Was Hobbes Right?

Louisiana are pretty remarkable. Gunmen targeting medical convoysWidespread lootingHere’s some aerial photography that shows the water covering neighborhoods.  Here’s a link to a photo series from the WashingtonPost (if this link doesn’t work for you there’s a link from the post home page).  Its unbelievable to see what’s going on and disheartening to watch some of the behavior that is emerging in what has become somewhat of a lawless area (I’m not talking about people stealing groceries to live on – I’m talking about the people looting from jewelry stores and the like).  Reports of the devastation in

In one of my philosophy classes in college we read Hobbes and Rousseau back to back and had to write a paper on who had the correct view on society (Hobbes’ premise that society and laws were needed to keep human nature, which was inherently bad, in check or Rousseau who argued that humans were born good and that it was society that corrupted us).  I’m not sure which of these views is supported by what we’re witnessing, but either way it’s a sad commentary on the state of our society (to say nothing of how unprepared government agencies seemed to be to deal with a disaster that was days in the making).


  • The “Mythe du Bon Sauvage” (the good savage myth ?) that Rousseau was defending did not really cover exceptional events like this one, where the best and the worst of human nature might be revealed.

  • Since we’ve basically accepted Hobbes’ premise – and have laws and a society – I don’t think what’s happening in Louisiana is a sign that he was “right.” I think what’s happening is a natural reaction when you’ve been in “chains” and they are then freed. For example, when a teenager first gets his driver’s license he drives a car obsessively because of his newfound freedom. Here, we are all accustomed to law and order, so when such extreme chains are broken we respond with extreme reactions. It’s hard to say whether this is “really” human nature, or simply a reaction to a now broken reality that we’ve been in since birth, a reaction that can be horrible if it’s during horrible events or really benign if what’s being broken is a positive thing and there’s that brief moment of exhileration.
    I don’t know if I made any sense… 🙂

  • John Nowaczyk

    But the essential, compelling thing I remember from the same sort of course/comparison (although it was almost 20 years ago and memory is weak) was not that Rousseasu believed man was basically virtuous (which, I think he did), but rather that virtue was essential for any political order to work and laws and the threat of punishment would inevitably fail on their own for a variety of reasons – and therefore that the prescriptions implied by Hobbes’ view would fail without virtue. So, in a way, maybe they were both right…

  • Hobbes was certainly right about one thing, which is that he uses the phrase “Nature, red in tooth and claw,” which is originally from a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memorium. I think we see both the worst and the best of human nature in the devastating aftermath of acts of Nature nature.

  • Sometimes, I am at a loss as to the economic status of the U.S.Whilst it is spending hugh amount of money funding itd provocation in remote areas of the World combing the desert and climbing the mountain range but it national savings rate drops to zero. What happened to our Country? If it is not that wealthy or counting on other countries to finance its current account deficit. Why couldn’t her people start saving for the rainy days ( Look at Japan and if its savings rate is not as high as 70%….How could it weather more than 15 years in economic recesion ) Beware that our so low interest rate initiated by Alan Greenspan has, matter of factly, nurtured the Property Bubble which may start puncturing in the next twelve months if the reverse in interest rate initiated by Alan Greespan again beginning last year has stepwose increased the Federal Funds Rate to 3.50% by now, which would soon trigger a reversal in the property market.
    Now we have the catastrophe swept across our South East States and look at New Orleans, we soon would recognise that we may have more than 10, 000 deaths and our dear George W. Bush is still have-heartedly visiting the affected areas comforting the ones who have lost their homes or even their loved ones ( whilst his mind is still left in his range in Texas).It seems that we have an absent-minded leader leading our Country into all sorts of dead ends in Iraq, in Social Security, in Economy, in Finance, in Trade, in Terrorism,or just peace of mind.In the meantime, do not forget about the everincreasing fuel prices…..I may have to ask…” Are we better off than we were four years ago…..If we are not, do we need to change a leader for our nation so that tis people do not have to be in the “Dark Water” again and again for another three odd years?
    We Americans have become loss track of our ideals, our life, our money.God bless America….