Philosophers in wide sense are lovers of wisdom. They are lovers of knowledge and are highly associated with intellectuality (Blackburn, Simon, 1996). In the past, there were many philosophers who inspired the world through their literary works. Amongst them are Plato, Thomas Hobbes, Marcus Aurelius and the American philosopher Susan Langer. In this paper I will focus on Thomas Hobbes and his works Leviathan. Hobbes, a renowned philosopher is remembered for the many literary works he wrote that are taught in universities and colleges today. His works immensely inspired other authors and the world at large.
Thomas Hobbes, in his book, Leviathan, clearly sets out how human beings behave amongst themselves. He points out that man is a social animal with regard to human nature. He talks of the behaviour of human beings in each and every social setting. He sees man to be pessimistic in his dealings. He further asserts that in the cover of darkness their no limit to mans bad behaviour. Man can do anything so long as he is not being monitored.
The most important argument that Hobbes points out is pessimism with regard to human nature. This is expressed in page 61 of Leviathan. This pessimistic view brings Hobbes to a conclusion that nature is objectionable as he presents it in his own view. Hobbes believes that he is endowed more liberally with the faculty of wisdom than other men. He further supports his assertions by stating that life in its entirety is an egoistic quest aimed at satisfying desires of men. Pessimism culminates to enmity due to serious mistrusts among men. Also important is the fact that out of selfish desires, man will endeavour to subdue and destroy one another.
In the process of reading Leviathan, I noticed that Hobbes had a great sense of humour. He sees man to be hopeless and never sure of his undertakings. This is baffling though it has some reality in it. Man is naturally fearful of tomorrow and generally lives in fear. Man is selfish, untrustworthy, solitary, brutal and greedy. These attributes are instrumental in establishing the state of nature as described by Hobbes. As Hobbes puts it in Leviathan, page 47, man is always on the quest to acquire more power because power to man is everything. Man subscribes to the adage of the end justifies the means and will thus do anything to acquire power even if it means sabotaging own friends.
I tend to agree with Hobbes in his thoughts regarding the behaviour of man. In my life I have known man to be a very selfish being. He serves his interests at the expense of others but still lives in fear of what awaits him tomorrow. It is said that tomorrow comes with mystery and I can confirm this with the nature and behaviour of man in the society. But on a more rational dimension, its improper to conclude that man is pessimistic because not all men are hopeless and not all of them are greedy. Some men are naturally hopeful and upholds togetherness to their very best.
From Hobbess works, he explicitly concludes that pessimism runs the life of man. This to some extent is untrue as pointed out by Plato, he believes that the behaviour of man has limits. There are lines drawn by law that man cannot go against. The law guides the operations of man thus making it difficult to sabotage one another (Johnston, David, 1986). Man by nature is expected to be optimistic in all his undertakings. This argument is true and is reflected in the world today. The animalistic nature of man still runs the world today.
Looking at the political life of man, its prudent to argue in favour of Hobbes works that man is selfish. The world is full of greedy politicians who serves their own interests and steals from the public coffers.
Laws guide man by all standards. One can therefore absolutely dismiss Thomas Hobbess argument on pessimism because man is hopeful that he is fully protected by the law. God created man and gave him the power over all creatures. Its thus imprudent to conclude that man is driven by desires yet he believes that his place is in heaven. The earthly riches have no place in heaven. Looking at this argument from this perspective invalidates Thomas Hobbes assertion that man is full of pessimism (Newey, Glen, 2008). Research has proven that man lives in hope, man hopes for a better tomorrow because he wants his posterity to inherit peace love and harmony.
The state of nature by Hobbes is equally pessimistic just like his assertions on human nature. Hobbes believes that nature is marred with anarchy, seemingly, he assumes that there is no power that can constrain the heinous acts of man. This is also untrue as Mill notes that man is guided by law, the constitution and the supreme law of the land (bible). Presence of the aforementioned laws to protect man disproves Hobbes argument of war of every man against every man though this is reflected in the world today.
Notably, other philosophers also agree with Thomas Hobbes that man is a selfish being. Plato in his works also supports the idea of man being greedy. He says that man is a social animal who will do anything to satisfy his selfish needs. Plato terms man a social animal. Plato agrees that man is inherently troublesome and therefore needs laws to fully govern him.
State of nature is critical in the works of Thomas Hobbes that power is absolute regardless of how and when its acquired. This brings Hobbes argument of pessimism among men to be true and holds water. Man as stated above is untrustworthy, solitary, brutal, greedy and self-centred. This is true as it is observed in the daily activities of men.
With these kind of attributes, man can never trust one another and therefore live in pessimism by all standards. It follows therefore that Hobbes premise is correct. This is because sovereignty should be absolute and it can only be achieved by drawing lines amongst men.
As I conclude, I would like to endorse the works of Thomas Hobbes, particularly Leviathan. I believe that his works is reflected on the behaviour of man even today. Notably, his ideas are well reasoned and articulate issues that affect the society. However, its worth pointing out that there are few problems with his arguments. Hobbes portrays a theoretical conception of the covenant that clearly do not give chance or rather ignores practical considerations. The idea of citizens coming together to agree on a covenant has proven to be difficult to be realized. In fact it has never materialize. This is a clear proof that some of the arguments Hobbes gives out in Leviathan are not a reflection of what happens in the society.
The sovereignty of the society depends on man. Man choses how to run the society and on what values to prioritize and effect. Hobbes observes that man is driven by the urge to have more power. This is basically because according to man power is everything and everything is power. Man believes that with power, he can do anything on the planet earth. Hobbes further notes that pessimism is the order of the day in the activities of man, its therefore in the interest of man doubt one another for the sake of acquiring more powers and controlling everything on earth. Man is thus strongly pessimistic and trusts only himself.
Johnston, David. The rhetoric of Leviathan Thomas Hobbes and the politics of cultural transformation, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986.
Newey, Glen. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Hobbes and Leviathan, New York: Routledge, 2008.
Blackburn, Simon (1996). The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
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