Thomas Hobbes Paper - What is the difference between obligations in foro interno and in foro externo and when do we have such obligations?
According to Thomas Hobbes, there are certain laws of nature which exist in the absence of an organized government. These laws are extremely cut throat and place people in extremely dangerous situations where their lives are in danger. Government is the answer to this dangerous situation, but it is here that the question of obligation comes into question. Does one have an obligation to take a chance and follow the laws set forth for them or should they only think of themselves and follow the laws of nature? This is a vital question which I will explore. According to Hobbes, the overriding law of nature is kill or be killed. Hobbes believed that, every man has a right to everything, even to another man's body. And therefore, as long as this natural right of every man to everything endureth there can be no security to any man (how strong or wise so ever he be) of living out the time which nature ordinarily allow with men to live.
However he also believed, "that a man be willing, when others are so too as far-forth as for peace and defense of himself that he shall think it necessary to lay down this right to all things, and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself." The question now is, when do we have an obligation to strive towards peace when it means giving up our natural rights?
According to Hobbes, we always have an obligation to work towards peace, and have an obligation in foro interno, but not always in foro externo. The difference between these two are that in foro interno means inside you, or you believing in something. In this case, it would mean that inside you, you would want to strive for peace because it would mean an end to worrying about your life. No longer would you have to walk around in a state of nature where anyone can come and take your life. Hobbes believed that a person always has an obligation to strive towards peace in foro interno because every man wants one thing more than any other and that is to live.
However, Hobbes did not believe that you always had an obligation to work towards peace in foro externo. The reason for this, simply put, you cannot trust other men to do the same unless you can be sure that they will not turn on you and take your life. Hobbes felt that, "For he that should be modest and tractable, and preform all he promises, in such time and place where no man else should do, should be make himself prey to others and procure his own certain ruin, contrary to the ground of all laws of nature, which tend to nature's preservation."
Hobbes felt that one's obligation in foro externo ended when fulfilling the obligation would endanger the life of the person. Every law of nature is geared for the preservation of the life of the self and therefore, every man has the right to not do something should it mean that he would have to give up his or her life. In the case of in foro externo obligation towards peace, you do not always have to do it.
If you decide you are going to give up you right to everything and do so, but another person does not, they will most likely kill you. Therefore, before one can oblige in foro externo, there must be some sort of safeguard or higher power which will ensure that everyone will give up their right to everything. That is where governments come in. Their job is to make sure that when all men agree to a covenant, in which they give up their rights to everything, that they do not decide to break that covenant and take what they want when they want it.
To make sure this breaking of the covenant does not happen, governments set up institutions such as the police to make sure everyone follows the rules of the government. It is only then, when a person can be sure that they will be protected from others, are they obliged in foro externo to strive towards peace and give up their right to everything. Personally, I agree with what Hobbes is saying in this matter, it makes a lot of sense even though it was written so long ago. It still has much relevance today. Take for example the U.S., where most people have obliged in foro externo to strive for peace and give up their natural rights. This is only possible because people are not afraid (for the most part) that others will take advantage of the situation and take what they want. However in other countries where this safety is not felt, there is many instances where people take what they want, when they want it and often at the expense of the people who have given up their right to everything. So as you can see, what Hobbes said so long ago, still has much merit today.