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Thomas Hobbes Views of Human Nature - Essay Example

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Thomas Hobbes Views of Human Nature

In order to understand his work it is good to have an idea of the turbulent times in which he lived. The civil war in England and the execution of the King himself was an exceptional event in English history. The failed puritan experiment to establish a republican rule was another event that Hobbes witnessed. He seems to have been deeply influenced by the conflicts around him. Many of his reactions in his writings spring from subjective reaction to the external events, which made him crave for order in a state of flux. The civil societies are to be constructed artificially, living the social life in the hands of man's basic instinct will result in disorder and would imperil the very survival of man.
What ought to be the politically correct human conduct is explained by Hobbes by analyzing human nature. According to him there is a natural impulse in all men to amass what they can get. This impulse found in all men inevitably leads to conflict. In this state every one is at war with every one else and nobody's safety is possible. This results in not satisfying any body's interests. Man is able to circumvent this situation by giving up the natural right take whatever they can grab and be getting in return for the assurance of insulation from the aggression of their fellow men. This is possible by perpetuating a strong force. Citizens do this by agreeing to hand over their rights and powers to one absolute authority. This voluntary surrender of ones powers in the hand of another power results in the rule by an absolute power. In brief the basic instincts in man meant for his survival can be in conflict with his survival so Hobbes finds the need for regulating it by surrendering the power of people to another superior power. As James has put it:"Hobbes grounds his account of this aspect of our passions on a broader notion which he calls power, identifying the powers of the body as nutritive, generative, and motive, and that of the mind as knowledge. Beyond these, however, are further powers that accrue to people who possess riches, places of authority, friendship or favor, and good fortune, all of which play a vital part in our quest for self-preservation." (James, 1997, p. 132)
From the angle of Psychology a cardinal aspect of Hobbes's idea is the importance he gives to the "rational Man". This is an assertion that human behavior is governed by reason. It is evident that man follows reason through fear and self-interest. Hobbes illustrates the common tendency to consider man as a reasoning animal and there fore the actions are planned and foreseen rather than decided by fate or chance. Hobbes takes his interest in human nature as a product of reason to higher planes by comparing not only the thought process of man when he is awake but also when he is asleep and dreaming.
This process has been adequately analyzed by Tuck (1989). Some of the insights of Hobbes as studied by Tuck appear to be surprisingly modern. As Hobbes said in the "The Elements of Law": "it is not impossible for a man to be so far deceived, as when his dream is past, to think it real: for if he dream of such things as are ordinarily in his mind, and in such order as he useth to do waking, and withal that he laid him down to set up in the place where he findeth himself when he awaketh". Hobbes argues that our thoughts during asleep are also produced in the same way they are produced when we are awake. ...Show more


Thomas Hobbes was an open, blunt and outspoken British Royalist. He wrote several essays on human nature. Most of his works discussed the nature of man's relation to the state. In 1651 he published "The Leviathan", which is considered by many as his magnum opus…
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Thomas Hobbes Views of Human Nature essay example
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