Sunday Ethics Case Study
The moral philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and its relevance
THOMAS HOBBES was an English philosopher and political scientist of the 17th century England. His ideas were considered revolutionary at that time, and his book The Leviathan was subjected to much criticism.
Some aspects of Hobbesian philosophy
- He was the first English thinker to have rejected the Divine Rights of King's theory. He said that the origin of the state is not natural, and man has created it out of necessity. This is a timeless truth in politics and holds good relevance today in all the theocratic states. It also sends a message that sources of authority should be legal & rational, rather than traditional or charismatic forms of authority.
- He describes his ideal state- The Leviathan, as being formed out of a social contract wherein the men delegate their authority to a 3rd party in fiduciary terms. Though this is sensible, it is still difficult to comprehend how he gives untrammelled powers to the sovereign. He gives it the right to restrict men’s freedoms. Though his premise was individualistic, his conclusion is collectivist. He asks men to obey the Leviathan. The only exception to this case is when the right to self-preservation of man is threatened, then the rise of a new monarch is imminent. This is equal to creating an all-powerful state and isn’t a feature of liberal democratic states.
- His views on human nature were negative. He considered men to be aggrandizing, self-interested, fearful of losing power and property, isolated & egoistic. This is a totally one-sided view, and to adhere to it would be ignoring the contribution of leaders like Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Abdul Sattar Edhi.
- His views on women and the gender question were non-patriarchal. He was a pioneer in this field in the English intelligentsia of that time, and these still hold good relevance today, where women are denied the right to live a dignified life like men.
- He believed in science as the solution to man’s irrational judgments. The contemporary scientific developments and discoveries influenced him profusely, and he looked at science to mould man’s behaviour. Even today, a conscious use of science is the cure to mankind’s perennial problems.