THE OPTIMISTS: MAN IS GOOD BY NATURE
BUT CORRUPTED BY SOCIETY
"Man is born free, yet everywhere he is chains!"
Jean Jacques Rousseau
The Social Contract
Man is naturally a kind, benevolent animal,
but he is dropt into such a damn'd needy situation here in this vexatious
world, and has such a whoreson, hungry, growling, multiplying Pack of
Necessities, Appetites, Pasions & Desires about him, ready to devour
him, for want of other food; that in fact he must lay aside his cares
for others that he may look properly to himself.
June 30, 1788
some famous Thomas Hobbes quotes
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Thomas Hobbes was born in London in 1588. He received
his college education at Oxford University in England, where he studied
classics. Hobbes traveled to other European countries several times to
meet with scientists and to study different forms of government. During
his time outside of England, Hobbes became interested in why people allowed
themselves to be ruled and what would be the best form of government for
England. In 1651, Hobbes wrote his most famous work, entitled Leviathan. In
it, he argued that people were naturally wicked and could not be trusted
to govern. Therefore, Hobbes believed that an absolute monarchy - a government
that gave all power to a king or queen - was best.
Hobbes believed that humans were basically
selfish creatures who would do anything to better their position.
Left to themselves, he thought, people would act on their evil impulses.
According to Hobbes, people therefore should not be trusted to make
decisions on their own. In addition, Hobbes felt that nations, like
people, were selfishly motivated. To Hobbes, each country was in
a constant battle for power and wealth. To prove his point, Hobbes
wrote, "If men are naturally in a state of war, why do they always
carry arms and why do they have keys to lock their doors?"
Governments were created, according to
Hobbes, to protect people from their own selfishness and evil. The
best government was one that had the great power of a leviathan,
or sea monster. Hobbes believed in the rule of a king because he
felt a country needed an authority figure to provide direction and
leadership. Because the people were only interested in promoting
their own self-interests, Hobbes believed democracy - allowing citizens
to vote for government leaders - would never work. Hobbes wrote, "All
mankind [is in] a perpetual and restless desire for power... that
[stops] only in death." Consequently, giving power to the individual
would create a dangerous situation that would start a "war of
every man against every man" and make life "solitary, poor,
nasty, brutish, and short."
Despite his distrust of democracy, Hobbes
believed that a diverse group of representatives presenting the problems
of the common person would, hopefully, prevent a king from being
cruel and unfair. During Hobbes' lifetime, business began to have
a big influence on government. Those who could contribute money to
the government were given great status, and business interests were
very powerful. In order to offset the growing power of business,
Hobbes believed that an individual could be heard in government by
authorizing a representative to speak on their behalf. In fact, Hobbes
came up with the phrase "voice of the people," which meant that one
person could be chosen to represent a group with similar views. However,
this "voice" was merely heard and not necessarily listened to - final
decisions lay with the king.