Hobbes vs. Hume

The topic of morality has attracted numerous scholars from every field especially those who concern themselves with justice. Such questions as to whether rationality can uphold morality has continued to generate a lot of controversies. Equally, there have never been any universal principles, attitudes, and perspectives of morality. What complicates the issue of morality in any society is the determination by every member to ensure that they maximize their utility and gain. This write up considers the works of two scholars, Hobbes and Hume, concerning this topic of discussion. The two, provide convincing arguments that injustice is not the interest of the unjust.

The Foole is an imaginary person whom Hobbes used in the explanation of his “Third Law of Nature. To him, the Foole is a person that complains that even by keeping covenants, one can still be irrational. He adds that to such a person, people’s action should be guided by their own interest. The Foole argues that some situations may make it better for an individual to go against his own covenants. This is especially so, when such individuals believe that by reacting thus, they would realize their maximum utility. The Foole also does not believe in the existence of justice since to them, what people may view as injustice may be justified especially if the end result is beneficial. That is, they use the end to justify the means. To the Foole, the need to keep covenants, therefore, depends on whether or not the issue at hand is going to be beneficial to the actor.

According to Hume, a sensible knave normally never restrain himself from committing such acts as may be described as those of infidelity or those of iniquity because they believes that such actions would add to their level of fortune. While doing this, the sensible knave is keen not to cause any kind of breach in confederacy or any kind of social union. He adds that the sensible knave strongly believes on honesty as the best policy. However, he argues that even though this kind of rule may appear as good, it fails to apply in a number of situations. The sensible knave is, therefore, thought to be exhibiting much wisdom in his/her actions. This is because such people appear to observe those rules, which apply to the general public; something that is not true. They, thus, take advantage of any kind of exceptions to act against the societal rule.

Hume gives two features common in the character of the sensible knave. That is, they are materialistic and have strong desire for reputation. He notes that such people are sensible to material things irrespective of the legality of the means that has been used to attain it. That means that the sensible knave craves for profit even in situations in which their means of achieving it amounts to injustice to the society. To him, the Knave has a strong desire never to lose their reputation among the other members of the society. That is, they would want others to trust and have confidence in them. They can, thus, involve themselves in cheating but with a level of moderation as well as secrecy, which allow them never to concern themselves with injustice.

An in-depth analysis of the Foole and the sensible knave reveals that the two scholars implied that the two never concerned themselves with justice but rather used injustice to help them elevates their status. That is, such a person will become a better person from what he/she was initially after their acts of injustice.

From this argument, it is clear that the two scholars’ arguments supported the notion that injustice is never in the interest of the unjust since the unjust will always seek to benefit from injustices committed both by themselves and the other members of the society. Hume argument was that such acts as may be considered as practicing unjust behavior may yield a result, which is beneficial to the entire society.

First, it is almost automatic that any particular act conducted with the aim of upholding the practice will be beneficial to the society; something that both the Foole and the sensible knave strives to pretend as doing. Equally, any sensible knave, are simply interested in ensuring justice because, this way, they believe they will benefit. They, thus, do injustice while appearing as promoting justice for their selfish gain.

Hobbes has equally provided enough reasons why the Foole may not concern themselves with injustice. He first noted that, though with conservation, people normally act in their own interest. His reasoning was that there are certain situations that force the Foole to act against the societal morals. Hobbes, therefore, compares the Foole to the one who always want to maximize his/her opportunity in a straight forward way. He successfully portrays the Foole as the unjust who does not interest himself in injustice. According to him, the Foole only cherishes pursuing his/her own wits and has no concern to injustice because they themselves are unjust. It is only the need to avoid such consequences like wars that forces the Foole to control his/her maximization goal and not the concern for justice.

In conclusion, it is worth acknowledging that it is very dangerous to live as the Fool or the sensible knave irrespective of the gains that come with them. It should thus be everyone’s concern to ensure that justice prevails both in their case and that of the other members of the society since it is only by upholding each standard of morality that even the so called unjust can be happy in life. 

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