[lit-ideas] Re: The Guardian says Play Nice

  • From: "Phil Enns" <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2008 08:08:10 +0700

Eric Yost wrote:

"Hence your conclusion that a 'belief' led to a social change puts a
heavy cart before a stubborn ox. What you call the 'Hobbesian state of
nature' encouraged the belief, rather than vice versa."

The issue is not what leads to social change, a description of which
would surely be a difficult if not impossible task, but rather the
conditions that make particular social changes possible.  According to
Hobbes, people, through the use of reason, recognize the advantage
that comes through giving up some of their natural rights, in order to
form a commonwealth.  This formation of a commonwealth requires a
belief both in human rights and the rule of law.  These beliefs do not
lead to the formation of a commonwealth, as though history were solely
or primarily a trail of beliefs and ideas, but a commonwealth is not
possible without the presence of these beliefs.  Yes, the specter of
the Hobbesian state of nature prompts rational people to search for
alternatives, but these alternative political arrangements require
beliefs concerning what is possible.

And so there are rational people asking whether there is a possibility
for escaping a Hobbesian state of nature between countries through the
formation of various global institutions that are constituted
according to commitments to human rights and the rule of law.  I think
it is possible and desirable, though certainly not a necessity of


Phil Enns
Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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