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Meaning of Human Freedom for Aquinas and Hobbes

1945 words (8 pages) Essay in Philosophy

18/05/20 Philosophy Reference this

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Discuss the meaning of human freedom for Aquinas and for Hobbes and determine whether law in any form restricts or furthers this freedom for each. In the course of your discussion consider what argument each philosopher would give to support the right to life under Article 3 of the UDHR by forbidding the freedom to kill an innocent person.

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Discussion of Aquinas’ view of human freedom

    1. Does law restrict or further human freedom?
    2. Would Aquinas support Article 3 of the UDHR?
  3. Discussion of Hobbes’ view of human freedom

    1. Does law restrict or further human freedom?
    2. Would Hobbes support Article 3 of the UDHR?
  4. Conclusion

Over the course of the centuries many people have sought to understand the origins of human freedom. There are some who believe that human freedom originates as a right given by God. Others believe that human freedom originates from decisions made by humans as a collective. Additionally, there are some that believe that human freedom originates from a combination of the Divine and the human collective.

Aquinas states “It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else that the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law”. Aquinas considers humans rational creatures due to their ability to exercise free will. “…Man is freer than all of the animals, on account of his free-will, with which he is endowed above all other animals”. While there is law made by man there is what Aquinas describes as the eternal law, the law of God. Therefore, human freedom only extends as far as God allows free-will to extend. Utilizing this understanding, one could state that Aquinas believes that laws, neither restrict nor further human freedom that human freedom as viewed through the lens of law, is exactly as the divine law states it to be.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has certain rights, rights to life, liberty, and security of their person. Examination of Aquinas’ beliefs would determine that eternal law being of God, that all human freedom comes from God. Therefore, life, liberty, and security are all God’s to give and for God to take away. Aquinas would support Article 3 of the UDHR, from a religious perspective if these rights are ordained by the creator it is only the creator’s will that they can be taken away. Therefore, it is up to man to safeguard the rights given by God, so that no man can interfere in the eternal law.

Hobbes states “And because the condition of Man, (as hath been declared in the precedent Chapter) is a condition of warre of everyone against every one; in which case every one is governed by his own Reason; and there is nothing he can make use of, that may not be a help unto him, in preserving his life against his enemyes; it followeth, that every man has a Right to every thing; even to another’s body”.  Therefore, according to Hobbes, law would restrict human freedom.  Hobbes states “…As long as this naturall Right of every man to every thing endureth, there can be no security to any man, (how strong or wise soever he be), of living out the time, which Nature ordinarily alloweth men to live”. One could argue that Hobbes’ point of view is one of human law cannot supersede natural law.

As to Article 3 of the UDHR, Hobbes would not support the universal right that all humans have the right to life, liberty, and the security of their person. Nature itself does not permit this as nature does not follow the law of man. Therefore, Hobbes would not only disagree with Article 3 he would not support the Article. In his view, Nature cannot be bound by man-made law.

Aquinas and Hobbes have differing views. Aquinas refers to the divine law where Hobbes refers to Nature. One could argue that the divine law and Nature are the same; however, Aquinas believes that only God can bestow law and protect human freedom so far as he allows. Nature, on the other hand, can have no divine plan as it is not cognizant.

Reference

Makdisi, J. (2019). Ethical Moorings: Philosophical and Religious Foundations. Fall 2019 Class Materials.

Question #2

Discuss how duty is related to happiness for Kant and for Mill. In the course of your discussion what argument each philosopher would give to justify or reject the right to the pursuit of happiness declared unalienable in the second sentence of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Kant’s view of duty as it relates to happiness.

    1. Discussion of whether or not Kant would accept or reject the right to the pursuit of happiness.
  3. Mills view of duty as it relates to happiness.

    1. Discussion of whether or not Mill would accept or reject the right to the pursuit of happiness.
  4. Conclusion

Happiness is subjective, what brings happiness to one may bring sadness to another. Duty is something that every human understands, even if they do not share the same level of adherence to said duty. The question is can happiness result in duty or can duty result in happiness? Are duty and happiness related in any way?

Kant states “Duty is the designation of any action to which anyone is bound by an obligation”. Obligations can inspire feelings, whether those are feelings of happiness, sadness, contentment, or indifference. Kant went on to state “For one’s own happiness is, no doubt, an end that all men have (by virtue of the impulse of their nature), but this end cannot without contradiction be regarded as duty”. Kant believes that happiness itself cannot be regarded as a duty, or an obligation.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence states that all men have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What is a right? Is it a duty or an obligation? A right, in the way it is discussed within the Declaration of Independence, suggests that every man has the right to decide to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, but they are not obliged to pursue that right. No one can deny a person their decision to pursue those rights, but in the end no one is obliged to pursue them if they do not want to.  Kant would support the statement in the Declaration of Independence.

Mill states “The internal sanction of duty, whatever our standard of duty may be, is one and the same a feeling in our own mind; a pain, more or less intense, attendant on violation of duty, which in properly cultivated moral natures rises, in the more serious cases, into shrinking from it as an impossibility”. Mills describes duty as a feeling one has, and rooted within that feeling is an anxiety surrounding not arising to the level of duty they expect of themselves. He goes on to state “With regard to the religious motive, if men believe, as most profess to do, in the goodness of God, those who think that conduciveness to the general happiness is the essence, or even only the criterion, of good, must necessarily believe that it is also that which God approves”.

If everyone possesses the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness according to Mills interpretation, one must ask if those rights have been approved by God.  One must also ask if those rights are a duty, and if so, do they inspire an internal anxiety within oneself that one will fail to live up to said duty. The Declaration of Independence states that those rights were given to all men by their creator. Therefore, Mill would support the statement in the Declaration of Independence.

Duty can result in happiness depending on how one examines their duties and/or responsibilities. Duty can be viewed as a burden or as a blessing, depending on each unique perspective. Kant and Mill both believe that duty is universal. The feeling(s) that duty inspire are not.

Reference

Makdisi, J. (2019). Ethical Moorings: Philosophical and Religious Foundations. Fall 2019 Class Materials.

Question #3

Article 17 of the UDHR states that everyone has the right to own property. Discuss how Locke and Hume each justify the right to property. In the course of your discussion consider how reason interacts with desires for each philosopher as a foundation for the justification of the right to property.

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Discussion of Locke’s justification of the right to own property.

    1. How does reason influence Locke’s view on the right to own property?
    2. How do desires influence Locke’s view on the right to own property?
  3. Discussion of Hume’s justification of the right to own property.

    1. How does reason influence Hume’s view on the right to own property?
    2. How do desires influence Hume’s view on the right to own property?
  4. Conclusion

The right to own property is one that many do not even view as a right. It is easy to obtain property and easy to dispose of it in this modern era. Desires play a part in obtaining property, every day advertisements play at those desires. Desire fuels the economy, and it has for millennia.

Locke states “Thus labour, in the beginning gave a right of property, wherever any one was pleased to employ it upon what was common, which remained a long while the far greater part, and is yet more than mankind makes use of”. Locke means that one must work to possess property and that there is more property in the world than mankind can possess. Using Locke’s statement one can see the reason in it. It becomes an equation, desire plus work equals property. If one desires property, they must perform the labor it takes to obtain said property.

Hume states “Of all the animals, with which this globe is peopled, there is none towards whom nature seems, at first sight, to have exercis’d more cruelty than towards man, in the numberless wants and necessities with which she has loaded him, and in slender means, which she affords to the relieving these necessities”. Which means mankind needs much and nature does nothing to lessen the need of possessions. In order to form a society man must have possessions, because possessing possessions brings stability, and stability breeds peace. Man desires possessions, stability, and peace. In addition, there is reason behind the idea of one leading to another.

Man must have possessions in order to survive. The very basic of which would include clothes, a home, food, and water. Necessities are possessions. If possessions are a necessity for living it is reasonable to deduce that to inhibit one from acquiring what they need to live, would be negating a right. Certainly, everyone has the right to obtain what they need to live without hindrance.

Reference

  • Makdisi, J. (2019). Ethical Moorings: Philosophical and Religious Foundations. Fall 2019 Class Materials.
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