The Interplay Between Passion And Reason In Leviathan Thomas Hobbes

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In his political text Leviathan Thomas Hobbes describes a gruesome world where man has no sense of right and wrong and lives in a natural state of war. His actions are based primarily on passions, most notably the fear of death, and this fear colours every aspect of his life. Man, however, is a rational creature, and his possession of the faculty of reason also serves to shape his decisions and actions. This essay will explore the question, what effect does the interplay between passion and reason have on the creation of covenants and man’s obedience towards them? Hobbes states that man has the possibility of rising out of the state of nature “consisting partly in his passions, partly in his reasons;” (86) however, his entire argument relies…show more content…
Reason, however, is not man’s shinning virtue as it is often modernly portrayed, but can be seen as a dangerous device that entices him to break his covenants. Hobbes explores this idea when he explains why men cannot “live sociably with one another” (111) as bees and ants do. According to Hobbes the bees and ants “having not, as man, the use of reason, do not see, nor think they see any fault, in the administration of their common business; whereas amongst men, there are very many, that think themselves…better than the rest; and thereby bring it into distraction and civil war (111).” This claim that reason brings discord into society is consistent with Hobbes’ definition of the term. Reason is the sum of available information used to come to a conclusion, and not necessarily the sum of truths. This means that if a man believes himself more qualified to govern than the sovereign, then he will come to the rational conclusion that he should break his covenant and overthrow the commonwealth. This type of reasoning can apply to any situation and allow man to convince himself that he does not have to obey any covenant. In fact, it would be beneficial to break his covenants, especially if everyone else was obeying them, for he would then have an advantage over his fellow men and “of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself” (Hobbes 86). Since Hobbes refutes

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