Born during a period of medieval philosophy, Thomas Hobbes developed a new way of thinking. He perfected his moral and political theories in his controversial book Leviathan, written in 1651. In his introduction, Hobbes describes the state of nature as an organism analogous to a large person (p.42). He advises that people should look into themselves to see the nature of humanity. In his quote, ” The passions that incline men to peace, are fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them,” Hobbes view of the motivations for moral behavior becomes valid because of his use of examples to support his theories, which in turn, apply to Pojman’s five purposes for morality.
Hobbes purpose to his state of nature philosophy was to describe human nature. He argues that, in the absence of social condition, every action we perform, no matter how charitable or benevolent, is done for reasons which are ultimately self-serving (p.43-47). For example, if I were to donate to charity, I am actually taking delight in demonstrating my power. Hobbes believes that any account of human action, including morality, must be consistent with the fact that we are all self-serving. His theory notes that humans are essentially equal, both mentally and physically, so that even the weakest person has the strength to kill the strongest (p.44). Given our equal standing, Hobbes believes that there are three natural causes of quarrel among people: competition for limited supplies of material possessions, distrust of one another, and glory so that people remain hostile to preserve their reputation. With these natural causes of quarrel, Hobbes concludes that the natural condition of humans is a state of perpetual war of all against all, where no morality exists, and everyone lives in constant fear (p.45). He believes that humans have three motivations for ending this state of war: the fear of death, the desire to have an adequate living and the hope to attain this through one’s labor (p.47). These beliefs become valid because of the use of his examples. One example suggests that people are barbaric to each other. With the absence of international law, strong countries prey on the weakness of weak countries. I believe that his views of moral behavior are very true. Like Hobbes said, people are out for their well-being. If I were to do a favor for someone, I may think I am helping someone out, which I am, but I am probably doing the favor because it is going to make me feel better. It is going to benefit my well being. Hobbes is a famous philosopher whose views were very controversial. But the fact that he lived in a time when the monarchy was the “divine right of kings” (p.42), makes his views valid today. With a different government and new laws, his views appear to be true.
In the book, The Moral Life, Louis Pojman discusses the need for moral code. To make his point clear, he takes a look at the novel, Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Lord of the Flies is a modern allegory on the nature and purpose of morality. A group of British private school boys are marooned on an island; detached from the constraints of civilization, they turn into savages. The significance of the book lies in the fact that it illuminates the need for and purpose of ethical codes (5). The theme of the book is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. Pojman believes that the fundamental ambiguity of human existence is seen throughout the book, mirroring the human condition (35). Hobbes gives a classic reply to the book. Similar to Pojman’s beliefs, he believes that human beings always act out of perceived self-interest; they invariably seek gratification and avoid harm. Given a state of insecurity, people have reason to fear one another. This “state of nature” is one in which there are no common ways of life, no laws or moral codes and no justice or injustice.
The answers to the lack of moral codes are to implement laws. Much like Hobbes, Louis Pojman’s view also is based upon rules. Pojman believes that morality consists of a set of rules, which, if followed by nearly everyone, will promote the flourishing of nearly everyone. He developed a set of five rules that restrict our freedom but only in order to promote greater freedom: To keep society from falling apart, to ameliorate human suffering, to promote human flourishing, to resolve conflicts of interest in just and orderly ways, and to assign praise and blame, reward the good and punish the guilty. (p.39). Pojman believes that we can all do better if we compromise, give up some of our natural liberty so that we will all be more likely to get what we want: security, happiness, power, and peace. Hobbes’ answer to the lack of moral code is in accordance with Pojman’s five purposes. They both believe that society needs moral rules to guide everyone’s actions. With moral rules society wouldn’t fall apart as in Hobbes’ example. Hobbes’ and Pojman think that although these rules restrict our freedom, they will help promote greater freedom and well-being.
While both Hobbes’ and Pojman’s ideas are similar, they are not identical. Different moral theories emphasize different purposes and in different ways. While Pojman’s ideas emphasize society need for moral rule, Hobbes’ ideas accent the role of resolving conflicts of interest. Morality is a necessary condition for happiness. It enables us to reach our goals in socially acceptable ways. It allows us to resolve conflicts of interests fairly. But the one thing true in both of their views is that until the state of war ends, each person has a right to everything, including another person’s life.