Hobbes: Human Nature and Political Philosophy

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Hobbes: Human Nature and Political Theory

Thomas Hobbes writes in his 1651 masterpiece Leviathan of his interpretations of the inherent qualities of mankind, and the covenants through which they enter in order to secure a peaceful existence. His book is divided up into two separate sections; Of Man, in which Hobbes describes characteristics of humans coexisting without the protection of a superior earthly authority, and Of Commonwealth, which explains how humans trapped in that primal ‘state of nature' may escape and, through agreements, be able to live peaceably among one another without fear of unjust actions being taken against them. I too will discuss these elements of society as Hobbes intended them to be, with special emphasis on how human nature played a role in determining most of Hobbes' basis for his political theories. In the introduction to Leviathan, Hobbes casts a highly mechanized view of humans by theorizing that they are simply a motion of limbs and simple machines that come together to produce a living, breathing, working human. "For what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the Artificer?" (Leviathan, Introduction) Although this is a depiction of how Hobbes views the dynamics of the human body, he contends that human actions work in a similar, mechanistic way. According to the text, specific wants and appetites produce within the human body and are experienced as discomforts or pains (or to be more general, degrees of happiness or sadness) which must be overcome. Thus, each person is geared to act in such ways as we believe likely to relieve our discomfort, to preserve and promote our own well-being. (Leviathan, Pt. I Ch. 6) Thus, basically everything we decide to do is determined by a natural desire to avoid things that give our bodies negative feedback responses, and the opposite for things which our body tells...
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