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Subject Philosophy

People Hobbes, Thomas

Key-Topics equality

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192626.2005.x


According to Hobbes, everyone is equal in rights and the ability to survive in the state of nature. Within the state of nature, men have no more rights than women; if anything, women have a better claim to dominance over children than men do. Hobbes's seemingly enlightened attitude is a two-edged sword. Although everyone is equal in the state of nature, the state of nature is a wretched condition to be in, and people should be willing to suffer almost anything, including domination under a tyrant, in order to escape it. Inequality, along with art, culture, science, technology, and every other human good, arises only by leaving the state of nature. Inequality is artificial, but it is part and parcel with a decent life. Ability to survive is roughly equal in the state of nature if intelligence and physical strength are averaged out. If Hobbes considered that women are on the average physically weaker than men, then he would have held that women are on the average more intelligent than men. But there is no evidence that he considered that matter. Reason is not the same thing as native intelligence because reason is thinking with words ( L 5.2). But they are obviously closely related, and Hobbes says that reason is the same in all people, for “who is so stupid as both to mistake in geometry and also to persist in it when another detects his error to him?” ( L 5.16). The correct answer ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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