A Hobbesian World

We did an activity today in our discussion section where we broke up into groups of five and each person in the group was given a role.  The scenario was that we were stranded on island and each person’s role had some impact on our survival.  The roles were cook, medic, hunter, fisherman, and woodworker.  Each of us had also contracted a deadly disease which gave us about 2 weeks to live with proper medication.  The medic was in charge of the medication, the cook would cook the food that was obtained by the hunter, the woodworker had the ability to make a boat and build weapons, and the fisherman is self-explanatory.  Each group in the class was given a different philosopher and had to base their decisions for survival on their philosophy.

Our group was given Hobbes, who believed that for the most part people make decisions with themselves in mind.  Hobbes believed that it would be difficult to form any form of structure within the group because everyone would want to make decisions based on their own survival.  For instance, the cook may collude with the hunter to have more food for the two of them and then kill the medic so they have the medication but do not have to share food.  The medic on the other hand, may take the medication and run and try to survive on his own.

This activity made me start to think about which philosopher’s scenario was most likely to occur, and I believe it is Hobbes.  I think that in a life-or-death scenario, such as one we were put in, the first thing on everyone’s minds would be to save themselves, because they are naturally selfish.  As I was watching The Titanic last night, there was a lot of selfish actions taking place because people did not care what happened to complete strangers, only what happened to them and their loved ones.  There was no sovereign and all of a sudden, the amount of money you had didn’t matter, it was every man for himself to get into a lifeboat.

Although the crew acted in a professional manner, trying to evacuate women and children first, there were people throwing each other out of the way and abandoning others in need to save themselves.  Some people on the ship even began to sabotage lifeboats when they realized that they were going to be left behind.

These people are probably all fairly intelligent, rational-thinking people on a regular day, but when faced with crisis, they resort to their state of nature and rationality goes out the window in favor of self-preservation.

As much as I would like to say that I’d be able to maintain a level head and help others in a time like that, I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be able to and I would become a very Hobbesian person.

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