By Frederick Charles Copleston

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Additional resources for A History of Philosophy [Vol IV]

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For the majority of the people were simply not asked for their opinions. In fact, it would be very difficult to justify any extant government. Political obligation cannot be derived from expressed consent; for we acknowledge this obligation even when there is no evidence at all of any compact or agreement. It is founded rather on a sense of self-interest. Through experience men come to feel what is for their interest and they act in certain ways without making any explicit agreements to do so. Political society and civic obedience can be justified on purely utilitarian grounds without the need of having recourse either to philosophical fictions like that of the social compact or to eternal and self-evident truths.

At the same time reason makes men aware of the fact that selfpreservation can best be secured if they unite and substitu~e organized co-operation for the anarchy of the state of nature In leh. xx. INTRODUCTION 45 which no man can feel safe from his fellows but in which life is attended by constant fear. Hobbes depicts men, therefore, as making a social covenant by which each man agrees to hand over to a sovereign his right of governing himself provided that every other member of the prospective society does the same.

His primary aim was not so much to produce a novel philosophy, as far as content was concerned, as to produce a certain and well-ordered philosophy. And his chief enemy was scepticism rather than Scholasticism. If, therefore, he set himself systematically to doubt all that could possibly be doubted as a preliminary to the establishment of certain knowledge, he did not assume from the outset that none of the propositions which he doubted would turn out later to be certainly true. 'I argued to myself that there was no plausibility in the claim of any private individual to reform a State by altering everything and by overturning it throughout, in order to set it right again.

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