Living in Hobbes’ State of Nature? Still?
When Thomas Hobbes discussed the life of man in the state of nature in Leviathan he described it to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short (Ch 13).” I instantly pondered over the fact that some may agree we are in that state now, with the exception that most people are not in fear for their lives. Specifically, American college students tend to be in a constant push forward for more personal achievements and are often willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve them, just as in Hobbes’ state of nature, every man was for himself. Hobbes said men have “equality in ability…and therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they both become enemies… (Ch 13).” I interpret this to as it is anyone’s game to win in this race we call life, whether it be maintaining a high GPA or even landing the dream job, or as some would say, “living the current American dream.” I believe that sometimes the typical American college student and oftentimes myself included just do not know when to say enough is enough. We have a never-ending drive for perfection that could arguably be the reason some of us are still in the “state of nature.” Furthermore, a recent New York Times article discussed a study that showed college students are less empathic than they were about 30 years ago. The article quoted, “In a decisively everyone-for-themselves manner, they are less likely to agree with statements like ‘I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me’ and ‘I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.’ This is particularly notable since these are considered shared social ideals: people are more likely to say they agree than they really do” (To read the rest of the article go to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/fashion/27StudiedEmpathy.html ). Therefore it seems there is evidence that suggests the internal drive of humans pushes one on to achieve this level of perfection, while forgetting about everyone but themselves. This drive may lead to keeping a short and nasty life that Hobbes discussed in Leviathan. With the exception of fearing for one’s life in the “state of nature”, Hobbes was not so far off from his 1651 thoughts, in fact, I strongly believe that Hobbes was right on with his thoughts. We, as humans, are still animals, and we do have an instinctive drive to be the fittest, which in terms of modern day society, means rising to the tops of our ranks even if we step on several feet along the way. Time may carry on, but history still repeats its. Life is competitive and only the strongest survive here on American college campuses.