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Thomas Hobbes View On Deliberation Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1500 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Hobbes gives the definition of deliberation as “the whole sum of desires, aversions, hopes and fears, continued till the thing be either done or thought impossible” (L, p. 33) and from this short passage in Leviathan, Hobbes further develops and explains the process of deliberation. During this process, “the last appetite or aversion immediately adhering to the action” (L, p. 33) which shows an action is the result of a person’s last preference between appetite or aversion, one must decide whether his/her endeavor is toward or fromward an object. Hobbes rejects the concept of “Free will” as he believe human action is depended on the outcome of choosing appetite or aversion and such a choice is his idea of “will” or “the act of willing”. He regards human nature as a mechanistic system in which the notion of cause and effect is important in explaining the nature of human. In the case of human action, it is caused by our appetite or aversion and the response is depended on it. The last sentence of the passage, “And beasts that have deliberation must necessarily also have will” (L, p. 33) Hobbes claims that animals, like human, also possess the properties of appetites, aversion, hopes and fears. Thus, animal deliberation and animal willing are no different from us human. In fact, Hobbes alleges than human share the similar nature with animals, even though animals might lack of the abilities to reason or to reflect. In the “state of nature”, human are regard to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (L, p. 76) Even though the types of desire or aversion vary, it is only matter of degree but not

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Butler’s Five Sermons also makes an approach to comprehend “what the particular nature of man is” (FS, p. 13) in order to find out the concept of moral. In regard to human act, this passage reflects Butler’s standpoint that human would act according their strongest appetite, however, this appetite might not fits into or contrary to the true intention or the true self of the actor. Butler mentions that human follow “principle or inclination” for their actions, these words can be understood as the motivations for the action and his interpretation of motivation is that there are four kinds – self interest, benevolence, conscience and a miscellaneous category. All four of these, according to Butler, must be arranged in a hierarchical system and for each action, one will find the strongest motive which drive one to act. However, Butler also points out that such act is “disproportionate to and violate, his real proper nature” (FS, p. 38) for the reason that when acting upon one’s strongest desire, it can awry form the nature of man. For example, when self-interest is the strongest motive for a particular action, this action is most likely to be “unnatural” as the action is not act accordingly to the fundamental “proper nature”. This “proper nature”, according to Butler, is the realization or acknowledgement that out of all four motivations, conscience must be placed as the governing or authority position. For conscience is when “he approves or disapproves his heart, temper, and actions” (FS, p. 30) which would inform the actor whether the action is considered as moral right or wrong.

Both Hobbes and Butler present that human beings have some factors which driven behind our actions. These factors would determine the manner of our actions. According to Hobbes, human nature is applied in a mechanistic view in which is consists of two operating systems – information system and motivation system. The information system is sourced by our senses and then these experiences would inform us about the external world. The sources of the motivation system are grounded on one’s desire or aversion which is derived from endeavors. For Hobbes, we do not have the ability to choose as the faculty of “Free will” does not exist, what makes us to do something is the last appetite we have between desire or aversion.() Other source for the motivation system is the information system itself, this system provides us the information about how to achieve our desire or avoid aversion. The fundamental cause for a person to act is to achieve self- preservation, () Hobbes claims that human are impossible to pass ourselves as we are psychologically egoistic.

On the other hand, Butler provides a different kind of motivation system. He first declares there are various kinds of motivations and they must put into order. This hierarchy is essential for human nature as it affects not only the direction of our action also the moral standard. Butler criticizes Hobbes and argues that there is more than just self-interest in our motivation. Besides our own passions and appetites, the goodness of others and society is also an integral part of human nature. These two qualities can neither be on the superior position of the hierarchy as they are two contradicting objects, thus Butler claims that a true self or a blueprint for a moral life is putting conscience at the top of the hierarchy, not only it gives the power of reflection for human action, it also acts as the balance in making crucial moral decisions. Conscience then can restrains one’s behavior as human often influenced by desires and affections, it sets the moral ground a person whether an action is morally right or wrong.

In Leviathan, Hobbes presents human as chaotic beings and without the sovereign government, we are destined to live in the “state of nature”. () For the source of our reason for action, Hobbes reckons there is one thing – self preservation. Every human being place him/herself as the central among all things (psychological egoism), thus Hobbes believes that every decision or action is rooted in the interest of oneself. In the situation of “state of nature”, human must follow the nature laws in order to achieve a peaceful society, however such social contract is not made base on the principle of thinking about others, instead it is the insurance of self-preservation. Therefore, with circumstances that concern the well-being of the self, one would have the legitimate reasons to act. For Butler, Hobbes’s theory of human nature is intrinsic correct as self-interest is no doubt a fundamental element drive us to act, however he disputes that it is the only source of our reasons for action. Butler believes “it left out of account our capacity for determining our conduct by ethical and value judgments” (FS, p. 4) Different sources are found within human nature which provided us the reasons to act. Our own appetites often urge us to act on impulses however our ability of reflection holds back the immediate action and suspend judgment. To Butler, action can take place if conscience has “magisterially exert itself” into the decision of the actor’s conscious desires. It is also clear to Butler that conscience can not always overcome one’s impulsive desires, nevertheless conscience or reflection remains the source of our reasons for action as it gives us the competence to distinguish moral value and the reasons to or not to act.

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Comparing the two different perspectives of human nature and source of our reasons for action, I found Butler’s theory has a more persuasive and developed analysis. Hobbes’s method to approach human nature as a mechanical system and his view that action is only a matter of appetite or aversion are, I believe, problematic. Using Butler’s theory, I can illustrate my disagreements with Hobbes in regard to this matter. Before taking an action, for me is not merely an immediate outcome of my desire, I must weigh out the legitimacy and moral value of this particular action. For instance, becoming a smoker or an alcoholic. In the preface of Butler’s Five Sermon, he wrote “A machine is inanimate and passive, but we are agents. Our constitution is put in our own power.” (FS, p. 15) Butler supposes that human must have their own will in making a decision as we are more than just a machine, our conscience enables us to grasp the value of an action and gives reflections of the consequences. In addition, Hobbes’s reason for action has no place for benevolence seems illogical to me as society operates like an interdependent sphere in which everyone must dependent on others. “A man’s heart must be formed to humanity and benevolence, he must love mercy, otherwise he will not act mercifully in any settled course of behavior.” (FS, p. 59) without benevolence, there will be no justice in society as people will only look after themselves and ignore other’s rights. For example, the existence of slavery is


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