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 soever he be) of living out the time which nature ordinarily
allowith 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 there 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 any one 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
can not 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."3
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.