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The question of Obligation in De Cive

             The question posed is what is the nature and extent of obligation in De Cive. Hobbes deals with various forms of obligation and there are more than a few ways to become obligated according to Hobbes. For Hobbes the nature of obligation is a hierarchy where all other potential sources of obligation must yield to the most powerful obligation which is to preserve our bodies against death and injury with all means possible. From this very simple to understand point, obligation extends into more and more detailed levels based first on momentary emotions, reason, then finally spoken and written contracts.
             Hobbes lays down very clearly that everyone that the has the right to resist death and injury with any means possible and that among fears, death is the most chief among them (Ch.1 VI-VIII.). Hobbes states at there are two types of natural obligation (Ch.15 VII.). The first is where liberty is taken away by force which can be attributed to the obligation to preserve oneself. In order to avoid the death blow, one simply yields at that instant without thought to the demand. The other is by hope or fear. Man's obligation to God is described as this type of obligation. When confronted with such an overwhelming feeling, arrived by the thought of one's inability to resist the power which is confronting them, one simply yields to that power. Simply put, an obligation makes someone do something, or not do something. These two types of obligation are what drive the actions of people in the state of nature. They are what compose natural right. (Ch.1 X.). Within the bounds of natural right is the natural law. The difference between natural right and natural law is that it takes the use of right reason to understand the natural law (Ch.2 I.). Hobbes lays down several natural laws which lead to the creation of civil society and put limits on the natural right. By requiring that right reason is necessary for the natural law to be understood Hobbes provides another sort of loop hole for obligation.

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