Thomas Hobbes’ Understanding of Good and Evil

Thomas Hobbes’ Understanding of Good and Evil

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

According to Hobbes, what causes pleasure or happiness is good, and what causes displeasure or unhappiness is bad. Whatever the object of a man’s desire or desire may be called good by him, the object of his hatred or disgust will be bad and worthless. That is, good and bad are relative concepts; There is no absolute good or bad.

Nor is there a common criterion taken from the objects themselves to distinguish between good and evil. The criterion in this regard is the individual himself. Good and evil depend on the voluntary acts of the individual. If we think in relation to the state, it is the sovereign power that determines what is good and what is bad. In the talk of mental virtues, Hobbes distinguishes between natural and acquired mental qualities. For example, some people are naturally slow and some are fast, the basis of this distinction depends on the distinction of their passions. Those whose aim is sensual pleasure are less fond of things that do not contribute to that end, and they do not pay attention to the means of gaining knowledge.

Factors such as acquired understanding, i.e. education on intelligence, play an important role. The passions that play a major role in the distinctions of understanding in this area are the desire for power, wealth, knowledge, and honor. The last three of these can be reduced to the first, for wealth, knowledge, and honor are but different kinds of power. The desire for power is the most basic factor in terms of developing the mental predispositions of people. Hobbes’ views of psychology and morality are based on atomic individualism. Even if people live in groups, they determine what is good and bad with their own will. This might be called atomic individualism. In order to avoid the problems caused by this individualism, Hobbes has evolved human life from individualism to the life of the ‘State’, which is also an artificial body.

Atomic individualism is based on the principle that people determine what is good and bad with their individual will, even if they live collectively.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook