The first truly modern philosopher

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Through Charles Mathewes, Ph.D., University of Virginia

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes was born in 1588 and died in 1679it lasted the whole century between Calvin and Sir Isaac Newton. His birth was prompted by reports of the sighting of the Spanish Armada off the coast of England, an event that many in England said presaged their impending invasion and subjugation by a foreign king, Philip. II of Spain.

The war of all against all was an idea of ​​Thomas Hobbes. (Image: Anusorn Nakdee / Shutterstock)

Thomas Hobbes and his first major work

Thomas Hobbes was educated fairly well at Oxford University but has always been more of a self-taught person than another. He was largely a product of Renaissance humanist training, and in 1629 his first major work came out, and it was the first English translation of Thucydides’ original Greek. The Peloponnesian War.

This translation was universally acclaimed and earned Hobbes a great deal of fame and respect. Over the next decade he continued to reflect philosophically and politically on the nature of human community and the proper form of human organizational structure, and he began to become increasingly involved in English politics. , as the intellectuals of the time often were.

This is a transcript of the video series Why evil exists. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

Leviathan: A masterpiece by Thomas Hobbes

Frontispiece of "Leviathan" engraved by Abraham Bosse.
Leviathan was the masterpiece of Thomas Hobbes. (Image: RTG / Public domain)

During the English Civil War, Hobbes fled from all sides, ending up in France. Finally, after the war and its masterpiece Leviathan was completed, he fled to England, as the royalists had determined that his work was hostile to faith in the king, and the king at this point was, of course, back in France.

Hobbes’ work in the Leviathan was relevant in two crucial ways. First, in his famous global picture of the human in the state of nature and the basic human motivational set, which Hobbes says is quite savage, he seemed to suggest that evil is the natural state of l ‘human. Second, in his discussion of the nature of good and evil itself, he insisted that they are not metaphysically natural categories at all.

Human facts

A few facts about humans would become important in the way they interact with each other. First of all, humans are roughly equal in strength and intelligence, roughly equal; and what Hobbes means by “equal” is that people all have the same hope that they can get what they want or kill someone else in a conflict for what they want. In fact, Hobbes would add a third thing to this in some respects; it looks like people all have the same fear of being killed by another person in a contest over whatever they want.

Moreover, this immediate conflict over the scarcity of goods is “complicated” by the fact that, as Hobbes pointed out, humans are not only interested in certain things given to them or acquired by them, they are also interested. by certain things. does not happen to them: more fundamentally, people do not want to die.

Learn more about Nietzsche and the language of evil.

The state of war of all against all

In this state of nature, said Hobbes, a strange and permanent state of semi-conflict arises, a state of what he calls “the war of all against all.” In this “war of all against all”, we cannot trust anyone; you can’t count on anyone. Moreover, Hobbes believed that the basic conditions for generating stable human language would be lacking.

A language needs a community of a certain political order to be in place, Hobbes thought; there is therefore not even really real language in this state; despite all this, Hobbes believed in an important way that humans can imagine themselves in this state. While this is not a fully human life, which people would not recognize as a suitable place to live, it is nonetheless what people might imagine to be their condition.

Hobbes Psychology of Fear

Prints of a human hand and a dog's paw on a sandy beach.
Thomas Hobbes believed that in their nature humans are animals. (Image: lightman_pic / Shutterstock)

Thomas Hobbes is one of the world’s greatest fear thinkers. He said something very important about how humans are taken from themselves, taken out of society, taken out of civilization. Humans are originally animals; these are the origin of the beasts.

They are looking for ends, and if they see others, they will hurt them and kill them if they can so that they can get the things they want without the interference of those others, and they will hurt them and will kill them lest these other people hurt and kill them before they hurt and kill others.

In other words, there is a spiraling paranoia built into Hobbes’ psychology, and in that paranoia – which will become very prominent later in his thinking and in people intellectually descending from it – there is always a good reason. of, in fact, harming another person, even though people have no evidence that they are about to harm them because they might harm them at some point in the future. Therefore, killing them now eliminates a potential future enemy.

Learn more about the Enlightenment and the problem of evil.

Thomas Hobbes’ views on good and evil

Hobbes was not saying that humans are naturally bad. Humans are not naturally bad, nor are they naturally good; nor are they, in a sense, as they should be “beyond good and evil”. Hobbes did not say that people should go “beyond good and evil”; Rather, Hobbes was saying that somehow humans in a state of nature are below or before good and evil.

Because apart from a certain predefined social order, there is no way to speak of good and bad; there is no such language of good and evil for Hobbes. The savagery of humans, when left to its own devices outside the social order, suggests, he thought, something very dark about the reality of morality as a metaphysical standard or natural motivator in it. the natural constitution of human beings. This means, Hobbes thought, that morality had no reality in this sense.

Frequently Asked Questions about Thomas Hobbes

Q: Who was Thomas Hobbes?

Thomas hobbes was one of the greatest fear thinkers. He studied at the University of Oxford and was a self-taught philosopher who rose to fame by translating the Greek book The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides in English.

Q: What did the royalists in England think of the work of Thomas Hobbes? Leviathan?

The royalists of England had determined that Thomas Hobbes‘s Leviathan was hostile to faith in the king.

Q: What was Hobbes’ perspective on good and evil?

According to Thomas hobbes, people are neither naturally bad nor naturally good; on the contrary, they are below and before good and evil in a state of nature.

Keep reading
Original Sin and the Experience of Jesus Christ
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Thrasymachus: a new face of evil


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