follow
it” (Hobbes 92). And the second law states “By all means we can, to defend our
selves” (Hobbes 92). This means that one has the right to defend themselves
because they seek peace and because it is the natural law. However, to escape
the state of war, one must renounce or transfer certain rights to ensure
self-preservation and peace.

Thusly,
in order to end the state of war, ensure peace and a healthy government, Hobbes
proposes the creation of an absolute or complete sovereignty, which is what the
state of nature and natural laws ultimately lead up to. This solution, in the
political sense, requires that in order to save one’s self and one’s family,
they must give up their rights and power as individuals in order to establish
and maintain this type of government and also maintain peace. This can be done
by abiding to a contract, which is defined as “the mutual transferring of
Right” (Hobbes 94). A contract is also referred to as a pact or covenant. And
to guarantee that man upholds this contract, there must be a common-wealth or
sovereign set in place, for example a monarchy, an aristocracy or a democracy.
He
claims only under one of these sovereignties will there be moral rules and
moral obligations.

By
establishing a common-wealth, this provides peace and security for the people.
Additionally, the sovereignty acts as a mediator to further ensure security.
Furthermore, it is important to note the abundance of power that the
sovereignty actually has, which is quite a bit. The large amount of power given
to the sovereignty, whether it is run by one person or a group of people,
allows it to do whatever it wants to ensure security and peace for the
common-wealth. But, in order to make this rule work, the people must transfer
their rights and revoke their violent tendencies in exchange for security.

In
regards to this, the sovereignty is given an abundance of rights. For example, the
people are not allowed to form a new covenant in any way and must swear loyalty
to the established sovereignty. Another one would be that the sovereign’s power
cannot be forfeited, and that no man can protest against the institution of the
sovereign, just to name a few (Hobbes 122-123). There is one particular right
however, that I deem as one of the more important rights, which will in turn,
aid in the overall message of this paper, and that is “The Sovereign is judge
of what is necessary for the Peace and Defense of his Subjects. And Judge of
what Doctrines are fit to be taught them” (Hobbes 124). What this means is that
the sovereignty basically defines what it is good and what is morally
acceptable, so it becomes clear that the sovereignty has a great deal of power
that no one can take away from them, whether people like it or not.

Moving
forward, Hobbes’ ideas on the state of nature and complete sovereignty have
been seen to influence many other thinkers both in the past and present. And
even though this is not a guaranteed fact, I believe Adolf Hitler might have
been a strong believer in Hobbes due to the amount of similar opinions they
shared regarding the state of nature and complete sovereignty. Now that that
has been established, I would now like to touch base on Hitler’s views
regarding these subjects.

Historically
speaking, Adolf Hitler is a very well-known individual given the extremely dark
and horrific actions he took to abolish certain groups of people, especially
Jews in the 1930’s. Additionally, his radical and anti-semitic views are made
quite clear in his book, Mein Kampf,
which he wrote in 1925-26 while he was imprisoned after his failed attempt to
seize power in Bavaria; this is also known as the Beer Hall Putsch. He wrote
this controversial book as a means to promote his ideas of Jews and other
people who he considered degenerates. The book also includes his thoughts on
his past, the war, the government and what steps should be taken to create a
perfect Germany society, but I will only be discussing his views on equality
and an absolute/ ideal government.

After
reading this book, I was able to come to the conclusion that Hitler’s goal was
to impose his extremist Christian values and political doctrines on the people
of Germany while also promoting German national pride and the preservation of
Christian values in Germany. His views and ideals are indeed contradictory when
putting his actions and beliefs into account, but it remains clear that he was
not an uneducated nor unintelligent individual. He truly believed what he was
doing was right, moral and justified and he constantly stated that he was doing
it out of love or for the sake of his country. Given these facts, I will make
it clear that this is by no means a promotion of his radically extremist and
racist viewpoints but is merely a tool to help provide further insight on
Hobbes’ theories and show just how influential it was, especially in the
political sense.

Hitler
believes that humans are the mirror image of God, but only certain humans as
does Hobbes. Only Hobbes believes that all humans are created equal and have a
right to everything, unlike Hitler who only believes certain groups of people
and individuals are equal and worthy to have rights. In accordance to his book,
Mein Kampf, his attitudes toward Jews
are made abundantly clear from the get go, which is that he despises them. He
expresses his feelings towards them by constantly saying things like, “By their
very exterior, you could tell that these were no lovers of water…Later I often
grew sick to my stomach from the smell…but it became positively repulsive” (Mein Kampf 57). Or he would go so far as
to claim that, by opposing Jews, he was doing God’s work: “by defending myself
against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord” (Mein Kampf 65). He immediately distinguishes them as primitive,
inhuman, and unequivalent to the Aryan German, which is a stark contrast to
Hobbes’ views on equality where he stated that all men were equal, despite
their natural differences. 

Hitler
also puts a lot of emphasis on the preservation of race and the cleansing of
the nation or the concept of Blut und Boden (blood and soil). He deems this as
being one of the most important missions for the German nationalist. In the
text, Hitler states, “What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction
of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our
blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature
for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe” (Mein Kampf 214). This would coincide
with Hobbes’ concept on the state of nature and how one can take the steps to ensure
survival and self-preservation.

In
regards to absolute sovereignty, Hitler would probably agree with Hobbes in the
sense that there needed to be some sort of absolute power that would ensure
peace and security for all. I think it is safe to say that he uses the example
of Germany being an absolute government to justify and dignify the imprisonment
and extermination of Jews. And since he was the leader of the National
Socialist Party and had complete control/ power, he was able to do pretty much
whatever he wanted. In relation to Hobbes’ idea that the state defines the good
and what is morally and ethically acceptable, Hitler and the Nationalist Party
would be a textbook example. He was able to justify the abolishing of Jews through
the power he possessed.

The
concept of anticipation in the state of nature can also be applied to Hitler’s views
and policies. For example, Hitler coerced vulnerable and impressionable young
adults into joining youth organizations so they could better fit in to the
ideal archetype he so desperately wanted: a new Aryan race who never disobeyed nor
questioned Nazi authority, and always remained loyal to their Fatherland
(Germany). These groups are also known as Hitler Youth. In the article, How the Hitler Youth Turned a Generation of
Kids Into Nazis, by Erin Blakemore, it states that Hitler ensured that they
learned basic survival skills in the case of emergencies and also made sure
that they were always prepared in the case of an attack. Even their motto was,
“Be Prepared.”  He was basically prepping
them for war which is consistent with Hobbes’ anticipation rule in the state of
nature. And given the circumstances that went on during World War II, Germany
was constantly under scrutiny since they were the ones that basically started
the whole thing. Considering that this was the case, the majority of Germans
were constantly living in fear and anticipation of an air raid or invasion, etc.

Thusly,
Hitler prepared these youths for the inevitable battles coming their way and
propagandized them into wanting to fight for their country, making them believe
that it would be a true honor to die for their country. They had to give up
many things too as well as some rights such as they were not allowed to be
members of any other party except the National Socialist Party and were forced
to learn survival skills, how to use guns and knives and all there was to know
about the Nazi party, whether they wanted to or not. And many young women were
forced or rather reduced to the more traditional, conservative roles associated
with womanhood during this time, such as learning how to cook, how to clean and
how to maintain a home.

Hobbes’
theories on the state of nature and complete sovereignty are concepts that have
been applied to many areas, circumstances, and governments throughout history
including Nazism/ Nazi era Germany. So, going off of that, for the second part
of this essay, I will discuss which elements of his arguments are significant
and can be used to further aid in our understanding of these concepts. For starters,
it is clear that Hobbes is anything but optimistic regarding the state of nature

By
having a complete sovereignty, this would not solve these issues that Hobbes
presents. In fact, the world would be in a complete disarray and would result
in anarchy of some kind….

For
Hitler

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, Hobbes’ views on the
nature of man and all men being equal is a very modern way of thinking even
though this idea has been around since the time of Aristotle and Plato. His
contemporary and metaphysical approach to understanding the state of nature and
complete sovereignty are undeniably distinct. Throughout his work, The Leviathan, it becomes clear how much
of an understanding he had on the world, on metaphysics and politics and how much
this helped influence and shape his ideas. Nazism and the Nazi Party leader,
Adolf Hitler, as controversial as he was, too had a grasp on the reality of the
world and searched for new ways to bring it to light, which included the finding
of a complete state/ sovereignty It has become a universal trait in
contemporary thinker’s ideologies and it represents a greater truth and meaning
behind human existence and that we all have similar/ primitive traits that
cause us to do certain things like being in a constant state of war to protect
one’s self and one’s family for example.

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