Decoding Desire: How Hobbes Unraveled Human Emotions and Built a Blueprint for Society

This section talks about the ethics part of Hobbes’ philosophy. According to his definition, the research object of ethics is human temperament and behavior, which is actually human nature. Philosophy studies objects, and human nature is also an object. He tries to study human nature as an objective thing and find its laws. He concluded that desire is the most basic factor in human nature, and desire can explain all human emotions, moods and behaviors. His views on life issues, including happiness and morality, and his politics are also based on his understanding of human nature.

1. Desire is a basic factor in human nature

Hobbes regarded desire as the basic factor in human nature and tried to use it to explain all human emotions and emotions. In his view, human behavior is governed by emotions and emotions, and all human emotions and emotions are just different forms of desire. He did not define what desire was. Judging from his usage, he did not equate desire with human biological instinct. Its meaning is much broader and refers to people’s impulse to want any kind of thing. Different emotions and moods arise due to different desires, or because desires are realized or hindered. His discussion is not coherent. I organized it according to my own understanding and divided the emotions and emotions he discussed into the following five groups:
The first group is pleasure and pain. Desire is the movement of life. When desire is satisfied and the movement of life is strengthened, the emotion at this time is called happiness. When desires cannot be satisfied and the movement of life is hindered, the emotion at this time is called pain.

The second group is love and hate. What a person desires is also what he loves, so love and desire are the same thing. The difference is that desire refers to the situation when the object is not present, while love refers to the situation when the object is present. The opposite of love is hate. The emotion when the object of hatred is not present is called disgust, and the emotion when the object of hatred is present is called hate. Loving someone exclusively and wanting that person to love you exclusively is called love. The hatred that arises from unrequited love is called resentment. Universal love for others is called kindness.
The third group is hope and disappointment . Believe that the desire can be realized, the desire at this time is called hope. Desires that are believed to be impossible to achieve are called disappointments. The constant presence of hope is called self-confidence, and the constant presence of disappointment is called inferiority complex.

The fourth group is fear and courage. Feeling that the object will cause harm and not daring to resist is called fear. The emotion of believing that one can avoid harm by resisting is called courage. A sudden surge of courage is called anger, and anger caused by seeing injustice done to others is called indignation. The desire for small gains and the fear of small harms are called cowardice, and the contempt for gains and harms are called heroic. The heroism shown in the face of death or great suffering is called strength, and the heroism shown in the use of wealth is called generosity. Fear caused by unknown reasons is called panic. This emotion is easily contagious and often exists among a group of people.
The fifth group is the desire for power. Power refers to the means by which a person obtains specific benefits in society, and is divided into two categories: one is natural and original power, that is, superiority in physical and mental functions, such as appearance, physical strength, intelligence, origin, etc.; the other is the acquisition of The power is
There are four main advantages obtained by relying on natural power, acquired luck and one’s own efforts, namely power, wealth, reputation and knowledge. The desire for power and position is called ambition, and the desire for wealth is called greed. Both of these are derogatory terms. Hobbes believed that a fair evaluation should look at whether the means of acquisition and the method of use were legitimate. The desire for reputation, if the name is worthy of the name, is called self-respect; if the name is not worthy of the name, it is called vanity. Vanity is a psychology most likely to occur in young people, and it is often encouraged by stories of heroic characters, but it is often corrected by age and work. The desire for knowledge is called curiosity. Hobbes spoke highly of this desire for power, saying that it is a unique passion that distinguishes humans from other animals. However, he also pointed out that knowledge is only a small kind of power, because knowledge is The essence determines that there are too few people who understand its benefits.
There are also emotions related to power. The joy that comes from knowing that you have power is called pride. The pain that comes from feeling you lack power is called depression. There is shame in depression if you know it is caused by some flaw in your ability. Seeing other people’s success in power, wealth, reputation, and knowledge, and wanting to work hard to surpass them is called being competitive. In doing so, if you try to exclude and hinder the other person, this is called jealousy.

Hobbes used desire as the basic factor, analyzed various emotions in people’s hearts, and painted a map of human nature. In the modern West, he was the first person to do this kind of analysis. In a certain sense, he can be said to have founded an emotional psychology.

2. Desire is the driving force of life

Hobbes believed that desire is not only the basic factor in human nature, but also the driving force of life. Desire is the movement of life, without desire there is death. A person whose desires have ceased, just like a person whose feelings and perceptions have ceased, cannot live on. Desire produces passion , which exists in various forms of passion. Weak passion means dullness, and life will be very boring.
What is happiness? Happiness is the continuous advancement of desire from one goal to another, and reaching the former goal only paves the way for the latter goal. The purpose of human desire is not to enjoy it once in the present, but to always ensure the path to future desires . There is no ultimate goal in life. It seems that reaching that goal is happiness. A person who can continue to succeed in what he desires and is always in a vigorous state is happiness in this life. Happiness does not lie in being satisfied or seeking improvement. The so-called eternal tranquility of the soul simply does not exist in this world, because life itself is a kind of movement, and it is impossible to be without desires and various passions.
This is actually a critique of Stoic ethics. As for the so-called happiness in the afterlife preached by Christianity, or the so-called intuitive happiness that a person can enjoy immediately as long as he has a pious belief in God, Hobbes said that it is as incomprehensible as the various absurd words of the scholastic philosophers.

Hobbes tried his best to justify desire and advocated a positive and enterprising attitude towards life. However, he does not believe that there can be no restrictions on desires, even for happiness, they must be restricted. We should realize that every action we take in this life is the beginning of a long chain of consequences. In this chain, pain and pleasure are connected together, and indulging in desire will inevitably lead to suffering associated with it. For example, dissipation will lead to disease, imprudence will lead to disaster, injustice will lead to revenge, pride will lead to failure, cowardice will lead to oppression, and so on. These pains are natural punishments for corresponding actions, so we should try to look further ahead, pursue happiness rationally, and avoid getting the beginning of a chain of consequences that brings huge pain. Obviously, this is basically Epicurus’s point of view, so Hobbes’s ethics can be classified as hedonistic.
From a moral point of view, if human desires and passions are not restricted by some kind of force, people will always be at war with each other and there will be no peace. Because of different temperaments, habits and concepts, people’s desires are also different. If everyone regards their own desires as the yardstick for judging good and evil, this kind of war between people will be inevitable. Therefore, for the sake of human peace and happiness, there must be common moral laws to restrict people’s behavior. Fairness, justice, and kindness are good and virtues because they are the means to achieve human peace and happiness. Hobbes emphasized that morality is a means and did not believe that morality had inherent value, which actually initiated the British utilitarian stance.
Moral law itself does not have the power to make people obey. It must rely on a coercive force, that is, the state. The creation and existence of the state is, in the final analysis, to bring the satisfaction of people’s desires into a peaceful track. This is the subject of the next section, Hobbes’s political doctrine.

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