Thomas Hobbes: human natureWhat fundamental claims about human nature did Hobbes make? How does his view compare to human behaviour under the feudal manorial system? Discuss the relation between...

Thomas Hobbes: human nature

What fundamental claims about human nature did Hobbes make? How does his view compare to human behaviour under the feudal manorial system? Discuss the relation between his view of human nature and his account of the origin, character and functions of the State.


Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hobbes view of human nature was that humans are all basically selfish.  He argued that in a state of nature, everyone was entitled to anything he wanted, or could take. The end result of this was a situation which he called the "war of all against all," in which life was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (Enotes: Thomas Hobbes.) To prevent this situation, people entered into a "social contract" wherein they gave up their rights to everything solely as a means of protection from anyone else. Hobbes was a firm believer in Absolute Monarchy. There obviously would be abuses by an absolute monarch; but this was the price of safety and protection. Under the manorial system, (which abated long before Hobbes was born) vassals pledged loyalty to the lord in exchange for land. They also promised to fight for him. The middle ages were a time of great violence with knights attacking each other, but it does not rise to the level of the war of all against all of which Hobbes spoke.  For more information, visit this site:

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Arnold W. Green has written an entire book on this subject -- a book which may lead you to other useful discussions:
[Open in new window]

An older book on the same topic was written by James Benjamin Judd, Jr.:
[Open in new window]

A short book by Richard Tuck may also be helpful:
[Open in new window]


On Google Books, you can search inside both the first and third books listed above.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the first post here, but I would point out that the behavior of the knights and such in feudal times did not rise to the level of "war of each against all" exactly because there was some amount of a government.  In a state of nature, it would have been that bad.  With a "leviathan" type government, things would have been peaceful.  But the feudal times were in between.  They had a government, but it was not absolute.  So you had all this selfish behavior because the government wasn't strong enough to stop it, but there wasn't total chaos because there was actually some amount of government present that could prevent a reversion to a complete state of nature.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The fundamental claim about human nature that Hobbes made was that human nature is fractious and lawless--which actually begs the question of the habitual tendency among human societies to institute law and order--and that humans can only be peaceful under absolute rule and authority. This is the principal illustrated by Golding in Lord of the Flies.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that knights in feudal times had to be selfish because they had to fight to survive.  There was always someone ready to take everything away from them.  I agree somewhat with Hobbes that people will inherently act in their own self-interest.  In the society of the time, that was a necessity.