Thomas Hobbes vs. Immanuel Kant Essay

1715 Words Apr 19th, 2012 7 Pages
Thomas Hobbes Vs. Immanuel Kant
PART 1: Thomas Hobbes
“Everyone is governed by his own reason, and there is nothing he can make use of that may not be a help unto him in preserving his life against his enemies (Hobbes, 120).” Thomas Hobbes, who is a considered a rational egoist, makes this point in his book Leviathan. Hobbes believes that the means of person’s actions can only be amounted to how it ultimately affects that person. Our moral duties that we perform in the end, all stem from self-interest, rather than being justified as morally right or wrong. Hobbes states that our desires pit us against one another, and the only way to protect our self-interests is to create a common power that protects the people who consent to it.
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Therefore using anything at your disposal as a means would have no moral worth. “It is not enough that the action does not conflict with humanity in our person as an ends in itself; it must also harmonize with it”(Kant, 113). People must act not according inclinations or rules, but it involves performing acts that have no gains for us, and that is the only way to preserve humanity.
Although Kant agrees with Hobbes that a state of nature does exist without proper authority, he counters, saying it does not exist because everyone is acting out of duty. Stating self-interest is the motivation for our actions and ultimate end conflicts with the principle of forming a covenant to protect our self-interests. We would still be in a state of nature, due the “fool” who does not obey his covenant. Thusly, making a covenant out of self-interest can lead to people in society breaking this contract or making empty promises, as a result of later gains they may receive by not abiding. Instead, when acting out of duty “I must reflect carefully whether this lie (broken covenant) may later give rise to much greater inconvenience (Kant, 107),” which ultimately can harm our inclination to self-preserve. Before one can act they must ask the question would they want others to act in that manner? This sets a maxim for each individual to follow, so a covenant is formed that society will not break because it our duty, and acting out of from this
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