158. Love as Power in Hobbes

According to philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) we are typically (1) egoists motivated out of self-interest and (2) hedonists who desire pleasure and security over all else. This means we inevitably seek love since it gives us the most intense pleasure and security – two things in our interest. But, at the same time, seeking love makes us vulnerable to others and threatens our very existence – things that cause us pain and are thus not in our self-interest. Thus love is caught up in a war-like system of power relations in which we seek it to feel empowered only to feel dependent and thus disempowered.

Obviously this is a rather bleak view of love. But it can be easily overcome if we question the “isms” on which it depends, namely, egoism and hedonism. If we are not always motivated out of self-interest – if we can act for the sake of others, causes, and things – then we may not experience the knot of power Hobbes is presenting. And if we disagree with hedonism – the view that pleasure is the ultimate good – we may find that pain is something acceptable should it accompany goods such as justice, beauty, truth, virtue, freedom, friendship, etc.

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