Hobbes the Cowardly

Hobbes appeals to me on a very basic level. I am a very paranoid person—I worry about things constantly, even when I know that there is no need to. In elementary school, I watched a documentary on the sun, and it mentioned that at some point, millions of years in the future, the sun would explode, form a black hole, and destroy the Milky Way. I was terrified by this. Even though I knew I would be dead long before it ever happened I couldn’t help but obsess over it.

So the fact that Hobbes lists fear as the primary motivation for creating society really… I don’t know if ‘appeal’ is the right word. I guess it makes sense to me. Hobbes validates my—and everyone else’s—fears, and even goes so far as to say that fear is a key part of the human condition. Without it, we would never form a coherent society. The only motivation for forming a contract—the first step toward a commonwealth—with others is our fear, specifically our fear of dying. By making a contract, we give up our right to kill others as long as others do the same. According to Hobbes, fear is the basis of civilization.

I don’t agree with everything Hobbes says—especially the parts about centralizing power, I definitely do not think that is the way to a peaceful society—but I find several points he makes very compelling, such as in chapter 13. 10. He talks about how we are all equally paranoid and distrustful of each other; why else would we lock our doors or put our money into banks? I think that this is the best example of the constant paranoia that (according to Hobbes) is part of being human.

(Sorry this is late; I was having some problems accessing the site/uploading content!)