Law of Nature Centuries Later
Thomas Hobbes was a well-known English philosopher, one of the founders of social contract theory and the theory of state sovereignty. In his provocative book The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes argues that human beings can only live together in peace by giving up their unlimited individual freedom and submitting to the laws of an absolute sovereignity. In this essay, I will use the movie Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days to show that Hobbes’ view is accurate for the following reasons. Firstly, the movie depicts the society, where the governmental authority is very strong. Nevertheless, it is not absolute and people often violate the law which has tragic results. According to Hobbes, laws of nature lead to the situation that human individuals cannot exist together without any higher authority because it results in the overall chaos and war and the film depicts the situation when the authority is unable to control the law enforcement, leading to conflicts and crimes. Moreover, Hobbes believed that people differentiate between the good and the evil because of state laws and not because of their conscience or some moral rules and the movie also demonstrates it. This essay will support the ideas of Hobbes, using the movie Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days.
Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days
is a 2007 Romanian feature film, directed by Cristian Mungiu. The film depicts one day from the life of two college friends during the Ceausescu’s regime. One of the girls who is on the second day of the this week of the fourth month of her pregnancy is trying to make an illegal abortion, but in the center of the film is not the act itself, but its influence on the life of her friend Otilia. Due to postponing the interruption of pregnancy, the lack of money and her carelessness, Gebitsa hires a practically casual man with a deceptively funny name Bebe to perform an abortion. Her friend has to compensate for the lack of money, providing him sexual favors. The drama unfolds primarily in psychological terms and has an unfinished character. The main character becomes not Gebitsa, but her friend Otilia, having taken all the risk herself.
In the book Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes expresses his theory of the origins of state and authority. According to him, states and state law appeared as a result of a social contract. People agreed to give up their freedom for peace and safety, provided by the state authorities. Before doing that, people lived in the state of chaos and war because, according to Hobbes, only fear can make them compromise and live together in peace. According to the author, all people are evil and greedy by their nature. All of them are struggling for power, fame, and other goals. The main purpose of a state is security. Civil government and the state should exist because the majority of people cannot abide by the laws of nature and preserve justice without a common government. A man is not able, as some creatures without the reason and speech, live in a society, deprived of coercive power. A state is the act of authorizing a person, or a group of people, with the aim to convey the right to control themselves, provided that other people will also give him this right and will authorize all his actions. A sovereign has the supreme power, and all other people are subjects. The state is an absolute power and authority. It has the ability and the right to control all its citizens. The state also has the real freedom. Citizens are free to do only those actions which are not forbidden by the state. According to Hobbes, achieving power by means of physical force is the acquisition; a voluntary agreement of people is the political state. As a result, from the establishment of a political state, subjects cannot change the form of government and protest against a sovereign; a sovereign is a judge. He is obliged to ensure the safety of subjects, he has the right to declare war and make peace, etc. The total amount of authority of all the subjects is equal to the authority of a sovereign. Hobbes believed that the supreme power is not as detrimental as its absence. He claims that monarchy is the optimum form of state, while democracy and aristocracy have their drawbacks:
Now in monarchy the private interest is the same with the public. The riches, power, and honor of a monarch arise only from the riches, strength, and reputation of his subjects. For no king can be rich, nor glorious, nor secure, whose subjects are either poor, or contemptible, or too weak through want, or dissension, to maintain a war against their enemies; whereas in a democracy, or aristocracy, the public prosperity confers not so much to the private fortune of one that is corrupt, or ambitious, as doth many times a perfidious advice, a treacherous action, or a civil war. (Hobbes 55)
The movie Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days proves the theory of Hobbes because Otilia, Gebitsa, and Bebe, the main characters of the film, are not very concerned with the issues of morality and conscience. Otilia is the only person who agrees to help her friend because of friendship and sympathy, not seeking any benefits. The majority of other characters are aggressive, greedy, and selfish. The most striking example of an individual, described by Hobbes, is Bebe. Not only did he refuse to help the girls for less amount of money than he expected, but he also used their desperate situation for his own benefit. Bebe acts very aggressively and cruelly. The girls come into conflict with him, which supports the Hobbes’s theory of bellum omnium contra omnes, or the war of all against all. According to the philosopher, such a state was typical for the human society before the formation of a state. Nevertheless, not only Bebe, but also Otilia and Gebitsa, are guided by their own interests and needs.
The characters of the movie live in the state, whose authority is very strong. The Ceausescu’s regime tried to control many spheres of life of the citizens but the state is unable to function properly. The laws of state forbid abortions, but illegal abortions are very common. According to Hobbes, a state must have absolute power and Ceausescu’s regime, depicted in the movie does not have it. The state is unable to prevent Otilia and Gebitsa from breaking the law, it is also unable to punish the girls or Bebe. Hobbes states that an authority, which is unable to perform its functions of power, should be displaced, even through rebellion. The disability of the state leads to the situation when laws of human nature overpower the laws of civilized society and the situation is very tragic. The fact that the girls break the law puts them into the situation when the state cannot protect them from the criminal behavior of Bebe who remains unpunished. The fact that the state is unable to perform its function leads to a range of adverse consequences; for instance, the girls have to accept the offensive offer of Bebe, Otilia has a quarrel with her boyfriend, the child of Gabitsa dies, etc. Another fact, depicted in the movie, supports the Hobbes’ theories – the episode when Otilia disposes the fetus by throwing it in the rubbish chute. During this episode, the girl is very scared and anxious but the reason for it is not conscience or morality, but the fear of punishment. Otilia knew that if she was caught by the police with the fetus, she and Gabitsa would be accused of abortion and, probably, of the murder because the gestational period of the fetus was long. This supports the Hobbes’ idea that people are guided by the fear of punishment, rather than by any moral or other beliefs and the government should use this knowledge to control the citizens.
Summing up, the movie Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days supports the theories, expressed by a famous English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, in the provocative book The Leviathan. In the book, Hobbes describes his social contract theory. According to this theory, human beings cannot live together without the higher authority that could control them and prevent chaos and “the war of all against all”. Without giving up their individual freedom and obeying the laws of the state, people would not be able to live together in peace because they are controlled by the laws of nature. These natural laws made people fight for their interests and needs. In the film, such characters as Otilia, Gabitsa, Bebe and others prove this theory of Hobbes because they put their own interests above all moral and social norms and break the law. Besides, the girls and Mr. Bebe have no mutual sympathy and soon become enemies. Another Hobbes’ idea, displayed in the film, is that people are guided by the fear of punishment, rather than by conscience or some moral norms. The episode when Otilia throws the fetus into the rubbish chute proves this. According to Hobbes, if a government is unable to perform its functions by controlling the implementation of the law and preventing the social conflicts when some individuals offend other, such state government should be displaced. The Ceausescu’s regime, depicted in the movie, is unable to control the enforcement of law, which forbids abortion, leading to a range of tragic consequences. One of the most serious results is that the law was not able to defend the girl from the sexual abuse because her friends also were going to break the law. Taking into consideration the society, depicted in the movie and the film’s ending, it is easy to agree with Hobbes’ statement that the supreme power is not as harmful as its absence.