Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 24
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For Hobbes, liberty and reason are not mutually exclusive terms and implicitly, neither
are instincts and reason. This is especially evident in his definition of liberty. Hobbes writes:
By Liberty, is understood, according to the proper signification of the word; the absence
of externall Impediments: which Impediments, may oft take away part of a mans power to
do what hee would,; but cannot hinder him from using the power left him, according to
his judgement, and reason shall dictate to him. (Hobbes 64, my emphasis)
While Hobbes admits that "externall Impediments" such as commonwealths and other forms of
government potentially take away one's freedom to follow their instincts and self-interest, he
also recognizes that listening to and following reason also allow men to possess and use the
power allotted to them (64). Indirectly, Hobbes suggests that when one obeys reason instead of
automatically obeying instincts, this obedience will ultimately enable them to know how best to
use the power they possess. Reason enables individuals to best determine when to curb their
obedience to instincts and also affords citizens the ability to use their power to choose a leader
wisely-a leader who will see to the needs and rights of all citizens, not just himself.
In addition, using reason allows citizens to use their power to dictate not only their own
actions, but also the actions of the sovereign. Choosing a sovereign gives both the sovereign and
the people themselves more power than they presumably would have in the state of nature-both
the power of choosing the sovereign and the power of making decisions individually. Matthew
Moreover, and here we come to the gravely dubious strand of Hobbes's outlooks, people
who are utterly self-concerned will best achieve their goals if they brace the sturdiness of
society by never flouting the Laws of Nature. In other words, since all people stand to
benefit greatly from the vibrantness of their social framework, their self-solicitude
inclines them or should incline them to heed the natural mandates and thus to reinforce
the institutions from which great benefits flow. (62)
However, according to Hobbes, living in commonwealths allows individuals not only to make
decisions about their personal lives but also affords them additional power in the form of
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/30/?q=rochester: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .