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Hobbes Got it Right

March 16, 2011

Ask yourself this: Have you ever gone a year without hearing about some place in the world where people are at war?

I am nineteen years old, and in almost two decades, I have not.  From personal experience, there have always been some sort of televised news report on genocide in Africa, Israel and Palestine conflicts, and now, our country’s war in the Middle East.  Prior to being able to speak my first words, there was the Gulf War as well as the war in Croatia and Bosnia.

Mankind cannot seem to go a day without killing one another.  Why?

There are many arguments to this answer.  However, I find that it is because Hobbes was right and that humans’ state of nature revolves around selfishness and war with one another.  Their greed can never be satisfied, and to obtain this greed they will be willing to over step any kind moral boundary – including the doom of millions.

Take Hitler and Stalin for instance – easily two of the vilest scum to ever hold a governmental position.  They sought to take the world for themselves and in doing so, claimed the lives of tens of millions with war and mass genocide.  Despite how evil they were, they managed to garner power spanning continents, as well as the loyalty of millions.  Of course, there were those that had to follow in fear of being killed. However, there was also the rest that genuinely idolized these ruthless leaders and thought highly of the their leadership.  This was likely due to the fact that the two (Hitler especially) were very good public speakers and could manipulate crowds in joining him in his most ridiculous campaigns.   So if two lunatics such as these can attain such influence, there is nothing stopping any today’s smooth talking politicians and warlords in rallying support for more war.

It was also well known that these two were not exactly team players when it came to ruling.  Both were not only solitary, but also went to lengths of eliminating potential enemies/rivals in a paranoid fashion in order to maintain their one-man show.  They are Hobbes’ men.  They exhibit the characteristic of self –gain that puts the world in a never-ending state of war, since all is fair when a man seeks what he wants.  No amount of bullets of blood will ever be too much in order to get what is rightfully theirs.

Obviously, these airheads are not the average Joe.  Unfortunately, their behavior is, and forever will be the case with any ruthless dictator/general/leader whether it is a Caesar in Rome or a bloodthirsty politician in present day.

Hobbes had a very accurate assessment of man.  It was true then and it is true now.  Centuries have passed and aside of constructing more efficient ways to kill en masse, humans have yet to change.  So long as man remains a greedy insatiable race, there will always be a war somewhere in this world.

  1. Christina Beckman permalink
    March 16, 2011 9:50 PM

    This is an interesting take on Hobbes and his theories- it’s also quite pessimistic if you don’t mind me saying. I think it’s important to realize that the world isn’t perfect- everyone makes mistakes and we all learn from the past. I also do not think that we’re in a constant state of war- it may seem as though the U.S. is constantly in war with someone, which wouldn’t be completely off, I do not that that’s what Hobbes meant when he wrote that- I believe his state of war was more metaphorical than anything. I have hope for the human race…I do not think we’re doomed to war and selfishness for the rest of our lives.

  2. emjaffe permalink
    March 17, 2011 7:54 AM

    You seem to feel very strongly about this. Like Christina, I believe this is an interesting blog but very pessimistic. Not that pessimism makes it a wrong view- but I tend to look at matters more optimistically. I don’t believe it is accurate to compare an average man to Hitler or Stalin.
    You wrote- “these airheads aren’t the average Joe. Unfortunately, their behavior is…”
    That’s where I lost faith in your argument. I think it is too broad of an assumption to make. How many people at the University of Michigan or from your home do you know that would manipulate everyone they know for complete destruction? Yes, many people are often manipulative to gain their selfish needs. But I don’t think people are manipulative to purposely destruct others. Hitler was.
    If Hitler only cared about complete control over Germany and Germany’s power in the world, and if he had any rational whatsoever, he would not have killed 6 million Jewish people. Instead, he would of used them as labor or/and military men to build a strong economy and fight other countries. However- Hitler was completely irrational. He completely annihilated Locke’s belief that man is governed by rational thought. And this is why he is not comparable to the average Joe.

    Also- I would like to add that I would be careful about using Hitler and Stalin as such vague comparisons to other topics. I think when people use the Holocaust as a metaphor too often, or in not specific enough terms, it really de-emphasizes the tragedy of before, during, and after the Holocaust.

    Anyway- I hope mankind proves you wrong 🙂

  3. Rebecca Birnbaum permalink
    March 17, 2011 3:10 PM

    This is interesting. There are so many reasons why people go to war so it’s hard to generalize. However, I do agree that man’s selfish nature has a lot to do with it. Not only does it involve greed, but also the human ego. The objective of war is to beat your opponent and prove that you’re better, you’re stronger, and you fight harder. You want to win and you want the other team to lose. You want to be respected. Somehow, the logic that causing the most destruction earns you the most respect can explain why people go to war. It’s distorted. I think it goes well beyond greed and into self-consciousness and self-defense. Why war (and killing others) has become the default of how to demonstrate why you should be respected? That I don’t know.

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