Hobbes and Mill claimed that their philosophical views on ethics agree with the Biblical teachings, particularly its famous “Golden Rule” which states: Do to others as you would have them do to you. In order to arrive at my conclusion on this claim, my essay is going to look at the basic principles of the as presented in the publications .Then am going to compare the golden rules with the two philosophies so as to have a stand. The issue at hand here is whether Hobbes and Mill claim of having common views the Biblical rule.
Utilitarianism is a intellectual a philosophy that largely deals with what was seen as high pleasures of the of the minds and as well as the lower pleasures 0f the body(3-8) .He defines happiness as originating from the enjoyments which are by nature intellectual, aesthetic and social. Of equal importance to him were the pleasures that were drawn from the avoidance of pain or discomfort. In this philosophy, we find two types of pleasures. These are the lower, or the elementary and the higher or secondary levels of happiness. Examples of the lower or elementary pleasures include acts such as resting, sleeping and eating food or drinking water. Happiness is a matter of pleasure and pain (2) . not expecting much in life.
The above aspects of utilitarianism can be said to be similar to the teachings of the “golden rule”. In essence both preach against making against others to suffer. Naturally, we would not
like suffer at the hands of others; therefore, as the golden rule puts it, we need not to make others suffer because we won’t like others to make us suffer. In other words, by not making others to suffer, we are not only preventing them from being pained but we are also doing the same to ourselves. Pain avoidance and other forms of life are concepts of utilitarianism .This Conforms to the golden rule: to do as one would be done to by others. It expresses the spirit of the ethics of utility (18).
The utilitarianism has gained some prominence as a kind of secular philosophy of ethics because of some of its principles. One of the most appealing principles of the philosophy is the one single system for action that it offers. This states that: do whatever is promoting utility. It is promoting human progress and reducing suffering. This is relevant to the golden rule as both ensure human progress by reducing suffering by not making others to suffer just as you would not like to be made to suffer.
However, utilitarianism has not escaped criticism .One of them is that it presents as being very prescriptive in nature. In this way, it sometimes makes demands from people what is beyond their personal choice. For example, it may make you not to buy, for example, a good television set you might want to buy for the sole good of the society. It may in essence may violate individual rights .This may be very problematic. This criticism can also be extended to the golden rule. The golden rule calls for general goodness to others, putting their welfare first. This rule also tends to be prescriptive as well; we are just to relate to others just the way we relate to ourselves. This may end up interfering with our individual freedom of choice.
Thomas Hobbes, in his well known volume, Leviathan,(1651),part 1 Chapter 14, states that human beings innately immoral by nature. He puts it that human beings are possessed of psychological egoism .He however asserts that morality of human beings originated from man’s needs to avoid conflict since their original immoral state made them to engage in negative behaviors such as murder and other forms of violent activities. The constant state of fear that people were in made them to stop engaging in these acts .But according to him, people did this reluctantly. This fear set room for the formation of strong governments with laws, police force, and army.
When compared to the golden rules, it is clear that Hobbes’ view and the rule are both prescribing some conditions for peace to prevail in the society. People supposed to behave in certain ways in accordance to some already laid down guidance so as to avoid conflict in the society while promoting peace.
Both theories call for non –provocation approach in dealing with one another, to avoid conflict. Honestly speaking, you cannot allow not having peace hence the importance of not causing problems to others, so as to avoid suffering the same. This peace can enable one to be actively involved in the development of civil peace.
Another area of similarity is the issue of the existence of fear in people as well as the society. Hobbes talks about fear in the society making people to behave well. The same is applicable to the golden rule. Out of fear of negative consequences, people are advised to be good to others. This is like being good to own self.
However, Hobbes view contrasts the golden rule principle by giving room for violence. According to him, when man is threatened with death in his natural state, he cannot help but defend himself. His means of defense may include violence. Hobbs asserts that self –defense against violence is the highest human dignity. But the Biblical doctrine, violence is not allowed in any kind of situation and for whatever reason. People should lead in peace all the time’
In conclusion, Hobbes and Mill are right in their argument that their views are consistent with the Biblical golden rules. Both set of argument basically talk about morality in human relations which eventually leads to peace in the society.
Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism. (1863). Cleveland: World Publishing, 1962.
The selection, Chapters 14 of Hobbes' Leviathan, is taken from The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill, ed. Edwin Burtt (N.Y.: Modern Library, 1939), pp. 192-203.