In here I wanted to share an essay I wrote about Thomas Hobbes and how if he would have lived in a period where England wasn't in a civil war, he would have viewed the same results.
Many would state that war reveals just how primitive humanity really is. When an individual has views different than those of one's own, conflict often arises. Thomas Hobbes argued that humanity is savage by nature, thus in the need of governing as the only other alternative is chaos. Within this governing state it is in the best interest of all people to follow the rule of the head that controls, unless it is at the cost of lives. Only then should the people rise to reestablish order and end tyranny. There is reason to believe that Thomas Hobbes' views were influenced by the English Civil War and the rift in religious beliefs. Still, even if Thomas Hobbes had lived in a time of peace, there is reason to believe that the concept of Leviathan would have still existed and his views on people would have been the same.
Hobbes stated that men constantly compete with one another. “men are continually in competition for honor and dignity” (1866). Modern day civilization for the most part is in a state of peace, yet people find themselves in a constant state of competition. Sport teams are a representation of a city or even a country underlining that competition exists and is part of our nature. Conflicts have been known to erupt when fans of opposing teams meet during a game. Unfortunately these people are not competing for honor, or dignity, but for reasons of pride. This is an example of conflict arising when people are left to their own accord, similar to what Hobbes wrote in Leviathan. Hobbes goes on to say that, “among men there arises on that ground envy and hatred and finally war” (1866). Even in a time of prosperity, envy and hatred flow through the veins of people. Humanity is believed to be selfish by nature. When an individual enhances a life experience for another, self gratification courses for that person, ultimately leaving a selfless act to be a selfish one. People cannot strife to create a greater good, similar to animals that work in union, if everything is in their self interest; and this was something Hobbes understood by baring witness to some of the darkest actions man could do. By removing war from Hobbes, these actions would still exist within everyday people.
Hobbes made a second point in stating that the common good with certain animals was not a private matter, but one that would benefit the species as a whole. In today's society, the common good is thrown out the window for selfish beliefs. A person's religious views dictate their own views, and in such, attempt to dictate the lives of others. The concept of assisting the world or our species is voided by such selfish views. Views that each individual believes is more valid than others and their beliefs. Hobbes was born into a world that had already divided a specific religious belief. The division of Catholicism and Protestantism (and it influencing the throne at the time) further solidifies that even if Hobbes had lived in a time of peace, man would find a way to cause quarrel.
Another point in which Hobbes makes is that people generally assume that they themselves are better off at governing others, believing themselves to be wiser than the rest. This is another point that is shown through all humans, even at a young age. When children gather to play games with one another, disputes occur when one feels that the odds are in an unfair balance. This results in a different child creating a new set of rules, which he or she believes is more just. Obviously this is not limited to children, as the same occurs in politics. A war is not needed to exist in order to understand that these actions are embedded in everyone. The United States is in constant conflict with political parties; one that favors a social union and one that favors self interest.
Humans posses many abilities that other creatures cannot, and with these abilities comes deeds that could be deemed as benevolent, or malevolent. The problematic part of this is that much of it could be considered subjective, as much of it isn't required for survival, making these traits seem unnatural. The basic needs for any animal is to feed, rest, and reproduce. People posses the same skill as all other animals in this, but what truly sets people apart from animals is that the species desires beyond its fundamental needs. Because of these wants, our speech ability gives us an opportunity to create deception and honesty. Neither of these actions help as a need for survival to the species, so it is peculiar as to why speech even exists in its evolved state. All animals contain a basic form of speech to signify a need or desire, and Thomas Hobbes knew this. Had his life been at a time when war had not erupted between brethren, it would still be visible that so much selfish gain can come with the structure of a sentence.
Beyond the ability to speak is the ability to express oneself. And with the ability to express comes more self-indulging desires. In most societies, people tend to express themselves with the clothes they wear, their speech method, or with whom they congregate with. Today, for example, are people that own cars not only for transportation, but as a way receive attention from others. Again, nothing is gained from a species point of view, but vanity is achieved. During the era in which Hobbes lived, social status was as prevalent than as it is now. Members of a higher court would clad themselves in what would normally be unattainable for those of the lower class. Even before Hobbes' time, it was visually apparent with the Egyptians, the Romans, the Greek, and many others.
It seems strange that in order for man to feel liberated is by the assertion of domination over another. This was a point brought up by Hobbes, and seems relevant still. If by chance there was no war, then man would find a way to dominate another to feel at ease. This is a case shown with marriage, with a social structure, and with military. During the 17th century men acquired all assets of women upon marriage, and leaving women with almost no other alternative but to marry. Oppression found its way in marriage, leaving that basic desire to dominate alive and well in man's heart. If not in marriage, then in social class were people flexing their power against other people. Education was granted to only those with wealth or in connection with the church.
Above all other faults that man has, the biggest has to be belief. Other animals act in accordance to the law of the land, while people have an awareness of self, and act according to their beliefs. A belief is not based on fact, and it may very well not align with the common good. Hobbes went on to say, “the agreement of these creatures is natural, that of men is by covenant only, which is artificial, and therefore it is no wonder if there be somewhat else required besides covenant to make their agreement constant and lasting, which is a common power to keep them in awe and to direct their actions to the common benefit” (1866). With religion being a prime pull towards the organization of people, it cannot be the true rule, as it was made up by man. But man is needed to rule over man, for if there was no rule, anarchy would dominate. In this comes the idea that humanity should be governed by one head, but with the peoples interest in mind, a method that to this day exists.
It appears as there is no true time of peace when humanity is involved. The events that existed surrounding Thomas Hobbes' life would not have changed his output on the views of human existence. Within each human being is the need to survive, but due to being at the highest point of the food chain, man's only competition is other men (and women). The need to survive is a basic evolutionary trait. When survival is no longer in the rules of nature and into the laws of man, conflict will always exist. A common good cannot exist when man's only adversary is itself. With this course of power comes selfish deeds and thoughts, creating members of the same species to be rivals, or enemies. The reason a common good cannot exist is because each and every person has a belief of what is best for people. Factual information is neglected because of these beliefs, thus creating a never ending war between people. It will take the threat of extinction to truly modify the mentality into striding for the common good. Until now, with humanity comfortably at the top of the food chain, selfish desires will reign upon our existence. Regardless of what visually is a time of peace or war, the truth is, humanity is at a constant war with itself.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2012. 1856-67. Print.