Hobbes and Augustine :
Compare how Hobbes and Augustine think the condition of war arises and
defend one author's account of 'ordinary' morality as an antidote for it.
Augustine believes that the condition of war arises when the
perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God is disrupted (The City
of God, 690) whereas Hobbes believes that the original state of nature is
a condition of constant war, which rational and self-motivated people
want to end.
Augustine argues that peace is more than the absence of hostilities
- it is a state of harmony that makes possible the full functioning of
human beings. Full functioning comes from the four internal virtues
(courage, justice, temperance, and prudence) that we must exercise to
achieve good human morality. Human morality, by and of its self, will not
allow us humans to travel to our moral destination. It is only an
exercise of the four virtues so that we as humans can achieve some sort
of peace on our own through God's saving grace.
To Augustine, humans seek an object of love they can't lose. The
problem with that to humans is that humans can't provide that to other
humans completely. Only God can and that in turn causes hostility among
humans. The love of God, then, is the only way humans can completely
satisfy all four virtues and have eternal peace. Eternal peace is where
faith, love, and hope are to be enjoyed, such as in The City of God.
In Book XIX, Augustinian social theory summarizes the principle of
ordered harmony. This theory finds perfection in a mutual society that
believes in God. Believing in God, though, lends a problem in the simple
rule of justice: how do we give each other their due? Seemingly, war or
hostility would not be a part of a Christian's life on earth. Augustine
counters by indicating that war may be and is waged by God's commandment.
To Augustine, waging war out of obedience to God is very different than
to wage war for personal gain. But even wars caused by unselfish humans
can be profitable to the faithful through patience and discipline to God.
Augustine seems to believe that war is waged so that peace may be
obtained. Since we all seek peace, war, then, can be obligatory when evil
Hobbes, on the other hand, believes that war is a natural condition
of mankind. Although Hobbes and Augustine seem to both believe that
there needs to be one source of law (Augustine, God and Hobbes, Social
Contracts), Hobbes takes off to suggest that we are motivated by selfish
self-interests and because of that, we are better off living in a world
of moral rules. Without these rules we are at the mercy of other people's
self - interest. War becomes the need to gain control of our own
environments when others try to exploit us.
These self - interests are Hobbe's way of saying that all of our
actions are a product of our own beliefs. We believe we are more superior
than anyone else other than God and this natural passion brings in the
first law of nature according to Hobbes: Liberty of man to reason. We all
wish to reason for ourselves and we expect others to understand this as
they want the same. Therefore, war comes from the lack of others
respecting your feelings, to some degree.
The second law of nature, where we should lay down our liberty when
others do as well, brings out a sense of unity between us. If we give up
our rights to each other then we will all be happy and that leads to
peace. The third law of nature is to do to others as they do you.
Seemingly this authorizes, even demands, war when war is waged against
you. But unless there is a betrayal, war would be against the law of
The fourth law of nature, to show gratitude to others who benefit
you, is a take-off of the love thy neighbor theme, it seems. It follows
that if I help you in war then you have benefited me and I should benefit
you in return for a mutual-defence. Preservation is a self - interest and
we all desire that.
Overall, I believe that Hobbe's theory cast closer to Lord of the
Flies than Augustine's. The way the boys separate into groups (ie:
hunters and the peaceful) shows a return to the basics of life. The boys
chose to go with the hunters out of fear or that not going with them
(knowing a monster was out there) would bring on a more favorable result.
I would assume this is a form of Consequentialism because the action was
best for the boy himself or for the group.
In Lord of the Flies, hostilities grew out of each boy's own self-interest
for desire, be it safety, food, shelter, or peer attention and
companionship in numbers. Based on Hobbes theory, when the hunters stole
the knife or eyeglasses from the peaceful boys, the hunters were simply
acting in their own rational self-interest. Whether they were morally
correct or not is a different question. But their attempt to set their
own set of moral rules through their actions demonstrates their basic
need to control their own self-interests.
Hobbes and Augustine
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