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Greed>Fear and Reason

October 9, 2010

In Hobbes’ Leviathan, he explicitly stresses how fear seems to be the biggest controlling factor over one’s life. I played rock, paper, scissors in class to gain a feel for Hobbes’ state of nature and while grasping this same underlying sense about the state of nature and its ability to make one always feel insecure, I also came away with another important view. Hobbes states that fear makes the natural man want to escape the state of nature. Although our fear of being left helpless in life without any sort of happiness is a feeling that runs with us throughout life, it is the human characteristic of greed that continues to puzzle me. During the game everyone was given 1 item of food and was able to “fight” another person for their item. Whoever won the battle took the other person’s food. In the end, more than half the class was sitting down, left with nothing. So why was a person willing to gamble their piece of food or happiness for the benefit of gaining more when they knew, in the end, they could ultimately be left with nothing? People are inevitably greedy. Hobbes says that reason will help one escape the state of nature and reach peace. I believe a person’s desire for gaining as much of something as they can ultimately outweighs their fear of being left with nothing and overcomes any sense of reason. This is the same reasoning behind why a gambling man is unable to take his chips and cash in while he’s ahead or why an already successful stock broker is more than willing to operate a large Ponzi scheme. The natural man is never satisfied with what he has, always looking for more. Simulating the state of nature in class allowed me to realize that happiness does not come solely by gaining important qualities but by ridding of harmful ones as well. While fear and reason may be two controlling factors that are necessary to gain in order to live comfortably, the characteristic of greed is definitely holding the natural man back.

  1. zsalexa permalink
    October 9, 2010 11:07 PM

    The rock, paper, scissors example is interesting but I feel flawed. By forcing a system to prove a point and model a theory, the result will simply reinforce the model. If a student had simply sat down or worked with others, the model would have been dis-proven , but because they were limited in ‘reality’ greed was proven to be the driving force.

    I would argue that cooperation is also a large driving factor in human nature. Do we benefit from these relationships? Sure. But for most of us, the reason we have friends is because they give us some innate benefit that isn’t tangible: human contact, love. Something you cannot measure in money or gains. The rich man may die alone in misery, but the poor man with many friends can say he lived a happy life. There is something to be said for just simple goodness.

  2. Lorig Stepanian permalink
    October 14, 2010 12:13 AM

    I do not like how both Hobbes and Solnit classify all human beings as having the same state of nature. Although most of what differentiates us is a result of our environment, I believe that humans are innately different. Some of us might naturally be more greedy and ruthless, while others might be nicer and more conscious of their relations with other people. Therefore I do not believe that the state of nature is uniform amongst all men.

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