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The Leviathan and Republic theories proposed by Thomas Hobbes and Plato respectively are the two most solid arguments that attempt to explain an ideal state. From their arguments, it is clear that they each share a common sentiment regarding the need of a State. However, they seem to differ on the manner of administration to run the state. While Hobbes adopt a negative image of humans and view them as being materialistic on one hand, Plato adopts a positive image of humans and view them as inherently good on the other (Velasquez, 2008). However, they form a common ground by arguing that a society need to have some form of a government that creates a hierarchy of some sort. They both concur on the issue that without some sort of government, the society would be chaotic and would eventually crumble down. This paper will critically analyze the arguments posed by both Hobbes and Plato and to further establish the capability of human reason to determine the universal, objective, moral and political truths based on the two theories.
The Republic Theory Versus The Leviathan Theory
In order to form a solid basis on how the two theories visualize the ability of man to reason, it is important to have a valid understanding of the theories themselves.
According to Plato’s Republic theory, he envisions a State run by individuals, each possessed with particular mannerisms that would otherwise render them more superior to others. He presents a positive attitude towards human nature in what he calls an ‘ideal state’. According to his theory, he views man as being naturally good and only requires a supreme power to guide him. According to Plato, if man and his government are well affiliated and balanced, then a just society comes into existence. In order to create a perfect state, the government created should further integrate virtues of knowledge, bravery, self-control and justice.
Hobbes on the other hand shows his distrust in men and governance. He views man as greedy and up to no good. According to his school of thought, Hobbes adopts a materialistic philosophy and argues that human nature is characterized by desires and repugnance that ultimately lead to regular power struggle. He further contends that the virtue of morality is instinctively subjective and that human nature is naturally vicious and aggressive resulting to a fearful society. He envisions his imaginary State as one tainted with regular wars, death, violence and fear due to lack of adequate resources. He criticizes Plato’s idea of having a State with platonic love and contends that it is non-existence. He also believes that justice cannot prevail in such a society.
The Ability Of Human To Reason
Human reason is very important as it is related with the act of thinking and making sense of certain issues (Kellogg, 2002). Most theorists have attempted to learn and explain human reasoning. According to Hobbes, he describes reason as being calculative. Plato on the other hand views reason as a natural sovereign which should take over other things such as emotions and spiritedness. He further contends that humans achieve a form of happiness that is enjoyed in accordance with reason. Both Plato and Hobbes in their theories lay out solid arguments on the ability of human beings to reason and make impartial decisions regarding political issues that affect them.
According to his Republic theory, Plato contends that humans have the ability to reason without being externally influenced. In his ideal government, which he envisions as one that capitalizes on natural order, humans can be able to exercise their freedom to make choices. He however states that the humans are guided by the wisdom of their rulers. One of the leading philosophers, Immanuel Kant, seemed to share similar sentiments as Plato regarding human reason. He introduced the act of practical reasoning where man is governed by his own self-governed norms. In his argument, Plato argues that in his government, which is run freely and fairly, each person has the freedom of following their goals in their own will so long as they conform to the standards given by reason. He also holds a strong belief that human nature is characterized by reason, desire and aggression.
He however argues that reason dominates desire and aggression. Man is therefore able to reason so as to ascertain the truth about how they are supposed to live. The truth, according to his theory, engrosses knowledge of thoughts in existence in other magnitude of reality that can only be apprehended by reason. Based on the above argument, Plato states that man can exercise self-control when it comes to their desires and aggressive nature by using their reason. This is because man is not governed by self-interested appetites as claimed by other philosophers such as Freud and Hobbes. Plato contest that the aptitude of reason to have power over desires and aggression is dependent on one’s past preferences. This means that if man constantly gives in to his desires and aggressive nature, then he ultimately lose his capacity to control them.
Hobbes seems to have a different take on the views proposed by Plato regarding human reason. He depicts reasoning as the practice of calculating the outcomes of names that refer to entities. He further argues that the act of reasoning can be miscalculated and he gives an example of error as a type of inaccurate reasoning. He equates reasoning to science and further contest that scientific data is not qualified as being absolute knowledge but a conditional one that relies on correlations between reasons and effects. He goes further to divide knowledge into two categories; absolute and conditional. Hobbes argues that the process to reason falls under the category of conditional knowledge. Hobbes regards man as being selfish and unruly and as a result has to be forcefully governed by a supreme power. In this kind of tyranny, it is almost impossible to control opposing interests hence lacking a legal command to distinguish right or wrong. However, man possesses innate rights to shield themselves from harm. This therefore mean that man lean towards the basic laws of nature intended to avoid the state of ‘war’. It is this law of nature that govern human reason according to Hobbes.
Each of the above philosophers provides solid and valid arguments on the ability of human to reason. It is evident that Plato, in his Republic theory, posits that humans are capable of reasoning and discover the universal, objective, moral and political truth. This is because man rely more on reason to make judgments and in most cases, he is able to make solid and sound verdict. Hobbes on the other hand posits that man is not capable of ascertaining the political truth through his reasoning as he often lean toward the natural law to influence his reasoning.
Theory Of Community And Its Take To Human Reason
Community has been known to bring together people and create a harmonious bond. It can be argued that the theory of community hence integrates solidarity, trust and commitment. The community share a common interest and is therefore a very important theory that helps to establish a middle field between Hobbes and Plato’s theories.
It is believed that community was preceded by state of nature. The state of nature is used to illustrate the hypothetical form that came into existence before the government. The state of nature makes a huge contribution on human reasoning. In Hobbes work, De Cive, Hobbes describes the state of nature as one that liberalizes man. Plato on the other hand relies on the theory of community to argue that the people share a mutual interest and can therefore reason. It is therefore important to conclude that both Hobbes and Plato agree on the ability of human beings to reason but only differ on the extent of reasoning and whether or not it is absolute. The theory of community therefore gives a fair play in determining the degree of reasoning described by both philosophers.
It is arguable from the theories above that human nature is capable of reasoning and ascertaining the universal, objective, moral and political truths. Though Plato and Hobbes take on different view to determine the threshold of human reasoning, it is evident from both their arguments that reason forms a strong basis in both their theories. It is not in dispute that humans indeed reason. The only discrepancy is that though both acknowledge the fact that reasoning indeed exist, it is the ability of humans to make sound decisions based on their reason that has been put to test. It is therefore conclusive that human reason can facilitate the discovery of universal, objective, moral and political truths.
Kellogg, R. (2002). Cognitive Psychology. California: Sage Publications Ltd.
Velasquez, M. (2008). Philosophy: A Text with Readings. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.