Surpassing the Obvious:
Analysis of the Writings of Thomas Hobbes and J.J.C. Smart
A term paper contrived is only as good as the sources from which it is assembled. It is from these reservoirs of knowledge that the bulk of a paper is developed. That is why it is absolutely imperative that the qualities of these sources are immaculate and relevant to the subject matter. Given my subject matter, ethical obligations and violence, it is critical to note and record the viewpoint of different philosophical ethical theories through the writings of different philosophers. Excerpts form Thomas Hobbes The Leviathan and J.J.C. Smart in Ethics for the Modern Life, prove to be effective in both previously matriculated qualities. Both authors give arguments for different types of ethical theories that give some aspect of significant worth to my term paper topic.
In The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes argues from a modified psychological egoist stand. By this it is meant that in his writings he argues that every one has a strong intrinsically engrained psychological tendency to act selfishly and that it takes hard work and individual sacrifice to obtain any type of altruistic goal. Hobbes argues that man is naturally in a state of nature and within this state each man is at constant war with other men in order to take and maintain property. He argues that it is our natural right
that is derived from our helpless selfishness that causes this environment of destruction and constant fear. The reason that Hobbes is separated away from other psychological egoist is in his belief that man has as opportunity to ascend out of the barbarous state of nature to a higher plane of security and society. According to Hobbes this can only happen when the aforementioned natural right to everyone elses property is relinquished by all to an ultimate sovereign: the Leviathan. Given that this right is renounced by all the element of fear is eliminated. Hobbes states that through the leviathan all concepts will be settled with a fair hand.
J.J.C. Smart, however, does not go into such detail into the psyche of man as a whole; rather his objectives center around an ethical theory that he feels all men should accept and participate in. This theory is rule-utilitarianism. Being a subset of simple utilitarianism its goals are synonymous with strict utilitarianism in that its ultimate intent is to provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number. Rule-utilitarianism, nevertheless, does provide for a more specific stipulation than simple utilitarianism. It states that any act is right (or ethical) if that act provides the most happiness to the most people. Smart argues that under Rule utilitarianism basic moral principles (i.e. dont steal, dont lie) are simply non-existent. This is because in some situations it may cause more happiness to lie and in those scenarios there should be no reservations in lying.
Thomas Hobbes effectively and persuasively argues for his beliefs in his book, The Leviathan. His strength in his convictions solidifies his arguments to audiences of both high expertise and those with less formal education in the subject. Thomas Hobbes, being a renowned philosopher, brings with his book a very high respect from
philosophers of every kind. This reputation is another positive attribute that sets Hobbes apart from the crowd and consequently makes his work a verifiably good source. Ironically, the age of this writing acts as a positive characteristic in its reputability as a good source. Although its first publication was in 1651, there have been few, if any deviations to his ideology. Hobbes, being a philosopher before his time, became a forerunner and set the standard by which most modern philosophers follow.
J.J.C. Smart also expostulates effectively. In his arguments he is clear and concise and steers away from the pompous tone that philosophers sometimes enlist that causes the reading to be dull. His grounds also seem to be rooted in a great amount of his individual belief in his subject matter. Smart is extremely capable of displaying his passion for his thesis through his writing. Although not as well known as Thomas Hobbes, Smart does have a worthy reputation within the realms of philosophy. Conversely to Hobbes, Smarts work was published at a significantly more recent time. Similar to Hobbes, Smarts thesis remains relevant throughout time. Given that it relates a philosophical view, it does not become irrelevant with time. Therefore his writings will always be current in the respect that they are pertinent to what is relevant in the world community.
Probably the strongest argument against Hobbes the Leviathan, is the argument against psychological egoism itself. The basic concept of psychological egoism is that all acts done by man are selfish in nature. This viewpoint is unverifiable in that any contention against it can be disputed away by the simple argument that whether man
believes it or not his subconscious drives him to be selfish in all of his endeavors. Since their can be no argument against the unknown motives of the subconscious mind, Hobbes stands without strong opposition, which does not make for a good source. Another weakness, though not as egregious as the first is this sources distance in theme to the topic. There is in no part where Hobbes argues on the ethical obligation and violence. However, his arguments can very easily be analyzed and connected to the thesis of my term paper.
Smart, although not without opposition as Hobbes appears to be, does not give a spot in his writing to the common opposition that utilitarian views sometimes receive. He fails to identify and argue away these counter-arguments and subsequently weakens his points. Likewise as with Hobbes writing, there is no point in which Smart discusses the specific points of ethical obligation and violence. However, similar to Hobbes, Smarts arguments can easily be transcribed and made relevant to the theme of the term.
Hobbes and Smart, both well-known and respected philosophers and writers, produce the ultimate examples of good sources. It is in their writing that any scholarly researcher searching for anything philosophical in nature can find a reliable, complete derivation of knowledge. As stated before these publications are relevant to my term paper in a much more involved way than the superficial. It is the underlying beliefs in each one of these philosophers viewpoints that provides me with a strong foundation to build my thesis on and subsequently my term paper.