Finals Week: Who Will You Be?

It’s the official start of finals week.Your schedule seems like it couldn’t be busier, your classes seem to have assignments popping out of nowhere, and your bed seems like it’s always empty. With this chaotic week beginning, there are many different ways that students handle their stress and time. Some classes offer study sessions (one GSI even held a 12-hour review session this past weekend) where students can work with their peers to help understand the material, while other students prefer the quiet individual studying in their room or a library. Either way, this week is all about time management. When and how you study contributes to your success. So, when my friend texted me the other day asking for my help on one of her assignments, I told her “no” because it didn’t benefit me and my studying. Which got me thinking, “Who would help her in this situation?”

There are two separate options in this example: The friend that helps and the friend that says no, like me. These two different types of people represent the views of two very different philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. One would help the friend in a heartbeat, arguing that everyone’s best interest is the most beneficial way to life in this society, where the other would undoubtedly protect their own self interest, with the belief that every man should live for himself. So, during this upcoming week, who will you be?

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes believed that human beings were sophisticated machines and, as a result, all functions and activities could be explained in purely mechanistic terms. However, he also acknowledged the animal nature within human nature, and believed that everyone acted in their own self-interest. They are content with their success, no matter the state of others around them. He emphasizes in his piece, the Leviathan, that people are focused on “competition of riches, honor command, or other power, inclineth to contention, enmity, and war.” A student who follows the Hobbesean ideals would thrive on other’s failures, therefore not looking out for the friend who asks for help when studying.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau, on the other hand, believed in human kindness and pity. He argued the importance of not having a sovereign within society, and that looking out for everyone’s self-interest is the most beneficial to a successful community. He states in his work, On the Social Contract“At once, in place of the individual person of each contracting party, this act of association produces a moral and collective body composed of as many members as there are voices in the assembly, which receives from this same act its unity, its common self, its life and its will.” If a student supports this idea, then they would’ve responded immediately and offered their help to the friend, rationalizing that if everyone looks out for each other, then the entirety of the class would benefit.

The viewpoints are on different sides of the spectrum, but seem to fit the general uncertainty of how to study for finals. Personally, I think that both strategies can form success, it just depends on the person. Either way, here’s to wishing students the best of luck on their finals, and hoping that, as according to Hobbes, their exams don’t result in a “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” life afterwards.

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A Contract For Hope

Devon Still and his four-year old daughter, Leah.

Contracts between professional athletes and their respective teams are some of the most lucrative agreements we see in the world today. Players are rewarded for their on-field achievement as well as the hope they provide for future success. These contracts are guaranteed for the duration of the agreement in three of the four major professional sports leagues in our country today, with the exception being the National Football League. In professional football, contracts are not guaranteed, leaving is up to the owner’s discretion whose contracts will be honored and whose will be terminated. This agreement between professional football players and team owners regarding contracts is a situation that closely follows the principles outlined by Thomas Hobbes and has been in the news recently with an inspirational story from the Cincinnati Bengals. Continue reading

A Visible Power for the Commonwealth

When do words possess authoritative quality? At what point can we differentiate a simple promise from a formal contract? These are just some of the questions that arose when I thought about the “social contracts” that Thomas Hobbes mentioned in his book, the Leviathan. The portion of the Leviathan that I will be referring to is titled “Of the Causes, Generation, and Definition of a Commonwealth” (Chapter 17). The arguments and philosophies presented in this chapter were intended by Hobbes to describe the necessity of sovereign institutions for peace and security. Hobbes insisted that a visible power(s) needed to be exist in order for humans within their regions to be free from the condition of war. The condition of war is a term coined to describe the natural state of humans to preserve their own lives against his/her enemies; in this state, all other beings are considered enemies. A consequence of this state would be that no person would have security no matter how adept they were.

Original copy of the Leviathan. Credits to Wikimedia Commons.

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Is Trading Fair

In professional sports, trading is part of the game. Players are traded for other players, draft picks, and sometimes just for money. Many times the players ask to be traded due to a poor relationship with teammates or coaching staff; however, occasionally the organization will simply make the decision and ship off the player without very much notice at all.

Mankin blocks for quarterback Tom Brady

Mankin blocks for quarterback Tom Brady

When organizations decide to trade players without asking the opinion of the team, they are acting in their own self-interest. A great example of this is when Logan Mankins was traded from the Patriots this past year. The Washington Post wrote and article about Tom Brady’s reactions and said “Brady had a very emotional reaction when he heard about the trade, and said he was not happy with this move”. This shows that the Patriots organization made the decision to trade Mankin without the support of the team. Although they are doing well this season, I think the team should have some say in the fate of their friends and teammates. Michael Smith discusses the trade in this short video.

Former teammate, MIlan Lucic, levels Boychuk

Former teammate, MIlan Lucic, levels Boychuk

The same situation occurred this past year with the Boston Bruins. The Boston Globe said, “Johnny Boychuk, a 6-year superstar defenseman for the Bruins, was traded to the New York Islanders for two second round picks”. I have grown up as a Boston Bruins fan and was devastated when I heard he was leaving. When I did some further reading, I found that Johnny did not want to leave Boston, and his teammates did not want him to go. Chiarelli said, “This is a tough trade, we all like Johnny. This was really hard to do, but there’s an element of business to it, an element of hockey”. I don’t think trading a player who wanted to stay on his team is hockey. I don’t think business has anything to do with hockey. Hockey is playing the game because you love the game; it has nothing to do with money and salaries.

I think these two trades show that the organizations in charge of professional teams make the decisions based on their own interest without considering the pain the player and his family/friends will go through. In Leviathan Thomas Hobbes says, “if there be no power erected, or not great enough for our security; every man will, and may lawfully rely on his own strength”. What he means by this is that men act in their own self-interest just as the organizations in professional sports do. Man will do what they need to do for themselves regardless of pain they may cause others. Hobbes goes on to say that the only way to work together is to “to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will”. This means that the group of people will elect a Sovereign to make the choices for the good of the entire group. This is exactly what happens in professional sports. The organization and owners of the teams are the Sovereign and will make decisions for the good of the program. They don’t care what everyone on the team thinks; they only care about what will make the team better.

Do you think it is fair for the organizations to have all that power?

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Could the Apocalypse Bring About a State of Nature?

It really seems like it could, doesn’t it? Well I’m not here to argue whether or not it actually could but rather, if, in a situation where you’re thrust into and open world, alone, unarmed, and surrounded by an imminent threat, the “State of Nature,” whether Locke’s or Hobbes’ would take hold. Some clarification first though – you’re not really alone, you’re in front of a computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and you could technically leave at any moment. That’s right, you’re playing a video game and that game is called DayZ. DayZ is a zombie survival game set in the post-Soviet state of Chernarus. A virus has turned a majority of the citizens into flesh craving zombies and you’re only goal is survival. What makes the game so fantastic is the fact that it’s online and there are other players out in the 225 kilometers-squared map you can roam around. Voice and text communication is possible which makes any player interaction unique. Maybe you’re gathering food, hear gunshots in the distance and decide to scurry off before the next bullet in that clip is deep in your chest, or perhaps you run into a player that has so much gear on them that they decide to make a gracious donation to you before running off into the wilderness. Anything is possible in such a world, but with the complete collapse of any pre-virus government and complete anonymity over the internet, what keeps the game from being a complete kill-fest? Maybe these states of nature can give us an idea.

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The Grasshopper Inherent? No! The Grasshopper Apparent

Exploring the Grasshopper’s Way of Life [1] (wikimedia)

Imagine the world we live in today. It has poverty, malnutrition, crime, trash, disease, and war. It also has artists, hard-workers, activists, and thinkers. Now, imagine a world with just the positives. In fact, try to imagine a utopia where resources are infinite, your actions have no effect on other humans, and the only impact that you can make is positive.  (All negative impacts are automatically fixed, and there is no human loss because everyone heals and lives forever.) This utopia is a world that YOU should dream of living in. Confused? Let me explain.

The world we live in today requires us to have a job, and earn paper with artificial value (this is money for those who did not get it) to survive and live happily.  Without this and without inherited wealth, we are forced to struggle daily until our deaths for basic food and shelter. Most people who have survival as their goal usually get a job. Those who really understand this concept also understand the benefit of an education. Education gives us the tools we need to survive in this world. One could argue that education allows us to find better jobs, which mean better food, shelter, and a higher chance at survival. (This somewhat supports Louis Menand’s theory 1 about selectivity (selectivity as a test for better survival) in his article “Live and Learn”) All of this shows that our world makes simple survival rather difficult. This is precisely the problem that the utopia proposed above would eliminate to improve everyones life.

In addition to this assurance of survival, this utopia has other benefits. It is a place where you can be what you want to be. A place where you have no restrictions and you can do what you want without consequences. Most importantly, this is a place where the beliefs of Thomas Hobbes from Leviathan simply do not exist since in this world, nobody can get hurt. Without this harm, people have no reason to be unified, and can live in their own self-interest freely. The only asterisk in this world is that it would have be somewhat inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in that anything that an individual creates that benefits the world will automatically be distributed to rest of the world (for mutual benefit). To be clear, everyone works for their self-interest, but if they find something that benefits others they share it in the spirit of Rousseau. With all these positives and the freedom to do what you want (John Locke’s belief in the Second Treatise of Government that freedom is the most important value), it is hard to imagine a world that could be any better. This is the world in which the grasshopper from Bernard Suits The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia would dream of living.

To readers unfamiliar with Suits grasshopper, it is a rather sad story. The grasshopper believed that life should be all play, and that he would only do stuff if he felt that it was play. As a result, the grasshopper decides to not work hard (which is not playing) and decides to play. This leads to his eventual death. The grasshopper, however, believes that what everyone calls work is in many cases play (the grasshopper inherent) since they like to do it (a builder likes to build and this is his way of playing). In the world today, the grasshopper would not survive since there are requirements and mandatory work needed for survival. However, in the utopia, the grasshopper would survive since all necessities are provided for and he could play all day long. In this world full of freedom, self-interest, and play, everyone would be a grasshopper because there are no obligations and there are no restraints. Any action anyone would take would be due to their interest and their own perception of play. This is the world where progress would be made due to self-interest and self-enthusiasm. No company, person, or government could influence people to do work (in theory they may not even exist) and all work would be beneficial in a sense to everyone else (Rousseau’s ideology). By now, I hope you dream of this world as well; a world of grasshoppers apparent.

An Imagination of Utopia [2] (wikimedia)

A Contract for What?!

Having been intrigued by the question, “Thinking of your own life, what types of relationships would you want to be regulated by a contract?” I immediately thought of the obvious: strictly professional relationships. Duh, any place of work needs a set contract in order to maintain order and efficiency within the business. But when my peers started answering with things like, “relationships, marriage, and families,” it surprised me.

First of all, what even is a contract? As defined by Hobbes in the Leviathan, contracts are “a mutual transferring of right.” He emphasizes that within the state of nature, everyone has the right to everything, except for the limited rights that the civil society creates. We all have natural contracts with each other, kind of like a give-and-take relationship. Does that mean everything is a social contract? When looking at the dictionary definition, Google says a contract is “a written or spoken agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law.” After reading that definition, my mind automatically goes towards employment and businesses, just like it says. So why have a contract within a relationship? A contract for a marriage too? Is a contract only a contract if it’s enforceable by law?

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