Chapter: From Chaos to Order: The Role of the Self in Hobbes’ Moralism

Francis Offer: ‘From Chaos to Order: The Role of the Self in Hobbes’ Moralism’ in Elvis Imafidon and Brenda Hofmery (eds.), The Ethics of Subjectivity: Perspectives since the Dawn of Modernity, London, Palsgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp.11-23.

Abstract: In this essay, an attempt is made to extrapolate from Hobbes’ political theory, his views on morality, as espoused in his seminal work, Leviathan.1 Hobbes’ goal in Leviathan was not primarily to evolve a moral theory, but because the socio-political situation that precipitated his theorizing was beginning to defile all known rules of morality, it becomes imperative to examine the place of morality in his philosophical construct. Besides, the book Leviathan also detailed Hobbes’ physicalist outlook, which greatly influenced his interpretation of human actions on the basis of materialism. Hobbes’ concern and enthusiasm for science underscore his belief that everything that happens can be accounted for by the law of motion. For him, “knowing” and “willing” are merely the appearances of subtle motions and they underlie our desires and aversions, which ultimately define our concept of good and evil. Morality is thus not hinged on some reality beyond the reach and control of men, as was often held by his predecessors — particularly before Descartes. Rather it is a product of human social dwelling, a creation of social actors.