Hobbes and the Rationality of Self-Preservation: Grounding Morality on the Desires We Should Have
Philosophy and Religion
In deriving his moral code, Hobbes does not appeal to any mind-independent good, natural human telos, or innate human sympathies. Instead he assumes a subjectivist theory of value and an egoistic theory of human motivation. Some critics, however, doubt that his laws of nature can be constructed from such scant material. Hobbes ultimately justifies the acceptance of moral laws by the fact that they promote self-preservation. But, as Hobbes himself acknowledges, not everyone prefers survival over natural liberty. In this essay I show that Hobbes can argue that the desire for self-preservation is rationally required by modifying his subjectivist theory of the good to equate what is good for an agent only with the satisfaction of desires (for her own life) that she has at the time that they are satisfied. It is thus irrational to prefer postmortem glory over survival since an agent must be alive for glory to have any value for her.
(2013). Hobbes and the Rationality of Self-Preservation: Grounding Morality on the Desires We Should Have. European Legacy, 18(3), 269-286.
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