What Would Hobbes Say About Johnny Depp Saying No To Prenup?

I was reading celebrity articles on the Internet a couple of days ago when I saw one titled “Johnny Depp Says No To Prenup For Fiancee Amber Heard“. It might not be big news for everyone, but as a huge Pirates of The Caribbean fan, it was big news to me. The article describes how Depp feels incredibly secure of his current relationship with Amber Heard, and therefore will not be signing a prenuptial agreement before the wedding which is planed for December of this year.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Image Credit: Peter Mountain

This news got me thinking about Thomas Hobbes and the importance of social contracts. In class when we were asked what relationships would we not want to use a contract for, me and many of my classmates answered family relationships. Nevertheless, I was shocked when I read about Depp’s refusal to sign a prenup (as many others including his ex-wife and mother of his children Vanessa Paradis). Let’s keep in mind a prenup is a form of social contract; and marriage is the institutionalized union of two people who want to join together and begin of a family. If we don’t want families to be regulated under a social contract, why do many of us support and encourage prenuptial agreements?

Thomas Hobbes. (Public domain, original source is unknown.)

In this blog post I want to analyze Johnny Depp’s decision and answer the question: what would Hobbes say about Johnny Depp saying no to prenup? I believe the exercise of exploring the importance and relevance of prenuptial agreements in modern society using Hobbes’s social contract theories will turn out to have an interesting outcome.

Hobbes believes men in the state of nature are dangerous, violent, solitary and brutish. He says the constant fear and the lack of authority can only be resolved by the institutionalization of a powerful sovereign. He also explains the importance of covenants, which are contracts or promises that have to be kept under all circumstances in order to leave in peace. Therefore, one could argue that Hobbes would encourage prenuptial agreements to counterbalance the fear of losing one’s money in the event of a divorce. That is exactly what Depp’s ex-wife is scared about: that Amber is not being sincere about her intentions and will eventually end up with half of the actor’s money.

On the other hand, one could argue that Hobbes could see marriage itself as a covenant. And covenants are not supposed to be broken under any event. Therefore, it would be worthless to have an extra contract that defines what happens in case the original contract is broken. Signing a prenuptial would mean there is no trust between the people who are getting married; and this is ironic and illogical.

I could not come up with a concrete answer to the original question of what would Hobbes think about Johnny Depp’s decision to say no to prenup. There are at least two positions the philosopher could take in the matter; and since his political theories are not based on current society, it is hard to come up with an upfront answer. Nevertheless, this exercise helped me come up with my own personal answer. If you don’t trust the person with who you are going to spend the rest of your life with, then maybe getting married is not a good idea. Even though signing a prenup eliminates all risk of financial fights in case a divorce happens, asking your partner to sign one is setting yourself up for failure. It is in a way sending a message of mistrust to your partner and lack of faith in the relationship. So, cheers to you Johnny Depp for being hopeful about your future marriage!

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