Thomas Hobbes: Nature and Origins of Human Thought, Emotion, and Society

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  • Topic: Thomas Hobbes, Political philosophy, Social contract
  • Pages : 9 (2692 words )
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  • Published : March 18, 2012
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Introduction:
The philosophies of Thomas Hobbes are inarguably essential foundations in materialistic thought. Idealists during his time believed that there reality is made up of concepts and nonmatter. In response to the challenge of explaining concepts that seemed only explicable through idealist thinking (such as thoughts and emotions), Hobbes used logic and reasoning to develop materialist theories – some impressively similar in nature to neurobiology. His pessimistic views of society are drawn from events in his personal life, primarily the English Civil War. During this time, the horrid events he witnessed caused him to develop a lack of faith in the nature of man. The concepts he created, as shown in Elements of Law and Leviathan due to the also relevant and applicable to current political examples. During the Age of Enlightenment, Hobbes took an early stand against Divine Law and monarchy, and developed social contract theory. He firmly believed that the state of nature and man is naturally chaotic1, and therefore a strong governmental system must be put in place to control society and keep man under control.2

Hobbes proves that incorporeal substances are unimportant, as they are insignificant from the material world and therefore can not exist. He analyzes the functions of humans using only physical and tangible premises first. He follows by using certain concepts from the conclusions

1Hobbes, Thomas, and Richard Tuck. Leviathan. Ch I
2Ross, George MacDonald. Starting With Hobbes p. 26

he arrives at to help illustrate the reasoning behind his political philosophies – all of which seem verifiable and applicable to the modern-day world.
Thesis:
Hobbes materialistic attitudes are strongly demonstrated in his text Leviathan, the book encompasses not only political and social contract theories, it also contains irrefutable explanations about “state of nature”, the origins of human thought, emotion, and society. Hobbes’ states that all human thoughts are either “Unguided” or “Regulated” “traynes of thoughts”1 that can be explained via organization and categorization of regulators such as Emotions and Sense. These thoughts are material since the regulators themselves are material. Everything is a piece of a series of mechanisms of tangible consequences. Using his definitions of Emotions, Senses, Appetite, Desire, etc., he created a type of social theory that has governments have attempted to apply. All these ideas are logically sound, all the theoretical reasoning is based upon tangible premises (ex: not God), and are either backed up by modern science or theorists.

Argument 1:
A challenge in materialism is to explain things such as emotions, thoughts, and sense – all of which are usually considered intangible. However, Hobbes’ was approached this problem in a mechanical manner – “For seeing life is but a motion of Limbs, the begining whereof is in some principall part within; why may we not say, that all Automata (Engines that move themselves by springs and wheeles as doth a watch) have an artificiall life? For what is the

3Hobbes, Thomas, and Richard Tuck. Leviathan. Ch II
4Hobbes, Thomas, and Richard Tuck. Leviathan. Ch III

Heart, but a Spring; and the Nerves, but so many Strings; and the Joynts, but so many Wheeles, giving motion to the whole Body, such as was intended by the Artificer?” 3In Leviathan, Hobbes’ is able to define all thoughts (and therefore emotions) as consequences of sense. These senses are built upon the responses of each organ, or organs in combination, immediately mediating Senses such as Hearing and Smelling. The pressure of organs upon other bodily parts resolves in sense being directed towards the Brain and Nerves. Materialism makes total sense in science, where the immaterial mind is not important in affecting the material body; only material objects can affect other material objects. This is easily exemplified by the discipline of neurobiology. When broken...
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