Thomas Hobbes and Joseph Butler were two great philosophers that had differing viewpoints to the question of “Why Be Moral? ” In this paper, I will show you the different points each makes to support their views and then explain why I believe that Butler’s response to this question is more satisfactory in my opinion. Thomas Hobbes believes that morality came from humans themselves, which humans were able to invent morality in order for us to be able to live together.
Hobbes believes that before humans signed the social contract, they lived in a state of nature, which consisted of no morality. Hobbes’ state of nature isn’t a pretty sight; it revolves around self-interest and what one has to do to survive. Hobbes sums up how to survive when he states that “For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger with himself (pg. 239).
” In a state of nature its pretty much kill, or be killed, which is why Hobbes believes the only way to get out of the state of nature is to make a social contract. Hobbes believes that if “a man be willing, when others re so too, as far-forth, as for peace, and defense of himself, he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men; as he would allow other men against himself (pg. 241). ” Once all those who live in a state of nature give up their word to obey the sovereign, then the sovereign’s word becomes that of morality.
It’s in our self-interest to make this social contract so that we don’t have to live in fear of being killed by someone who wants our sleeping spot, or wants the river from which we live near; it lets us sleep peacefully and comfortably at night. Hobbes states it’s in or self-interest to make a social contract. However in response to Hobbes’ idea of a social contract, The Fool states that since he’s the one who has to promote his own interests, than it’s in his interest to make the social contract, but it’s also in his interest to break it when it’s in his benefit and he cannot be caught.
Because Hobbes’ calls the man who refutes him as “The Fool” he is implying that the person who is making the challenge isn’t reasoning well. Hobbes states that the fool is making an irrational gamble. An example of an irrational gamble is, suppose I were to enter a marathon that consisted of 100,000 runners, each who has had professional training in preparation for this run.
If I were also to have professional training before the run and were to bet about $10, then it wouldn’t be such an irrational gamble for me to do well and win the bet that I placed. However, If I never have run a marathon before and never had professional training before the marathon and I want to place my entire life savings on the fact that I would win, than its an irrational gamble to think that I would do well and win the bet, and even more so of an irrational gamble to believe I would win the marathon.
Hobbes appeals to the idea of risking everything with very little success when it comes to making an irrational gamble. By being a person, such as the fool, who breaks their word you’re not able to live in society or if you are and they find out that you have broken the social contract then you’ll be kicked out and will have to live in a state of nature, which means that you have the risk of dying, so by adopting the fool’s theory than you are risking your own life.
The fool is counting on the ability that once he breaks the social contract, then he will be able to get away with it, but he doesn’t take into account that Hobbes mentions earlier, “Nature hath made men so equal, in the faculties of the body, and mind; … when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and man, is not so considerable… (pg. 239). ” The fool isn’t taking in account that the people who he is trying to cheat are just as smart as he is because Hobbes’ mentions that all men are equal in body and even greater equal mentally.
This equality point on Hobbes’ view makes it so that there’s very little chance for The Fool’s theory to be of success. Hobbes believes that we should be moral for our own self-interest. If we conform to a social contract and the rule of a sovereign we will be able to live peacefully together. This leads to a civil society where it’s able to produce a world that provides for our own interests better. This world is one that consists of jobs in the form of agriculture and industry; if one is efficient in farming then he will take up the agriculture job and be efficient in the career path he chooses.
Once civil society is established then it leads to morality which humans have invented in order to live together. Hobbes believes we should be moral in order to suffice our self-interests. Joseph Butler has an argument similar to Thomas Hobbes but he believes that where Hobbes went wrong was when he was defining human nature, Butler believes that self-interest is only one part of human nature. Butler answers the “Why Be Moral” question by taking a different approach then Hobbes and stating that a person’s conscience is morality enough.
Conscience is when you sit back and take a look at who you are and then pass judgment of if you are the kind of person you want to be, or that God wants you to be. “Your obligation to obey this law, is its being the law of your nature. That your conscience approves of and attests to such a course of action, is itself alone an obligation (pg. 258). ” With any action comes two paths of choice, one which we will later reflect about and believe that what we did was the moral way to go, and one which we will feel guilty about and hate ourselves for doing.
For example, say you happened to be at a neighbor’s house when there house was being robbed, and you knew the robber who was one of the girls’ at your school. This girl was popular and rich, and her parents were very good lawyers. The police come and you have to make a decision and tell them that you recognized who the robber was or deny having seen their face. If you’re not moral and you don’t tell the police you know who the robber was, after your conscience comes along you’re going to feel bad because you let her get away with it which means she may do it again, maybe even to you the next time, and you’re putting your neighbors at risk.
What if the next time this girl robs a house she decides to bring a gun? What if next time she actually kills someone? Butler says that inside of us is a “natural guide; … it therefore belongs to our condition of being, it is our duty to walk in that path, and follow this guide, without looking about to see whether we may not possibly forsake them with impunity (pg. 258). ” If you are about to take a course of action that you don’t know whether or not is right, the natural guide inside of your will approve or disapprove of that action that your about to take.
Butler believes that we should be moral because it is in our interest to be as well as in our interest for society based on what our conscience is able to tell us. Our conscience is able to tell whether the path we take is going to be one we will prosper from, or one we will ultimately become failures from. When reflecting back on both Thomas Hobbes view and Joseph Butlers view on morality, I believe that Butlers’ view is more satisfactory due to his definition of human beings, and the limited basis for which there is argument against his view.
Butler believes that human beings are independent to some degree, but humans are social creatures as well. I think this takes precedence over Hobbes’ view of humans, which he believes are separate from one another because of the fact that they are only independent creatures and think of only their selves when making a decision. I believe that because we are social creatures we have more of an advantage then the humans Hobbes’ describes because since we are able to interact with people we are able to feel their pain and happiness when something happens.
If a good friend’ grandmother dies and they are extremely down then you are most likely going to be down as well because you really care about your friend, on the other hand if your friend gets a job promotion she has been wanting for years then you are going to be feel excited for them. Another reason that I choose Butlers view as being stronger than Hobbes is because there are only a few arguments that can be made to argue against his view. The main argument that can be made against Butlers view is that he doesn’t include the people in the world who don’t have a conscience.
Butler refutes this by saying that these people aren’t able to defeat his theory because every now and then you come across a sociopath. Sociopaths are people who are able to look in the mirror after murdering a family and be happy with one’s self and have no guilt as to what they just did. A normal person more or less wouldn’t even decide to kill a family no matter how much they hated them, but if they for some rare chance did kill a family they would feel remorse for it and probably wouldn’t even be able to look in a mirror afterwards.
Butler makes a good point, how many people are there in this world that can look in the mirror after doing something immoral and like what they’ve done? Answer is, not very many. Butler’s response, for me, hits home for me because he views humans as more than just independent creatures, but ones that are able to interact with one another, and have a conscience that decides whether an act is moral or immoral. The view of “Why Be Moral? ” will continue to be argued between philosophers for years to come.
Morality can lie in your own self-interest, according to Hobbes, or in your conscience, according to Butler. Morality is what you make of it, and in order to be a person of moral standing you have to act moral to achieve it. Works Cited Markie, Peter. “Joseph Butler. ” Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues. By Steven M. Cahn. N. p. : n. p. , n. d. 247-60. Print. Markie, Peter. “Thomas Hobbes. ” Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues. By Steven M. Cahn. N. p. : n. p. , n. d. 236-46. Print.