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Ernesto Rodriguez

Philosophy 12: Ethics

Summer 2004


Post 7: Explain Hobbes’ egoist position in detail and how does this differ from Mill’s understanding of human nature? Compare Marx to both Hobbes and Mill’s Utilitarianism? How would he disagree? Basically I am asking you to articulate the ideas of EACH of these socio-political philosophers and then compare and contrast them at the end.


Hobbes was of the impression that human nature can be treated in the same way as natural science, that everything is the result of bodies in motion. With this logic Hobbes constructed his theory on human nature, essentially that endeavors, both of “desire” and “aversion” are what determine human behavior and evaluation, and therefore construct human nature.


Endeavors, by Hobbes’ definition, consist of voluntary actions that are the result of external stimuli that are mentally compared against “imagination and memory” (90) and then adjusted to a particular set of circumstances. The two types of endeavors are “desires”, which lead us to those things we consider good; and “aversions” which lead us away from those we consider evil. And so, Hobbes’ idea of human nature is a very mechanical one, based in psychology. By saying that concepts of good and evil are determined by personal desire or aversion, Hobbes is saying that there is no absolute good or evil. Rather, those things are directly relative to the individual’s desires and aversions.


Whereas Hobbes argued good and evil were governed by physiological impulses, Mill argued the utilitarian standpoint: that good and evil are directly related to pleasure and pain. In the Epicurean tradition, the ideology of Mill focused on pleasure and pain, and the different qualitative and quantitative aspects of each. By Mill’s standard, motivation comes from the pursuit of happiness, for the individual and for the greater society.


Karl Marx, unlike Hobbes or Mill, argues that economics were driving factor behind morality. He contended that all philosophical views were unconsciously driven by the economic interests of the bourgeois; not desire and aversions, and not pleasure and pain.