Plato versus Hobbes

The issue of moral responsibility is fundamental to the philosophy of Plato s  Apology  and Hobbes  Leviathan . Though there are many known philosophers in the world, these two stands out whenever there are talks about morality and ultimate reality.

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher who was accounted by his views on political philosophy.  He was the one who pioneered on illustrating the transition from medieval to modern thinking. He supplemented ideas to different fields like history, geometry, physics of gases, theology, ethics, and many more. Hobbes philosophy on morality is based on senses as the extreme reality of humans. Our senses are the ones that dictate to us the wants and needs of our body. For that reason, he relied on the senses as the ruler of our actions. It tells whether another person is an enemy, can respond to external stimuli, and can be a reason for a man s desires. Desire, however, is another story. He considered desire as a powerful force for it can nearly dominate one s way of thinking. If these desires are satisfied, pleasure is obtained. If not, there is aversion, which he regarded as evil. Pleasure, as he believed, is the meaning of truth for it is beneficial to us. By this, Hobbes was able to conclude that man is evil by nature for he acts according to his desires. For sometimes, desire can cause a man to hurt another human being just to obtain it. Man usually uses force and fraud to obtain what he wants. This is where the idea of diffidence, competition and glory emerges. All three of this uses force and fraud to (1) defend oneself (2) obtain gainprofit (3) overvalue things. This is why Hobbes made another theory that man is always engaged in a perpetual warfare. It is the same with saying that man is allergic to one another. Man is anti-social and retreats oneself from the outside world. They are paranoid about one another and always in doubt about the society.  This paranoia is what he called the  invisible fear  which resides in every human being s mind. This is very common in society at present. A rich lady who cannot sleep at night for she might get robbed, a doctor who fears mistake, a middle aged lady who is afraid to die young, and a whole lot more.

Plato is a classical Greek philosopher who was mainly known as one of Socrates  first students. He helped lay foundations of natural philosophy, science and western philosophy. His philosophy was much influenced by his teacher s unjust death. However, in his philosophy on morality, Hobbes was contrasted. He believed that our bodies are nothing more than imitative and illusory art.  According to him, the soul is the basic foundation of reality.  He implied that the soul is eternal and continuously reincarnating. And through this, Plato, being the sophist that he was, also related that knowledge is in the soul for eternity. However, every time the soul is reincarnated, knowledge is lost. Therefore, what other people consider as learning is actually the lost knowledge that once again been regained through anamnesis or remembering. And the knowledge that is obtained is considered genuine. On the other hand, it is still beyond our intellectual capacity to know what happens after death. So, as from Socrates  teachings, Plato concluded that it is unwise to fear death.

There is no denying that both philosophers are reasonable. But which of the two is better rationalized Well, the answer to this question really depends on a person s perspective. As for mine, I believe that Hobbes philosophy surpasses Plato for I can see that he uses practical approach to the matter and is the only one who uses scientific reasoning in determining human behavior. To justify this, let us compare and contrast.  Plato is an idealist while Hobbes is a realist. Plato dwells on the idea that man is perfect by nature because of his soul, however, as from his teacher Socrates, there is no man who possesses boundless knowledge, hence referring to a perfect being. Hobbes however accepted the reality that men are evil by nature (which makes them imperfect), and society corrupts them more.  I admit, committing sins is inevitable and sometimes, most of the reason I (and other people as well) am forced to do it is because I got provoked. This action only shows that we have emotions and we act according to our senses, which is another justification of Hobbes  philosophy. When it comes to man s recklessness, Plato assumed that this is due to his ignorance of the truth, while Hobbes supposed that this is due to the self-interest and fear of domination of others (Dejnozka 6). In this statement, Plato expected men to be intelligent and acknowledged that man just ignores the truth but is not really foolish.  Hobbes, however, based his reasoning on man s behavior itself. I believe he came to conclude something like this because this is what he sees from society. Yes, I can so much agree that the society he came to know was those in his times, which if we consider it, would be a little obsolete by now for it may be different. But let us face it, society still has not changed. The only way to escape the pressures of society is by creating one of your own. In terms of values, Plato believed that values are eternal and useless if not used simultaneously with intellect. For Hobbes, values are natural laws concerning sentiments which are eternal (Dejnozka 6). Sounds the same but have completely different meanings. For Plato, in relation to the soul, he also considered values as eternal. But in reality, there are some values which are forgotten through time. For Hobbes, sentiments are the ones that are eternal. And if you look closely, this is extremely true for sentiments never change. Even a hundred year by now, happiness is still happiness. If you see other people happy, it may not be your life but still, you can see through them that happiness is preserved.

When it comes to political philosophy, Hobbes is considered as a paramount. He described his belief as the commonwealth. The commonwealth has three types monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. In monarchy, there is an ideal ruler, one who has absolute power over the state. This one ruler is characterized as the one who will be the best chosen among the people. I assume that his principle on  man in perpetual warfare  is relevant to this topic. People who continuously compete have one goal, that is, their desire. In this case, their desire is to obtain absolute power, so Hobbes made it a challenge for a person to be in the position of being a ruler for it is glory that awaits himher. I guess Hobbes is thinking about an environment wherein people will submit to one person only as their leader since it will be a real challenge. Aristocracy is somewhat the same with monarchy however, the leader of the state comes from the assembly of a part only. This chosen part is composed mostly of higher class people of the society. The most popular type of commonwealth is democracy, wherein there is separation of power. It is the same as saying an assembly that is combined to rule. In democracy, people also have freedom from certain things, hence making them less manageable. The distinctions between these three kinds of commonwealth lie not in the difference of power, but in the difference of convenience of aptitude to produce peace and security of people.  His principle on social contract was also a relevant topic. Social contract is defined as the total submission of all the rights and privileges of an individual to attain sovereign in exchange of freedom. It is the society wherein people are equal in strength, intelligence and rights.

Nevertheless, no matter how hard we compare and contrast Platos and Hobbes  philosophy, there is no denying that both still have some similarities. They are both committed to the use of reason (Dejnoska 5). They both tried to explain the concepts of morality in their own ways. They tried to give the existence of human more sense and meaning. They both did not give up in seeking knowledge, and that, above all is what is important.


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