The Radicalism of Thomas Hobbes: Benefit vs Reason

For peace and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself. [1] Bold words I had spoken long ago. Words of mine that at first glance demand subservience; yet my intention was to caution. The rational individual has been said to maximize the extent to which his objective is achieved[2]. That does not mean that Man is entirely calculating. The measure of the reasonableness of an action is the extent to which it conduces to the agent’s ends. Therefore, if it suits Man’s needs, he will employ unreasonableness. Perhaps that means Man is inherently selfish. But if Man’s end is to live in peace, then perhaps it is not so unreasonable.

For the state of Nature is that which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.[3] Transcendence from such a state can thus only be to Man’s benefit. Understanding this is the very maximizing conception of rationality that drives the rational individual[4]. Therefore, it is rational to be unreasonable, specifically in the case of escaping the state of nature, for this is that which is best for Man’s own benefit. Thus, living in peace is the ultimate telos.

Man must voluntarily transferreth his right as a right to him that accepteth it[5]. And of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself.[6] Therefore, if man encountre that which seeks to do him bad, Man should take back this right he hath voluntarily given in the means of so preserving life as not to be weary of it.[7] For those instances violate the very contract under which man accepts to be ruled. When one of the contractors is trusted to perform his part at some determinate time after[8], his performance is called keeping of promise, or faith, and the failing of performance, if it be voluntary, violation of faith[9].

The modern individual is merely a citizen created by discipline[10]. This discipline is not merely the effects of formal pedagogical instruction as such, but also the much wider range of “disciplines” by which human beings are “made fit” for the various social roles which they inhabit as responsible citizens[11]. Man is thus made fit for society not by nature, but by education[12]. Thus, society is not natural to man. And conventional reason, superseding natural reason, justifies a conventional morality, constraining natural behavior[13]. Thus, to move beyond a state which seeks to do Man bad, because it benefits Man is not only rational, but moral as well.

In this strange world that I find myself, I have witnessed many things, both great and terrible, yet perhaps nothing more terrible than what I have seen in the border between the nations of what they now call The United States and Mexico. I have seen war, and war is a state that pits every man against every man, a state where nothing can be unjust[14]. And yet, what I saw here was not man fighting against man, but rather man being pitted against mothers and their babes; soldiers and warriors tearing families apart, separating child from mother, holding them captive, never to meet for months; if at all. It is in this moment, in this new body of mine, as I am held prisoner with countless other children; with the passage of time having taught me the futility of asking my captors when I might get to see my mother, do I recall my previous life in England. I do this with no sense of nostalgia or fondness, but rather because of the parallels I am able to draw, for life now is indeed solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and seemingly short.[15] Because to act to one’s benefit is both rational and moral, and to move beyond the state of nature is best for one’s own benefit, it is neither unreasonable nor immoral to argue that because whosoever attaching themselves to this illegal internment of a race has ultimately failed in providing security of life, therefore violating not only the faith placed upon them but also the terms of the social contract which grants them consent to rule. So, for peace and defense of oneself, it sometimes becomes necessary to ask something as seemingly unreasonable as picking up arms and demand peace until we receive it. However, as I have previously shown, in the course of human events, there will exist some events where this becomes not only rational, but moral as well.

Here endeth the words of one who was once called Thomas Hobbes; authoritarian turned radical after being reincarnated as a girl to a family in Mexico who were forced to flee after her father had refused to pay protection money to the local cartel. Prior to them fleeing, Hobbes, christened as Dora, had attended primary school, where she had a teacher named Mr. Stinson With, who was responsible for turning her into a communist. This, along with her lived experience in the internment camps on the US-Mexico border has led her to understand that living under authority does not necessarily guarantee peace. Although this was something Dora had slightly touched on during her life as Hobbes, her experience of the pain and suffering of those held captive in those internment camps as well as Mr. With’s influence has led her to take this rather controversial stance.

Footnotes:

1. Hobbes, Thomas. Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan (Longman Library of Primary Sources in Philosophy). Routledge, 2016. p. 137

2. David Gauthier, “Thomas Hobbes: Moral Theorist,” The Journal of Philosophy 76, no. 10 (1979): 547–59, https://doi.org/10.2307/2025550. P. 547

3. Hobbes, Thomas. Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan (Longman Library of Primary Sources in Philosophy). Routledge, 2016. p. 132

4. Gauthier, “Thomas Hobbes.” p. 547

5. Hobbes, T. Leviathan. p. 139

6. Hobbes, T. Leviathan. p. 139 when you are using the same book, same page, you can write Ibid.

7. Ibid., 140

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. David Burchell, “The Disciplined Citizen: Thomas Hobbes, Neostoicism and the Critique of Classical Citizenship,” Australian Journal of Politics & History 45, no. 4 (1999): 506–24, https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8497.00078.

11. Ibid., 510

12. Ibid., 509

13. Gauthier, “Thomas Hobbes.” p. 547

14. Gauthier, “Thomas Hobbes.” p. 549

15. Hobbes, T. Leviathan. p. 139

Works Cited

Burchell, David. “The Disciplined Citizen: Thomas Hobbes, Neostoicism and the Critique of Classical Citizenship.” Australian Journal of Politics & History 45, no. 4 (1999): 506–24. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8497.00078.

Gauthier, David. “Thomas Hobbes: Moral Theorist.” The Journal of Philosophy 76, no. 10 (1979): 547–59. https://doi.org/10.2307/2025550.

Hobbes, Thomas. Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan (Longman Library of Primary Sources in Philosophy). Routledge, 2016. p. 132