Free Essay Sample «Speech in Hobbes»

«Speech in Hobbes»


Both language and speech are integral components of a process of communication between people. There are several different definitions of speech. According to some of them, it is understood narrowly as attainments and ability to use a language. Other definitions of speech refer to all possible means of expressing psychological states, images, thoughts and feelings in order to communicate. In this case, speech is defined as a use of natural and artificial languages. Philosophers and scientists have always placed great emphasis on language and speech, their origin and influence on the development of human society. One of the prominent subjects is a concept of “social contract”, created by Thomas Hobbes. He didn’t make a distinction between language and speech, and considered them as a united factor which influences formation of a state.

Language and speech are significant tools of communication and should be examined in the context of the philosophical ideas of Hobbes, because a common language is one of the key conditions for the social contract and the successful functioning of a state.

I. Concept of Language and Speech

Language is a system of audio and graphic symbols that emerged on a definite level of human development and had a social purpose; language principles normalize the use of signs and their operation as tools of communication. Also, language is the most important way of communication and cognition. There are following types of language: human, formal (finite set of strings that describe the rules of a certain type, automatic speech) and animal language. A branch of science that deals with the study of language is called linguistics.

Sign or symbol is a tangible object that stands in cognition and communication as a substitute (representative) of another object, phenomenon, performance or event, and is used for receiving, storage, conversion and transmission. It is perceived as a carrier of a certain meaning, value, or information. Symbols are divided into natural and artificial. The general properties of sign systems are studied by semiotics.

Linguists stress that language is not only a means of communication, it is also used to form and explicate (deploy) a person’s opinion. In order to better define the role of language in the process of thinking it is necessary to clarify the concept of verbal thought in its relation to consciousness (Harrub, Thompson & Miller, 2003). Consciousness and language form two relatively distinct areas in the brain of an individual. Each of them has its own “memory,” which contains the components that build it. These two fields are closely connected to each other. For this reason, the activity of consciousness is always accompanied by language activities, forming a single harmonious process. The main aspects of consciousness are the following: knowledge (cognitive aspect); distribution (distributive aspect); exchange (aspect of reciprocal exchange); use (aspect of practical use). Its activities are expressed in the thinking process.

A process of human speech is closely related to generation of ideas and formation of a unified sentence-pronouncing process which is triggered by speech mechanisms. A prerequisite to mental processes is a versatile activity of consciousness, through language and speech mechanisms. Speech is a process (or its outcome) of thought expression by means of language. It is an activity instead of language itself, which means a set of symbols. The process of human speech can be divided into three phases: semantic; lexical, morphological; phonological.

The issue related to the origin of language is one of the mysteries and forms a wide field for international research. There are plenty of hypotheses, among which are: the concept of a divine origin of language, a theory according to which people invented it, suggestion that language was accidentally invented, onomatopoeia etc. Many philosophers have been trying to find the answer. Nowadays the most famous hypothesis regards a wide-spread public or social contract, according to which people agreed to refer to objects using various words. This hypothesis was supported by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), an English philosopher, who mentioned that dissociation was a natural lifestyle of people (“Thomas Hobbes,” n.d.). Rarely communicating, families lived alone and had to fight for food. They had to unite and create a prosperous state “signing” a verbal contract to survive. It was necessary to invent a language which could be the key basis of a communicating process between competitive individuals with different life experience.

Hobbes made no distinction between language and speech, combining them into a single unit. It could be wrong linguistically, but it is effective enough in terms of a political doctrine. Thus, language or speech is the basis for solving many social issues and creation of the very society. It is the major tool used for communication between people and building of healthy and wealthy communities that can exist for centuries. Such communities depend on a social contract (Gauthier, 1988). Study of its essence has become one of the central themes of the philosopher`s scientific works. In order to understand the influence of speech on the social contract and the role it plays in society, it is necessary to study the main work of Hobbes “Leviathan” (2014) and consider an inner mechanism of the social contract.

II. “Leviathan”: Subdual of Human Nature by Social Contract

Hobbes developed social contract theory which became the foundation of the modern civil society theory. In fact, many experts look for historical origins of this doctrine in the works of ancient Indian and Chinese thinkers. Thus, the early Buddhists believed that it was necessary to establish an elected royal power, which would perform arbitration functions in order to eliminate social inequality, fraud and theft. Mo Tzu, an ancient philosopher, developed an idea of a contractual origin of a state that could emerge by the will of separate people who elected a king and his advisors in order to put an end to division in society. More progressive ideas are found in the works of Epicurus, who taught that people were searching for common use, and entered into a contractual relationship to establish laws. Ancient philosophers were of the same opinion that natural justice was a pledge of reciprocal benefit, to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another. Lucretius stated that a transition from a natural state to a public one is as a result of the establishment of social contract and of laws.

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When a state was created and a human society could live in accordance with certain rules, regulations, and laws, it became evident that it had existed for centuries and that people were born inclined to cooperate. Plato and Aristotle followed that approach. Nevertheless, Hobbes had an opposite point of view. If a person loved another one due to a natural impulse, he or she would search for communication with everyone in equal measure. Instead of this, a person, according to Hobbes, prefers the company of those who can become a source of greater benefit. According to a human nature, especially barbaric inherency, a person is pushed to look not for friends but for obvious values: honor, profit, and material resources (Hobbes, 2014).

In order to establish a common power, several conditions exist. Firstly, it is necessary for people to appoint one person or assembly of people to be their representatives. Secondly, every man should consider him-/herself as a trustee and admit responsibility for everything that a common representative can do him-/herself or force others to do in order to preserve peace and security. Thirdly, each member of society must submit his or her will and judgment to the will and judgment of the carrier of common interests (for example, king or council). It is more than agreement or consensus that should be supported by breaking the language barriers that can give an opportunity to participate in different agreements and contracts. It means a real unity, embodied in one person, through it is an agreement verbally signed with each other as if every person says that he or she will authorize this superior body or a group of individuals by giving them all of the private rights for governing, if other members of the community do the same. If it is done, numerous individuals united in one person could be called the state, in Latin - civitas. This is the birth of the great Leviathan, generated by the social contract, which is the epitome of peace and invincible defense.

Hobbes highly appreciated the ideas of his predecessors, relying on them when creating his own concept (“Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy,” 2014). However, he believed that it was impossible to represent unwilled individuals, who cannot impact activity of rulers, who set their orders and participate in contracting. Such a society could be build by ants and bees, with all of its characteristic features, but a man differs from them, because he has ambitions and strives to gain prestige as a benefit. Human society focuses on the achievement of interests, needs, and human relations. The state is determined by Hobbes as an “artificial body,” or a product of human activity, but not a divine institution.

Both the state and society are based on certain rules that must be consciously followed by humans. In contrast, ants are guided by a blind instinct. As soon as people are endued with these qualities, it will become obvious that every society desires to pursue only its own benefit. Animals don’t fight for honors and titles, so they don’t have hatred and envy that cause riots and wars. In contrast, people have all of them. Beasts are not aware of justice and harm, thus they don’t appreciate the actions of their relatives and are not able to come to a realization that society, in addition to consent, needs unity based on power. The last one is called a state or a civil society.

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People are not eager to cooperate by their nature (“Social contract theory,” n.d.). Hobbes stresses that they are savages, who live in a lasting conflict, which could be overcome by engaging in a social contract. Persons don’t have an innate craving for cooperation, and it was the key problem of the social thinkers who tried to revolutionize and reform society. Everyone strives to achieve the greatest honors and the best social place. People are not born to love their neighbor, accordingly to the rules of nature. People are compelled to acquire these qualities and it takes a lot of effort to do so. It gives an opportunity to play with a feud of different groups, and the strongest one can win, set a new order, and become responsible for it. These rules could be called a social order.

What motivates people to create a society? According to Hobbes it is fear. Mutual fear keeps people from an unbridled pursuit of dominance. It unites them in a group, helping to survive in an environment of constant competition. Nevertheless, people make a decision to unite because they want to benefit from it and achieve respect and honor that cannot be gained if a person stays alone. Natural society can be neither very large nor very stable. It would be stable if glory and honor were equally lavished on everyone. However, it is impossible. If honor is rendered to each man, it will be given to nobody because glory is based on the exaltation of someone over the others. For this reason, those who achieve no honor feel bypassed, because they haven’t reached something, which was presumably promised by a society. Therefore, it ceases to be profitable to them. According to Hobbes, the majority is always bypassed. Glory goes to a tiny minority; therefore, eventually society necessarily disintegrates.

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Those who haven’t achieved glory, tend to get it ruling over others. However, according to Hobbes a number of benefits can be achieved through provision of mutual services, or promotion of domination instead of cooperation with others. It provides two main conclusions: 1) people are born unable to lead a public life, but tend to acquire it as a result of education (in modern language - socialization); 2) civil society is created because some people are afraid of others. Hobbes describes fear as “expectation of future evil”. It does not divide, but rather unites forces to take care of mutual security. The state is the best way to meet this need. Therefore, a stable, long-established society is created due to a mutual fear, not love or location.

It must be mentioned that language or speech can affect both creation of a new state through social agreement, and its destruction. Its importance and value should be considered in the context of Hobbes` philosophy and nation-building, as well as creation of social contract.

III. Essence of Speech in Hobbes and Its Role in Making and Protecting Social Agreement

Approaches to Language Research

Hobbes doesn’t make any difference between speech and language, as it has been mentioned earlier, using these terms as synonyms. Although modern linguistics condemns this approach, it is not essential for Hobbes.

 In various scientific works much attention is devoted to the study of language and its part in building the state. Traditionally, it is referred to the supporters of nominalism, conventionalism and emotivism, depending on a chosen point of view in regard to language. The consequence of this “pure position,” which is usually formed on the basis of the fourth chapter of “Leviathan”, is fundamental “non-performativity” of language in the philosophy of Hobbes. Taking into consideration that this approach contradicts some aspects of his philosophy, especially social contract theory, modern researchers have found a way to provide his language with the properties of performativity (Pettit, 2008). This is achieved by distinguishing between language as a system of signs (language itself) and language as a communicative practice (language in use) (Biletzki, 1997). According to this differentiation, language as a system of signs theoretically is really devoid of any performative features and capabilities.

An opposite approach is an attitude to language as to something “alive” in the process of communication. Thus, performative properties appear here in the language of deus ex machina (verbatim “god from the machine”). This explanation does not seem to be exhaustive, because in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and especially in the fourteenth chapter of “Leviathan,” Hobbes describes the “speech-in-action” as the one with performative functions (Hobbes, 2014). This is primarily a linguistic approach. Nevertheless, the scientist doesn’t belong to “linguistic philosophers”. In his researches Hobbes made an emphasis on political philosophy. The philosopher encourages people to look for an answer to a question of the status of language. However, in his philosophy language plays an important role and a policy is explained conceptually (by verbal and mental languages).

Dual Origin and Purpose of Speech

Language, according to Hobbs, appears as a result of Divine Providence. Hobbes believed that the Lord was “the first creator of speech”. He taught Adam various words and made him understand meanings of those words. For this reason, speech bears the imprint of something sacred. God provided Adam and all humans, who descended from him and Eve, with an ability to invent words and combine them, making them clear to every person who utters them and everyone who hears them. In support of these suggestions Hobbes refers to the Holy Scripture, which says nothing about the fact that Adam knew the names of all shapes, colors, sounds, relationships, etc. In other words, Hobbes insists that language has a dual nature: a divine will and human practice.

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Hobbes describes the process of emergence of concepts in great detail, assigning them a particular content. According to his view, firstly, a mark as a prototype of a future name of a subject or object arises at the level of purely sensory representation. It is important for a particular individual or a certain group of people who interact with each other. If there is a need to transfer information to other individuals who are not directly related to them, this role is performed by a sign. Last one differs from the mark due to the higher degree of generality. It helps to identify not just one but a whole range of subjects (Hobbes, 2014).

Name is a result of the formation of verbal images of different subjects. Every name is always shaped in a verbal form. Names, unlike marks and signs,  can adequately express human thought. They form a basis for communication and interaction between individuals. Names and the nature of things are not closely connected. Hobbes tries to answer why languages are different if they explain the same things and their nature is also the same. Postulating this thesis, Hobbes denies a general idea that a name of a thing expresses its essence, and argues that the basic structure of every language is set arbitrarily by man, according to his own understanding and volition. For this reason, all languages are partly artificial, or, in other words, they are products of cultural and creative activities of people.



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