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Living in Fear

October 6, 2010
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I must admit that after reading Hobbes chapters in “Leviathan,” I had an initial disgust of the “fear” he so blatantly assumed every man had in living an extra day in their lives. It was so strong an opinion, and so sad a thought that man cannot enjoy a day in their lives without fear, a concept most modern day man would never think to be true or admit.

Yet, is not because of this fear, that each American citizen has been able to have the choice of living safe, secure, and hope-filled lives? Is Americas not one of the strongest worldly powers because of the fear it has been able to instill upon other countries and it’s citizens?

I make this point, because I myself had a revelation after reading Hobbes. Never, until reading this piece, would I have even begun to think that I live my life unconsciously in fear. I use myself as an example, to prove this point because as I’ve noticed, fear does engulf my day starting from waking up in the morning. I fear not waking up in the morning, being successful in college and in my future, paying my bills, supporting myself and my future family, and most importantly being a law-abiding citizen.

I now understand the meaning of Hobbes’ message that “the passion to be reckoned upon, is fear.” Where there is fear, there is safety and a sense of ease, and this becomes the basis of a successful civil society. A state or countries government will be powerful and intimidating, and produce a fear upon its people in order to have a long-lasting, successful society. And if a party decides to reckon with this fear, there is always a power steadily ready to enlist a greater fear upon them for the greater good of a civil society, or as Hobbes has stated, war will occur. To provide supportive examples of this, I ask you to analyze a successful, long-lasting powerful country or state. Look at the fear America has been able to enlist not only on its citizens, but also on other countries. Its success should be owed to the fear it has inflicted upon others. Another example in which a type of “war” has occurred is that of the Arizona immigration law recently enforced in America. This fear, the government attempted to put on immigrants trying to enter into North America, has created an enormous uproar from many. This law has created a fight from many to rid this law because they feel as though the fear is unjust. In this example, state of nature has taken a type of authority over the need for a civil society, and until there is either a covenant made or a stronger fear enlisted by one of the parties, the war will continue.

In conclusion, I can see the absolute need for fear in my life. Without it, I would have no success or reason to strive to succeed in my life. I enjoy knowing that, although it is fear that is driving me to lead a safe and good-willed life, I will enjoy a peaceful life in a civil society all thanks to fear.

4 Comments
  1. jptrue permalink
    October 6, 2010 10:50 AM

    While you bring up some interesting points, I’m not sure I agree with your interpretation of Hobbes’ writing….

    You write, “A state or countries government will be powerful and intimidating, and produce a fear upon its people in order to have a long-lasting, successful society.”

    I don’t think this is the type of fear that Hobbes was referring to. When I read Hobbes the fear that inspires action men to form social contracts and commonwealth’s that offer protection is the fear from external forces. Men agree to give up rights and freedoms in order to ensure that other people don’t kill them. Thus a commonwealth is a group of men that have all been inspired by fear to form the institution. As a result, it would seem counter intuitive to think that internal fear would ensure a “long lasting, successful society.” Instead, it seems like fear caused by the sovereign would result in the members of the commonwealth reevaluating the decision they made to give up, possibly leading to secession or rebellion. Thus it seems like internal fear would trigger instability.

    …This is of course unless the internal fear caused by the government is able to cause even great fear of external forces…

  2. crorey permalink
    October 6, 2010 11:10 AM

    I think you have a good point about living in fear. I believe that one of our natural instincts in life is to have security, whether it be money, food, etc. In my discussion section we played rock paper scissors to represent the state of nature and not one single person said they wanted to live in the state of nature. Everyone wanted to live in a society. This is because societies provide more security. So yes, I believe that security in life is one of our underlying fears and motivators, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

  3. hadohe permalink
    October 6, 2010 8:45 PM

    I also agree with this innate “fear” that we live with every day; yet these are personal fears that are made out of the human “will”. The passions, or pluralism, that naturally occurs among men produces this rational “fear” to produce the covenant in the first place. The fear that you discussed i.e. not waking up in the morning is not a fear produced by the sovereign rather is something produced from self-interest. In order to have this reciprocal security, we must invest our “fears” into a sovereign; it’s a mutual, two way sharing of power. We must fear the consequences of not paying our bills because we have agreed that this system is a effective toward society as a whole. I think you stressed a one-way relationship with government being the sole cause of fear, which could also be an individual interpretation. Yet, focusing on Hobbes, through this fear, we have given them permission to inflict consequences to establish a peaceful order. Essentially, humans would rather be frightened yet orderly than live in a state of nature and exercise their passions rampantly.

  4. Andrew Babat permalink
    October 6, 2010 8:46 PM

    I completely agree with this blog post. Initially, I disagreed with the fact that Hobbes believed that every man lives with fear. Then I thought about it, and realized every decision is driven by fear of the consequences. The most obvious example to me is sports and profession. The reason people strive to win and succeed is because they fear failure. Another example is waking up in the morning. People wake up because they fear that they will miss something important. Every action, whether you realize it or not, is done because you fear the repercussions of not taking that action.

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