Thomas “Selfish” Hobbes

Are human-beings truly selfish? If you asked Thomas Hobbes he would say with 100% assurance yes. Hobbes believed that the only escape from a self-focused world is by entering social contracts. This would entail surrendering individual interests in exchange for social security. However, myself on the other hand would have to disagree with this statement. I believe you can still maintain your individual interests and achieve social security simultaneously.

Thomas Hobbes


I often see many people doing what they desire while still being in a social atmosphere because the people share the same individual interests. In addition, I consider that some selfish acts improve social status. Let’s take NBA basketball player Carmelo Anthony for example. If Carmelo did not take the majority of the New York Knicks shots and make it clear to his teammates that he is the best and the focus needs to be on him, he would not have the notoriety that he has currently such as the diehard fans, the endorsement deals, and the $20 million annual salary. I would say if Thomas Hobbes was around today, Carmelo would likely tell him to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new philosophy.

Carmel Anthony basking in all of his glory

Another point that contrasts Thomas Hobbes belief of all humans being selfish has to do with karma. In a sense, karma and selfishness are closely linked. When I think of karma I think of doing some act of kindness because it will elicit a positive occurrence. However, many people argue if karma even exists and in actuality the choices you are making really serve no future purpose. Because of this, I also contemplate that selfishness does not exist and that the choices we make are already programmed within us to an extent in a variant form of predetermination. It seems to me students at any level of education go to school because they want the direct benefits with a good education, not the education itself. We go through the motions doing what is necessary to achieve a job in various professions. I do not believe human nature without government would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Although there would be a substantial amount of turmoil having anarchy, I believe that people would eventually develop mini-societies based on peoples’ characteristics, wants, and backgrounds and divide accordingly. It would be a process that would take a while for people to reach a consensus based on similar self-interests, but it would definitely be something obtainable.

According to Hobbes, the only reason we form a society and agree not to harm the other person is to protect ourselves from being harmed by other people. However, everyday people are killed out of jealousy because a certain person wants to make another person’s life less significant. It’s hard for me to say what Hobbes endured to make him believe that all humans are selfish, but one thing I do know. Thomas Hobbes would be proven wrong if he saw how our society operates today.


One comment

  1. sklokiw · November 23, 2014

    I thought you raised an interesting point here. The idea that athletes gain security in society–both financially and in terms of social recognition–is definitely valid, and conflicts with Hobbes’ views. I think that Hobbes was not thinking in terms of a society where professional sports existed and were so revered by the public, but using sports as an example especially in the context of this class and many of the readings that we have had creates a very clear picture of how not all political ideologies and theories remain relevant as our social norms and values evolve. Your thought that students “want the direct benefits with a good education, not the education itself” is interesting as well–if grades didn’t exist, would we all be motivated to have our work promptly completed to a certain standard? It’s a compelling thought.


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