Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Arnhart, Hobbes, & Locke
Larry Arnhart has an interesting piece on “might makes right,” including some reflections on Hobbes and Locke. I have no disagreement but I would add a note. The root of modern conservatism is the view that human beings are dangerous animals. Hobbes and Locke differ in their view of what makes us so dangerous to one another.
Hobbes thinks that the root cause of human violence is a combination of greed and fear. We want what others have and we fear that others may take what we have. I might kill someone else to get the fish he has caught or to keep him from taking mine. This, however, seems insufficient to explain the phenomenon. If he snatches my catch and gets clean away, it makes no sense to follow him. The energy and the danger involved weigh more than the fish.
Locke thinks that the root cause of the same is our sense of righteous indignation. If I follow the thief for days and then bash his head in, it isn’t because I desire what he has. It’s because he took my damn fish!
The natural sense of justice is both the condition for the emergence of political communities and, according to Locke, the chief reason for their necessity. I agree with Larry that the moral sense is a product of human evolution and I am convinced by Chris Boehm’s argument that it is anti-authoritarian in origins.
I only add that the moral sense is both the solution and the cause of the most basic social problem.