Much later, T. Yes, but what did he really think? Of course, Hobbes had his admirers as well. Hobbes held that actions and people can be free, provided they do not face external impediments to doing what they will to do.
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Both men believed that monarchy was the best form of government despite their opposing perceptions of liberty. To a larger extent, this epistolary debate between Hobbes and Bramhall is a springboard to demonstrate the errant lineage often made to connect political theory to political practice.
Before explaining where Hobbes and Bramhall diverged in metaphysics and where they converged in politics, it serves to revisit their general points regarding human will and freedom. The debate re-visited the common yet contentious issue of the seventeenth-century: the relevance of Aristotelian philosophy.
Materialism reduced all things to matter, denying any abstract, immaterial qualities; determinism posited that human actions are the necessary effects of previous causes. He wrote, [Hobbes] cuts off the liberty from inward impediments also, as if a hawk were at liberty to fly when her wings are plucked, but not when they are tied.
By publishing their debate, they hoped to persuade the young king and his closest advisors with the merits of their views. The most logical answer is the amount of power that the king should possess. Their distinct concepts on liberty were based on their philosophies and theories of human nature, but when these theories were stretched to fit the mold that was cast by historical and political circumstance, these distinctions adapted into subtle variances of the same form of government.
In other words, historical and political circumstance forced theory into a box. The extent to which Royalists supported the monarchy varied. In fact, the incompatibility between constitutionalism and royalism was an Enlightenment ideal that was reinforced in the eighteenth century by the American and French Revolutions. Bramhall supported royalism because it was constitutional and closely tied to the church.
More pragmatically for Hobbes, it was the political influence of the church as a counsel to the monarch that concerned him as a political theorist. To do so, I ask the reader for permission to take a fair share of historical creative license. Berlin rightly notes that these two forms of liberty are at opposite philosophical ends. Under this theoretical framework, then, Bramhall can be viewed as defending liberty in the positive sense, and Hobbes as championing negative liberty.
I wish to be somebody, not nobody; a doer—deciding, not being decided for, self-directed and not acted upon by external nature or by other men as if I were a thing, or an animal, or a slave incapable of playing a human role, that is, of conceiving goals and policies of my own and realizing them… I wish, above all, to be conscious of myself as a thinking, willing, active being, bearing responsibility for my choices and able to explain them by references to my own ideas and purposes.
Bramhall conceived of liberty as an intellectual pursuit that was positive to the extent that it was internal and based on concepts of reason and free will. Positive freedom for Bramhall lies within a personal framework that does not necessarily connect with a theory of government.
Now for negative liberty, which Berlin defined in the following manner: Political liberty in [the negative] sense is simply the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others. If I am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I am to that degree unfree; and if this area is contracted by other men beyond a certain minimum, I can be coerced, or, it may be, enslaved. Coercion is not, however, a term that covers every form of inability.
If I say that I am unable to jump more than ten feet in the air, or cannot read because I am blind, or cannot understand the darker pages of Hegel, it would be eccentric to say that I am to that degree enslaved or coerced.
As, for example, the water is said to descent freely, or to have liberty to descent, by the channel of the river, because there is no impediment that way… And though the water cannot ascent, yet men never say it wants the liberty to ascend, but the faculty of power, because the impediment is in the nature of the water and intrinsical. So also we say he that is tied wants the liberty to go, because the impediment is not in him but in his bands; whereas we say not so of him that is sick or lame, because the impediment is in himself.
Herein lies the greater point of the historical significance of the Hobbes-Bramhall debate for political science: Theory does not always translate properly into practice.
The fact that Hobbes and Bramhall chose to side with monarchism, even if it did not perfectly align with their metaphysical concepts of liberty, raises a question of applicability: To what extent are metaphysical truths on the concept of freedom directly functional and useful for political systems?
Both Hobbes and Bramhall, after all, can be interpreted as having practical political motives for their Royalist support. For Bramhall, the monarchy was the best way to secure the authority of the church, and therefore sustain the influence of clergymen. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Works Cited:.
The Hobbes-Bramhall Debate on Liberty and Necessity
Hobbes on liberty and necessity