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Hobbes' View of Human Nature and his Vision of Government


In The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes talks about his views of human nature and describes his vision of the ideal government which is best suited to his views. 


Hobbes believed that human beings naturally desire the power to live well and that they will never be satisfied with the power they have without acquiring more power.  After this, he believes, there usually succeeds a new desire such as fame and glory, ease and sensual pleasure or admiration from others.  He also believed that all people are created equally.  That everyone is equally capable of killing each other because although one man may be stronger than another, the weaker may be compensated for by his intellect or some other individual aspect. Hobbes believed that the nature of humanity leads people to seek power.  He said that when two or more people want the same thing, they become enemies and attempt to destroy each other.  He called this time when men oppose each other war.  He said that there were three basic causes for war, competition, distrust and glory.  In each of these cases, men use violence to invade their enemies territory either for their personal gain, their safety or for glory.  He said that without a common power to unite the people, they would be in a war of every man against every man as long as the will to fight is known.  He believed that this state of war was the natural state of human beings and that harmony among human beings is artificial because it is based on an agreement.  If a group of people had something in common such as a common interest or a common goal, they would not be at war and united they would be more powerful against those who would seek to destroy them.  One thing he noted that was consistent in all men was their interest in self-preservation.


Hobbes view of human nature lead him to develop his vision of an ideal government.  He believed that a common power was required to keep men united.  This power would work to maintain the artificial harmony among the people as well as protect them from foreign enemies.  This power would either be one man or an assembly appointed by the people.  The people would make an agreement among themselves to all submit to this ruler.  The people would submit their wills to the will of their ruler who would in turn assure their self-preservation.  Thus the ruler would have absolute control over his domain.  Hobbes referred to this kind of ruler as a Sovereign and his people as subjects.

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