Explain why Thomas Hobbes is criticized for his view of human beings? 

1 Answer

osurpless's profile pic

osurpless | Middle School Teacher | In Training Educator

Posted on

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, author of the seminal work "Leviathan," described human beings as mechanical, believing that even our emotional and thought process could be explained simply by processes within the body. This leads to the idea that not being in control of our bodies is akin to a lack of control in making decisions, as a result, the best course for society is to have an unaccountable sovereign (ruler) that makes decisions to account for this weakness. It is similar to isolating ways in which things can go wrong, by having a single leader that can replaced, it is easier to know what systems and ideas can work without delay, rather than the complexity of elections and appointments if you will.

This can be said to be an overly analytical or "cold" view but by taking out the human factor in problem solving, there is doubtless logic in the avoidance of emotional response (basing your decisions on wants or desires rather than ethical egoism). Humans indeed do this either deliberately or as a relic of the reptilian brain, which is largely based on instinct. Hobbes also suggests that the best kind of sovereign was the hereditary monarch, as they are not bound by the swaying nature of decision making. They make them, good or bad, based on the social contract: "power in a single natural person who can choose advisors and rule consistently without fear of internal conflicts is the best fulfillment of our social needs. Thus, the radical metaphysical positions defended by Hobbes lead to a notably conservative political result, an endorsement of the paternalistic view." This is troubling to modern interpretations due to its political implications, but there is evidence for this in nature. A good philosophy is not necessarily right or wrong as it requires the commitment of its followers to work properly. It should also be noted that Hobbes was against rulers of his time who favored "divine right" rule, as such a claim is emotional egotism based on misunderstanding of the purpose of religion.