Human Nature as Viewed by Thomas Hobbes and David Hume Essay

Human Nature as Viewed by Thomas Hobbes and David Hume Essay

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Human Nature as Viewed by Thomas Hobbes and David Hume


Thomas Hobbes in Chapter 13 of Leviathan, and David Hume in Section 3 of An Enquiry Concerning the Princples of Morals, give views of human nature. Hobbes’ view captures survivalism as significant in our nature but cannot account for altruism. We cover Hobbes’ theory with a theory of Varied Levels of Survivalism, explaining a larger body of behavior with the foundation Hobbes gives. Hume gives a scenario which does not directly prove fruitful, but he does capture selfless behavior.

We will give Hobbes’ view of human nature as he describes it in Chapter 13 of Leviathan. We will then give an argument for placing a clarifying layer above the Hobbesian view in order to account for acts of altruism.

Hobbes views human nature as the war of each man against each man. For Hobbes, the essence of human nature can be found when we consider how man acts apart from any government or order. Hobbes describes the world as “a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man.” (Hobbes mp. 186) In such a world, there are “no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (Hobbes mp. 186) Hobbes believes that laws are what regulate us from acting in the same way now. He evidences that our nature is this way by citing that we continue to lock our doors for fear of theft or harm. Hobbes gives a good argument which is in line with what we know of survivalism, and evidences his claim well. Hobbes claims that man is never happy in having company, unless that company is utterly dominated. He says, “men have no pleasure, (but on the contrary a great dea...


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...vivalist instinct that involves self-preservation. Hobbes, however, is unable to explain altruism, thus we developed the Varied Levels of Survivalism as a layer above his theory. This modification allows for varying motives based on circumstances, all based on survival. Hume takes note of this altruistic tendency but he gives a scenario that is either inapplicable or he does not filter survivalism from humanity. Utilizing Hobbes’ survivalism, Hume’s generosity when capable, and the Varied Levels of Survivalism, we arrive at a viable theory of human nature and explanation of human behavior.

Works Cited

Hobbes, Thomas. (2001, October 30) "Leviathan" (1651).
Available at: http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/thomas_hobbes/leviathan.html

Hume, David, 1772 (reprinted in 2004) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (New
York, Barnes and Noble)

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