Hobbes and Contemporary Self-Expression

In chapters 14 through 16 in Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes focuses on the natural laws of humanity and the conflict between what we want and what actually occurs. Hobbes discourages the individual approach and advocates for sacrifice by the common man. By giving up some freedom and escaping the state of nature, peace could possibly be achieved. In the name of honor and genuine sincerity, Hobbes’ theories resonate with idealists. However, if he were to advise a group of modern “hipsters” to think in terms of escaping their raw, mundane instincts, how would they react?

Hipsters are our modern philosophers. Always going against the current and making vast generalizations about nothing, hipsters strive to be unique by being absolutely hypocritical and unoriginal. Basically, they go against everything they are supposed to represent. They sour the concept of unique thought and discourse. I firmly believe that if Hobbes were to approach any of the men below, he would receive a rude hand gesture and a string of expletives. Hipsters are all about expressing themselves. That’s why they are “special”, because they can convey their feelings and thoughts in a way that a normal person would not conventionally utilize. Hobbes is all about inhibition of one’s wants for the greater good. According to him, we must escape our nature states of chaos and war and pursue peace, no matter what methods are used. A hipster would be disgusted by this. They would retort that one’s inner chaos can be shaped into something beautiful and that the pursuit of peace will only lead to conformity and complacency. Hobbes and a modern hipster would not get along.

The question of the safeties and dangers of contemporary self-expression then leads us to an interesting place; was Hobbes so wrong in saying that sacrifice and subjugation were necessary for peace? The world is very tense right now, with ISIS posing a significant threat in the Middle East and a string of governments in turmoil from northern Africa to Central Asia. If we were to eliminate outliers such as hipsters and force cooperation through propaganda, even though it would be a denial of basic human rights, wouldn’t it be better than us all dying in war?


2 thoughts on “Hobbes and Contemporary Self-Expression

  1. You make an interesting connection to Hobbes, because I believe human sacrifice is always necessary at the end of the day. There are going to be things you don’t want to do, but may have to for the common good of your friends, family, and on a larger scale, society. I think it is interesting that you convey this point through “hipsters”, but what others lifestyle choices seen as deviant would this affect?


  2. I think you pose an interesting question at the end of your post: “If we were to eliminate outliers such as hipsters and force cooperation through propaganda, even though it would be a denial of basic human rights, wouldn’t it be better than us all dying in war?” Despite the fact that hipsters or nonconformist thinkers are defined by challenging a society’s existing beliefs, riding the world of “outliers” would have no affect on the state of war. As Hobbes says, men are motivated by self-interest. I think individuality and identity are at the forefront of this self-interest. So, while hipsters challenge the general norm, ridding outliers does little in the way of making a homogenous society. Societies are bound together by a social contract but people will put themselves, and their personal expression, first. Even if their personality and thoughts aren’t a direct challenge to the status quo, people will find differences worth defending. Furthermore, wars may arise because of differing social contracts, not because of the individual. Intriguing questions and enjoyable post!


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