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Love Part 14: Hobbes, Love as Obedience

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Love is a desire, a craving, an "apetite" for what people think is good for them. The more "obedient" you are to a person, an idea, or a feeling, the more you act on it. For a second this sounds like Plato, but only for a second. In the state of nature, this "apetite" goes unchecked, leaving human nature to commit the most brutal selfish acts. What people need, says Hobbes, is the government to tell them what is good for them, what they should be obedient to:

“in the condition of men that have no other law but their own appetites, there can be no general rule of good and evil actions. But in a Commonwealth this measure is false: not the appetite of private men, but the law, which is the will and appetite of the state, is the measure.”

As Hobbes lays out the laws, or starting principles, of his utopia, he makes some startling claims about what “the people are to be taught.” First, they should not love other nations. Second, they should not love particular “popular” people [heroes] within their own nation; this takes away from the “Sovereign” [the ruling class, I take it]. Loving heroes "may fitly be compared to the violation of the second of the Ten Commandments.”

Sounding much like Augustine, but with a more grim and authoritarian tone generally, Hobbes reduces even the Golden Rule, and salvation itself, to pure obedience to God:

“All that is necessary to salvation is contained in two virtues, faith in Christ, and obedience to laws. The latter…if it were perfect, were enough to us. But because we are all guilty..."


“The obedience required at our hands by God, that accepteth in all our actions the will for the deed, is a serious endeavour to obey Him; and is called also by all such names as signify that endeavour. And therefore obedience is sometimes called by the names of charity and love, because they imply a will to obey; and our Saviour himself maketh our love to God, and to one another, a fulfilling of the whole law” And whoever loves God and others “hath all the obedience necessary.”

Hobbes focus on love as obedience reminds me of a quote from my blog on Christian love, where Jesus says that obedience fuels love, and vice versa: "If you love me, you will obey my teaching" and "this is my command: love each other."

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 



Posted by Matt Smith at 08/29/2011 05:59:26 PM