Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A State of Mind for Peace


In your last letter you wrote about how you are having a hard time getting along with your roommate. While I can understand your point of view, I think that it would be good for you and Tanner to figure out how to better communicate and solve your problems together. Have you thought about why you seem to be getting into arguments? Let me share an insight from an Enlightenment philosopher about social order that will help you to think about your motives and hopefully help you reestablish your friendship on better grounds of communication.  

Thomas Hobbs was an English philosopher of the Enlightenment, who was mostly concerned about social and political order. He studied human interactions of people during times of peace, civil conflict, and danger. He developed theories about the “state of nature” of humans, which he found to be based on self-interest. Within or self-interested minds we have different motives. Luckily for you and your situation with fighting with your roommate, Hobbs detailed three reasons why humans in general tend to argue.

“In nature of man we find three principal causes for quarrel: first, competition; secondly, distrust; thirdly, glory.” (Thomas Hobbs, Leviathan)

I had an online discussion with some classmates about the validity of Hobbs’s “causes of arguments.” I asked my peers if they could think of any other motives that would start an argument or all quarrels/arguments really could fit under the three umbrella causes: competition, distrust, and glory. Some of my peers brought up the need to feel loved or the lack of communication as being possible additional umbrellas, but I feel like those are just subcategories of Hobbs’s three principal causes. If one doesn’t feel loved they must feel that it is a competition and they are comparing themselves to others or they feel they need to gain love and trust.

Hobbs considered this “state of nature,” or those natural responses that cause arguments, to be something that we should avoid. He states that there are nineteen laws of nature, but that two are crucial. One is about the right of nature and its connection to peace and the other is about the interaction of the state of nature and civil society.

“Every man ought to endeavor peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it, and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war.” (Leviathan, xiv.4)

Though Leviathan is a philosophical book about a broader society, Hobbs still brings up crucial points about our natural responses to conflict and peace that will help you understand how to have a better relationship with those around you.  

Sincerely your sister,


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