Thomas Hobbes

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Thomas Hobbes: ‘The Natural Condition Of Mankind’. Essay, Research Paper The idea for Hobbes was to try to see how humans would act without government, shown in ‘The Natural Condition of Mankind’. From this, he felt that a truthful form of government could be justified. The book, “The Leviathan” (1651) was Hobbes’s dissertation on what it meant to be human and how the state could best control them. Essentially, it raises a number of interesting and truthful points. However, there appears to be a number of inaccuracies which lead to some problems in Hobbes’s political philosophy. In this essay, it will be shown what ‘The natural Condition of mankind’ is. Secondly, a number – but by no means exhaustive – of criticisms which demonstrate some flaws in his

argument. Lastly, an evaluation of the usefulness of the argument. Thomas Hobbes ( 1588 – 1679 ) lived in a stormy period of English history. The most significant example being the English Civil war ( 1642 – 1648 ). Viewing Hobbes with this in mind, it is understandable that he sees humans pessimistically. Hobbes tries to show how he thinks humans would act without society, government or a code of moral values, this is called, ‘The Natural Condition of Mankind’ or ‘The State of Nature’. From this version of mankind, Hobbes then explains how to govern correctly. Hobbes was a firm believer that the principles of geometry, the ‘true’ science, could be applied to politics and the result would be correct government. The only way, for Hobbes, to show the correct form of

government is to break down what it means to be human and then build it back up, similar to breaking down a watch to understand ‘what makes it tick’. In his introduction, Hobbes states, “For what is the Heart, but a Spring; and the Nerves, but so many Strings; and the joynts, but so many Wheeles, giving motion to the whole body,” `There are a number of criticisms that can be levelled at Hobbes, these fall in to two broad categories, external criticisms and internal contradictions. Hobbes spends a great deal of time examining human nature in his book “Leviathan”. This culminates in the description of ‘The Natural Condition of Mankind’. It is believed that ‘The State of Nature’ has never existed. It is merely a rational fiction that allows Hobbes to strip man of

society and show how he would really act. The closest comparison to ‘The State of Nature’ could be North America just after colonial rule and the settling of the relatively lawless west. Another example could be the book, “The Lord of the Flies,” by William Golding, a story about a group of boys marooned on a desert island together and how they consequently interact, sometimes quite violently. Hobbes sees people as rational machines governed by passions combined with reason. Using reason in their search to be happier, Hobbes argues, is what distinguishes humans from other animals because it allows us to create phenomena such as language and science. One passion that never ceases to delight an individual is their superiority over other people, especially when this is

recognised by the inferior. This means that people will compete for superiority, this may be over symbols of power, status or recognition. When two beings compete for the same object, Hobbes argued that they will become enemies and so endeavour to destroy or subdue each other. A second cause of war between individuals in ‘The State of Nature’ is competition for items of desire or need. Again if items are scarce, it is feasible that two individuals may attempt to claim the same object. This will result in them becoming enemies and trying to kill each other. A third cause of war is diffidence or safety. Here Hobbes takes the Machiavellian view that an innocent person will be destroyed unless they act ruthlessly to preserve themselves. An individual must be able to defend