The Accuracy of Hobbes’ Human Nature and How People Have Changed
Upon reading and learning about Hobbes’ ideas in Leviathan, I thought he seemed too pessimistic at first. However, after debating Hobbes and Solnit’s thoughts about human nature in my discussion section, I began to discover the truths in Hobbes’ ideas.
I realized that yes, humans are self-interested and they desire power and material goods. Various biological and psychological studies throughout history have demonstrated that humans are selfish. If you think about this from a biological standpoint, it is true that humans are innately concerned about their own well being before others. According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, humans choose mates who have the best qualities in order to produce healthy offspring that will likely pass on their well-suited genetic composition. Similarly, Freud’s description of human nature and Id relates to a self-serving pleasure principle and B.F. Skinner’s learning theory relates to self-serving rewards and the avoidance of punishment.
However as Professor Dacher Keltner of the University of California Berkley described:
“Recent studies in psychology showed that the pursuit of self-interest may not be the clearest path to the greater good or personal happiness.”
In other words, maybe people are selfish, but they are realizing that in order to be happy, they should be more selfless. Egotistical aims vary based on age and culture, but generally, those who are self-centered in the modern world tend to focus on career advancement, leadership titles, and material possessions. However, these aims lead to limited happiness, as they only last for a certain amount of time. Studies like what Keltner mentioned have convinced people to focus on relationships in their lives. Strong relationships between family members and friends can have a much larger impact on people than a job title, a high leadership role, or a fancy car. Family members and friends can interact with each other and support one another unlike material possessions. Relationships with loved ones can last a lifetime if they are treated with care and respect. Therefore, even if people are innately self-interested, they are trying to control themselves by fostering relationships with others.
Besides relationships, many people partake in community service, knowing that their actions are helping others. Community service allows people to forget about their personal lives and to focus on improving others’ lives. By helping others, they are also helping themselves because the service will likely make them grateful for all that they have. The positive energy created by community service will likely encourage people to continue helping others, and therefore become more selfless.
Hobbes’ theory about the selfishness of human nature may be accurate, but many humans are trying to change this by forming stronger relationships with others and helping humanity as a whole.
For more information, please read Keltner’s article by clicking the link below.