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Kavka: Hobbesian moral and political theory

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Kavka. 1986. Hobbesian moral and political theory (pages 96-125). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hobbes's three premises:

  1. the individually rational decision by each actor leads to a "war of all against all"
  2. state of nature is a prisoner's dilemma leading to anarchy and misery
  3. a central political authority (leviathan) must emerge to limit aggression and bring peace, wealth, security (#3 not discussed much here)

State of nature = "a war of all against all": captured in prisoner's dilemma


  • We are death-averse
  • Concerned about reputations
  • Forward-looking
  • We have desires that conflict with others' goals
  • We have roughly equal natural endowments
  • We're egoistic (concerned about your own survival over others')
  • Rational planners
  • BUT: we vary in one respect: we're either dominators (want power for its own sake) or moderates (want power only to protect myself/my stuff)

Examines several objections/criticisms of Hobbes's model.