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Human Nature In Realism And Liberalism

2441 words - 10 pages

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1683) on the other hand, redefined the concept of human nature when challenging the classical view of human nature by Aristotle as idealistic perceptive of humans controlling their desire through reason, simultaneously being moral and social animals by nature. According to Hobbes, the human being is not moral, nor social, but has: “a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceases only in death” (Hobbes 2009, XI 2). With the inevitable and constant struggle for power, Hobbes contributed to conceptualize human nature, which became fundamental in realism. Hobbes characterized human nature as egoistic within the state of nature, and introduces the social ...view middle of the document...

Significantly, this changes the perception to believe that man was something before living in a society. Hobbes defined this concept as state of nature, the conditions in which man lived in before societies established (Schwitzgebel 2007, 147). Secondly, the ancient Greeks defined man by his essence and viewed man as a sensible man. Hobbes on the other hand, defines man based on his capability to survive, rather than his essence. Man’s priority and duty is to survive. Thus Hobbes questioned what rights can be given in the state of nature in order for human being to survive. Hobbes gives man total liberty to practise any capable act to survive. Consequently, shaping the concept of natural law. Because natural law permits everyone the right to act in order to survive, such as loot or kill, the state of war becomes a significant problem. Man will therefore seek his self-interest and as Hobbes states: “All against all, man is a wolf for man” (Hobbes 2007, 115). The state of nature is a dangerous existence. Hobbes questions how to extract a man from a position that is naturally designed for man. As a result the idea of human nature promoted the development of a ‘social contract theory’. In order to coexist, a social contract must be present. For security reasons, man must give up some liberties given by the right of nature to ensure security for everyone and self-preservation. Self-preservation was according to Hobbes a fundamental natural instinct. Hence, developing the Social Contract theory when revolutionizing the concept of human nature within political philosophy that was established by Aristotle when characterizing man as a wild animal like any other animal.

The state of nature, described and constructed by great thinkers, is defined by the behaviour of human nature. Both state of nature and human nature are significant concepts in the study of International Relations and of realism. Realism perceives the human nature to be self-centred and naturally egoistic that it overrules any moral principles. This is visible in one of the earliest recorded and acknowledged classical texts in international relations: Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, where the Athenians prioritise their self-interest over morality (Thucydides 1956, chap. 1 par. 76). Furthermore Thucydides (460–411 B.C.E.) viewed politics as connected with moral questions by questioning the relations amongst states and if power, which is crucial, will be able to be guided by the norms of justice. An approach that has inspired theorists such as Hobbes to contemporary scholars in international relations because of the position it provides. The text offers a theoretical position, when realism appears in the first speech in History of the Peloponnesian War; a speech that takes place in Sparta before the war. Moreover, a realist perspective is expressed when Thucydides gives an explanation of the cause of the Peloponnesian War and found in the statements made by the Athenian...

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