Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Hobbes

Why I Like Thomas Hobbes and You Should Too

People are sometimes surprised to discover how much I love Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes is the political theorist who wrote Leviathan. He presents a pretty grim account of human nature–for him, people have conflicting desires in a world of scarcity, they don’t know each other’s intentions, but they do know that they can hurt other people and that if they do so other people will be intimidated and might not hurt them. We can’t share thoughts and feelings because each of us is stuck in a different body and words are vague and unreliable, so we’re always alienated from each other and always prone to conflict. Hobbes wants to live, and he wants everyone else to live too, so he proposes that we solve this problem by submitting to the state. The state protects us from each other, and once we’re protected a space for trusting other people opens up.

Most left-wing people hate this. They hate that Hobbes even presents an account of human nature in the first place, much less one so grim as this. They especially hate how powerful Hobbes makes his state–he only allows people to defy the state when it threatens their own lives, and while he’s willing to tolerate a sovereign parliament Hobbes certainly prefers monarchy, because in his view it’s less likely to lead to conflicts about where the sovereignty is, which could end in civil war and death.

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The Myth of Primal Individualism

There’s something that liberal theorists Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all have in common–their theories about how societies should be organised or came to be organised are based on the notion that primal man was fiercely independent and had no social obligations, that he had to consciously decide, initially to exit this individualist state and choose to be part of a society or community. Today we know that early man was from the outset tribal–community was with us from the start. What implications does this have for these theorists? That is what I would like to discuss today.

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