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            Since the beginning of time, there had been a fierce debate on the subject of a flourishing political order and its link with the human capacity to reason. Many prominent political philosophers have tried to address the question that whether this notion of confidence in human mind is misguided or not, and has the political leadership used reason as a tool to achieve their objectives?
For the purpose of addressing this question and consideration of relationship between these concepts in detail, this paper includes the works of three prominent Western political philosophers, namely Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant and Herbert Marcuse. Despite the fact that the views of these philosophers on the subject of the relationship between reason and political authority vary greatly, they have still made a considerable impact on the modern frameworks of the society.
This paper starts with the explanation of key concepts of the philosophers chosen to address the question. This paper then presents a comparison and critical analysis of the concepts of these political theorists. Finally after critically assessing and analyzing the political theories, it presents concluding remarks.

Thomas Hobbes:
            Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) in his famous book “Leviathan “proposes two basic concepts, the natural condition of mankind or the state of nature and the sovereignty. He explains that initially the mankind essentially existed in a war like situation. He presented three causes of quarrel which existed in the nature of men. First, competition where an individual invades for gaining another individual’s belongings. Second, diffidence where men become violent to defend themselves, and third, glory where men become violent for gaining reputation. “Man is free and equal in this state of nature given that there is no law to regulate his actions, and enjoys absolute liberty “(Hobbes, 144). Assuming that man is inherently self-interested, the state of nature is not sustainable because due to the uncertainty regarding protection of life and property, eventually man would want to get rid of this insecure state of nature and will seek protection and perpetual peace.
The passion, Hobbes argues, which inclines men to peace and establishment of such a political order, is the fear of death and reason suggested convenient articles of peace upon which men can be drawn to agreement known as “Laws of Nature”(Hobbes, 145). These laws of nature are general rules found by reason, which emphasize self preservation of life and suggest every man to endeavor peace, seek peace and follow it to defend ourselves. For Hobbes, to avoid perpetual unrest and uncertainty which exists in the state of nature, the creation of a sovereign is necessary. The sovereign is the representative of people and people give up some of their rights and transfer those to the sovereign to pursue peace and security by entering into a contract. Hobbes favors monarchial absolutism and argues that “the powers of the sovereign should remain undivided; no matter sovereign is a single man or an assembly of man” (Hobbes, 152). He argues that there are two ways in which the sovereign can acquire power. First, by natural force or acquisition and second, by forming a common wealth. The sovereign is justified in whatever he does because his will is the will of the people and the political authority is absolutely conferred upon the sovereign. The people cannot breech the covenant, and those who violate it must be left in the condition of war where they might be destroyed. On the other hand, although the sovereign is the judge of whatever policies he thinks are necessary for peace and security, he cannot commit injustice. The rights of the sovereign range from declaring war and peace, defining civil law, to control the ideas that he might think can be destructive to peace.
                  In the state of nature, man can pursue his own interests and is free to do whatever his reason suggests, which Hobbes defines as “the absence of external impediments” (Hobbes, 143). However, in the commonwealth, the people alienate their political liberty, and for the pursuit of peace made artificial chains called “Civil Laws”. But even in this case, Hobbes argues that in the cases where the sovereign has prescribed no law, the subjects have the liberty to do whatever their reason suggests, which defines political liberty under a commonwealth. Also the obligation of the subjects to the sovereign lasts as long as the sovereign is able to protect them, for when the sovereign fails to provide security and protection, men have a right by nature to protect themselves and the covenant thus stays void then.

Immanuel Kant:
            Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), one of the most important thinkers of the Enlightenment period, proposes that human beings are rational individuals, and they possess the ability of thinking and acting on their own. They think and act rationally and this is the basis of Kant’s Enlightenment Philosophy. For Kant, human beings are autonomous and they possess the faculty of reason and are able to use reason to achieve enlightenment. Comparing the public and private use of reason, he argues that “public use of reason is free and unconstrained, while private use of reason is narrowly restricted but does not hinder the enlightenment progress” (Kant, Enlightenment, 42). As every man possesses the autonomy of using his rational capacities, there should be no constraints over freedom and there should be liberty to use reason in all the matters publicly.
                    Kant’s conception of the political authority is somewhat similar to that of Hobbes’s, and he argues that to avoid the insecurity and enduring threat which is in the state of nature and to establish a political order, “there should be a state of peace based on the republican form of government” (Kant, Peace, 111). Kant favors republican form of government in achieving perpetual peace because in that system, the consent of the citizens will be required in the decision making, and in deciding whether to go on war or not. Another important feature of a republican form of government is that in this system executive and legislature are separated. Kant argues that because of this separation of powers, the general will of the public is considered.
                     While exploring the political liberty, Kant establishes a link between politics and morality. According to him there is a difference between a moral politician and a political moralist. A moral politician interprets the principles of political prudence coherent with morality, and is obliged to conform the constitution to the conception of natural right. A political moralist on the other hand, “forges the morality in accordance with the interests of the sovereign” (Kant, Peace, 128).Kant emphasizes that there should be no constraint on the political liberty being granted to the citizens and the public use of reason should be unconstrained. People must have freedom to use their rationality in all the matters.

Herbert Marcuse:
            Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) is well known as the father of the new left. In his famous book “Eros and Civilization”, he puts a philosophical inquiry into Freud and explores the effects of the modern culture on the isolation of desire and free will. He argues that renunciation and subjugation are pre-requisite to human progress. In the technically advanced society, although the goal to get delayed pleasure has been achieved, as the needs and desires of a great number of people are now fulfilled, but this intensified progress comes with the intensified unfreedom of human mind. The development of concentration camps, atomic bombs and world wars has only been seen in the height of civilization.
                     Talking about instinct, Marcuse argues that Freud’s theory about human instinct is the most irrefutable indictment and unshakable defense of Western civilization. There is no doubt that Western civilization is a dominant civilization, but civilization puts some constraints on reason and thought. However this cultural constraint is the very precondition of progress because if it is left free to pursue its natural objectives, it may end up in destruction. “The uncontrolled Eros is just as fatal as his deadly counterpart, the death instinct” (Marcuse, 11).  

 Under laws of governance of civilization, immediate satisfaction changes to delayed satisfaction, pleasure to restraint of pleasure, joy to toil, receptiveness to productiveness and absence of repression to security (Marcuse, 12). Freud describes this process as transformation from “pleasure principle” to “reality principle”, and argues that there are two mental apparatuses; conscious and unconscious. The unconscious mind is driven by pleasure principle and strives for nothing but for gaining pleasure. But it comes into conflict with the natural environment when individual realizes that painless gratification of his needs is not possible. Here the consciousness gains ascendency and the reality principle supersedes the pleasure principle. “Man learns to give up monetary, uncertain and destructive pleasure for delayed, restrained but assured pleasure” (Marcuse, 13). The human being develops the function of reason under the reality principle, and it learns to distinguish between true and false, good and bad. But still there is just one mode of thought which stays committed to the pleasure principle and remains free from the rule of the reality principle, which is “Phantasy” (Marcuse, 14). Marcuse argues that this conversion from pleasure to reality principle is eternal primordial struggle for existence persisting to the present day.

The transformation of the pleasure principle to the reality principle is the great traumatic event not only in the development of genus which Marcuse terms as “phylogenesis”, but also in the development of the individual termed as “ontogenesis” (Marcuse, 15). Phylogenetically, it occurs when the primal father monopolizes power and enforces renunciation on sons. While ontogenetically, it occurs during the childhood period when reality principle is enforced by parents and teachers. For Marcuse, this change is a continuous process indicates that the ascendency of reality principle over the pleasure principle is never complete and secure, because the pleasure principle is always retained in the unconscious mind. So the drive to acquire that ultimate freedom and happiness still remains in his “Cognition” (Marcuse, 18).

Comparative Analysis:
            This exposition presented the salient features of the understanding of Hobbes, Marcuse and Kant and what they believe is the best system of governance. The explanation of their conceptions about a just and flourishing political order and its link to the human capacity to reason, and whether or not it served as a tool to further the interests of the wielders of political power, is hereby presented.
                For Hobbes, establishment of a just political order is related with the existence of peace and justice in the society. To avoid the state of war, unrest and violence which exists in the state of nature, and to seek protection, reason suggests him to enter into a covenant and give up some of his rights for the welfare of the entire society. For Kant, however, there should be no constraints over the reason, and for a just political order everyone should have absolute freedom in using his reason publicly. Marcuse links the height of the present civilization and culture with the intensified unfreedom of human mind and argues that despite the fact that the current progress has fulfilled the desires of most of the people, yet it puts some constraints on the human thought and reason.
                The views of these philosophers also vary on the subject of sovereign authority and the use of reason to achieve their political goals. For Hobbes, the existence of a sovereign power is mandatory to establish peace in the society. Without the sovereign, every man will rely on his own strength to seek protection from others and they will go into war for their particular interests. To avoid that state of violence and insecurity, they confer their power upon the sovereign, who is responsible for the defense of his subjects. Although he possesses absolute authority, he still can’t use it to achieve his objectives because if he fails to provide security to the subjects, men are no longer obligated to obey him. Marcuse, on the other hand, argues that in the reconciliation of general and particular interests, the political authority cannot be rational. The authority lies with the proletariat class and people will not be alienated. Kant also agrees to Hobbes’s notion of a sovereign authority to establish a peaceful society. He, however, disagrees with Hobbes on the notion of one sovereign ruler possessing all the powers, and argues in favor of a republican system of governance where the sovereign may be an assembly of individuals. The distinguishing feature of this republican system is that it separates the legislative and the executive powers. As the general will of the public is considered in this system, the sovereign can be held accountable.
                         On the notion of reason and political liberty, for Kant political liberty is considered in relation to morality and concept of rights. Hobbes, however, argues that subjects have the political liberty only on the occasions when the laws enacted by the sovereign are silent. Considering the conception of reason and human freedom, Hobbes presents a negative conception of freedom while Kant entails a positive conception. Marcuse on the other hand denies it and argues that to achieve delayed but assured pleasure, it is necessary to put some constraints on the human mind. If the human mind is free to pursue whatever it wants, it would end up destroying everything for acquiring personal interests and fulfilling its desires.

            After considering the views of these philosophers on the role of reason in establishing political order and whether or not reason has served as a tool to further the interests of the power holders, it is explicitly established that this is a never ending debate. Kant on one hand stresses on the public use of reason and morality, and considers a republican government having separate legislative and executive powers where opinion of the masses is considered and the sovereign can be held accountable. Hobbes and Marcuse on the other hand present a negative conception of human freedom and political liberty, where Hobbes stresses that to establish a political order in compliance with the reason to seek security, a sovereign authority with absolute powers is needed, and Marcuse emphasizes against Kant’s notion of unconstrained human reason and argues that to achieve real pleasure some constraint on human mind is necessary. So considering their political systems to be legitimate, the relationship derived by them on the subject seems agreeable.

Written By: Motahar Saleheen

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