Thomas Hobbes’s Human Nature

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who lived in the middle of the 17th century, was well-known for his original political philosophy theories and writings. In April of 1651, Hobbes’ well-known book The Leviathan was released. Hobbes examines human nature, the State of nature, and the Social Contract theory in this book. Thomas Hobbes applied his scientific training and adopted Gelileo’s theory—that all complicated motions have a cause—to describe human nature. Hobbes acknowledges that humans are social and political animals. However, Hobbes thinks that in order to satiate their basic needs, people are egotistical and always pursue power. Hobbes proposes that humans should take a cue from bees and ants on how to coexist peacefully.

Human nature

Hobbes, like Machiavelli, was interested in why people act the way they do, but he didn’t think about it in terms of good thoughts or divine commands. Unlike Aristotle and others from the past, who believed humans are naturally social, Hobbes thought people were more like individuals who care mainly about themselves and use society to get what they want. Hobbes believed that people are driven by their desires, always wanting pleasure and trying to avoid pain. He thought happiness was good, and sorrow was bad, so people always aimed to be happy and avoid being sad. This idea later became a theory of human behaviour by thinkers like Bentham in the 1700s. Hobbes also saw people as always working to fulfil their desires, and he called this continuous success “happiness.” Hunger for desires was never-ending, and once one desire was satisfied, another would pop up. Satisfaction was temporary because people always found new things to want. People not only made sure they were happy in the present, but they also planned for the future.

Hobbes’s Human Nature

His Political Philosophy is unique as he tries to provide the psychological foundation to his reasoning and this makes his approach to the study of Political science moderate and scientific. According to Hobbes human life is controlled by the psychological mechanism. It is there that Hobbes also developed his theory of the state. Hobbes argues that wisdom comes not by reading books, but by studying men. He begins by applying Galileo’s concept of the Universe as a mechanic, made up of particles, moving to a mechanical law. Man is a part of the Universe, he is also made of the same particles, so he is also a machine. Hobbes tries to find the law(Principle) according to which these particles move in man and especially in relation to his fellow being. Man’s mind and his senses are constantly in motion. From his mind and Senses, man acquires(gets) his memory, imagination, and pride. These in turn generate further movement in man’s mind and are responsible for his emotions and passions. Man by the principle of motion begins to desire and forms his will. what he desires, he calls it “good and pleasure” in the movement in his mind that accompanies it. What man does not like or dislike, he calls it evil and pain. Good and Evil are not constant as man’s harmony keeps changing. Man continuously strives to gain those things that attract him and give him pleasure like ‘happiness’ or facility and avoid those which he does not like and feels repulsion. Hobbes says there is nothing good or bad about this attraction and repulsion. Moral judgment regarding what is good or bad is a product of civilisation. Happiness for man means continued success in obtaining those things which a man desires, he ceaselessly works for this and then gets no rest or respite. Life there becomes a perpetual and rootless desire of power often power which ceases only when he dies. power and means to live well makes him greedy to acquire more and more and this also makes him up-centred. Every man is there an absolutely solitary individual. every man sees a different world, separate individuals have separate pleasures, pain, truth, goods, moral convictions, and political sibilation. Circumstances and needs place him with other men whose existence makes it difficult for him to satisfy his desires. Because they compete for desire which causes fights among them. Thus, enemies emerge and men seek to outdo others. Each one competes for humour, riches, fame, and authority. Thomas Hobbes compares men with bees and ants and says that men are constantly competing for humour and dignity while bees and ants work together in unity and are successful and persistent in whatever they do. Unity in bees and ants makes them successful and men need to learn if they want to lead a life that is happy and content in the long run. Men envy each other and are full of hatred towards one another, which leads to struggle among them. Man knows that peace is good but his basic and fundamental selfishness makes him desire more than others and this leads to conflict. Thus Hobbes says that this nature of man will keep them in a state of war in the state of nature. Therefore man is guided by 3 principles- quarrelsome competition, diffidence, and self-glory. The first makes a man want to gain, 2nd safety, and 3rd reputation. The life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish of Short.

Need for Political Institution

Hobbes’s political philosophy begins with an analysis of human nature. He contends that if people naturally cooperated and cared for each other’s well-being, political institutions would be unnecessary. Unlike Aristotle’s idea that ‘man is by nature a political animal’ or St. Thomas Aquinas’ belief in ‘man is by nature a social animal,’ Hobbes, observing the contemporary political scene, saw that in the absence of a strong state, individuals behaved like wild animals. Hobbes explores the hypothetical ‘state of nature’—a condition without a state where people act based on their inherent nature, providing insight into the origin of the state. In his new master philosophy, Hobbes emphasizes motion as a key element in explaining nature, man, and society. He asserts that humans, like other creatures, are in constant motion, driven by the desire for power over others. In this perspective, society becomes a means for individual satisfaction, with appetite serving as the driving force behind the struggle for power. Contrary to being a social or political animal, Hobbes sees man as an active creature motivated by personal desires.

Criticism of Thomas Hobbes’s View on human nature

Thomas Hobbes’s theories have faced criticism from different critics. Some theories of Hobbes are controversial. Hobbes on human nature also faced some important criticism from Critics. Criticisms are-

  • Hobbes argues that humans are self-centred, some people are self-centred, but not all people of this world.
  • Hobbes pointed out that due to striving for power, people face competition, and conflict in their state but people demand security and peace in their lives.
  • It is not clear from Hobbes’s description whether he focused his attention on the depiction of human nature or on psychological analysis.
Evaluation of Thomas Hobbes’s on Human Nature

Thomas Hobbes has pointed out that humans are selfish and greedy, and always strive for power to fulfil their desires. It is correct that some humans are selfish, and greedy but not all humans are self-centred, and greedy. There are also good Human beings on this planet, They are kind, love peace, etc. Thomas Hobbes showed one side of human nature but did not focus on the good side of human beings. The point is that if everyone was egoistic, selfish, and greedy, this world would not exist today. Because if they fight for power, they will face destruction. There are good people in this world and that is why people are still alive in this world.