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myrhineatrocity in hobbes_matters

A quote from Heath and Potter on Hobbes

"Freud's overall view, therefore, is one in which all if the violence that exists in a state of nature is a direct expression of our aggressive and destructive instincts.  These instincts cannot be eliminated; they can only be sublimated or repressed. So the level of violence never changes. It is simply redirected--given an inward, rather than an outward, expression . . . This is why, in Freud's view, the state of nature can be said to reveal a deep fact about humanity--the over violence tells something about our underlying instinctual nature.

For Hobbes, on the other hand, the crucial feature of the violence that exists in the state of nature is that it does not reveal anything deep about human nature. In Hobbes's view, the violence is produced by superficial features of our social interactions. Freud assumes that because we have a common interest in cooperating with one another, "reason" must tell us to do so. Hobbes, however, sees that in the absence of rules, the fact we have a common interest in cooperating does not necessarily translate into an individual incentive to do so. . . Reason, in other words, leads us into collective action problems. . . In Hobbes's terms, people invade one another not only for gain, but also for safety.

There is therefore no need to assume, in Hobbes's view, that men are governed by any deep-seated love of violence or aggression.  Hobbes insists that even though the state of nature is violent, this is not because human beings are fundamentally aggressive. The problem in a state of nature is simply that we cannot trust one another"
--Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, Nation of Rebels, page 82-83

"From this Freudian perspective, an arms race reveals something deep about human nature. The fact that human beings feel the need to build 100-megaton bombs shows just how scary our instincts are. It shows that, deep down, we must be extraordinarily violent creates.

The Hobbesian analysis, on the other hand, denies that the arms race reveal any such deep tendencies. It is possible for two countries to get into an arm race even though neither of them has any serious plans to attack the other one; they only need to believe that the other one intends to attack them. It is precisely this lack of trust that triggers the race to the bottom.  One country starts stockpiling weapons in order to deter a perceived threat. The other regards this as a threat, and so increases its own level of expenditure" (page 87).

I think Heath and Potter are on to something putting Hobbes in line with what things like modern games theory and the prisoner's dilemma.  The point is that even though most people reject Hobbes because of what they say as a cynical view of "human nature"--Hobbes does not really have nearly as cynical a view of human nature as most Freudians and Romantics do.  You combine  Rousseau and Freud and you have people trying to justify a total lack of social rules without seeing the problems created by conflict of individual wills or the benefits of giving into a few social mores or delaying gratification in order to increase the likelihood that ALL parties involved will benefit.



June 2008

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