What is the origin of love, in Hobbesian philosophy?



According to Hobbes, Passions are identified as those interior beginnings of motion, by which the imagination eventually motivates us to action. He then describes various emotions such as glory, humility and misery as some passions. How can we define love and compassion, as a passion? Can it be related to the idea of fear, that the only fundamental emotion is fear?


Posted 2012-03-10T06:21:59.460


1The jump you make in your last sentence is pretty big. What makes you think love is based on fear in Hobbes? – stoicfury – 2012-03-10T07:47:39.363

1Doesnt Hobbes say that we are in constant fear, as we are in war against everyone. Doesnt say the only genuine emotion, is fear, everything else is a manifestation of that? How do we link love to fear? – None – 2012-03-10T12:59:34.080

@ramanujan I'm not sure that this is what Hobbes believes, but in one of my philosophy classes a while back, I recall something about "love" being when you "fear for someone's death" (I don't remember who we were talking about). This could be how Hobbes sees it: when you "love" someone, it reduces to you being afraid that they will die/get hurt. I have no support for this, which is why I'm not making it an answer yet. – commando – 2012-03-10T15:15:36.320

@stoicfury hhmmm...interesting..but Hobbes believes the only law of nature is self-preservation, so fear for another persons death, doesnt make sense. – None – 2012-03-10T15:39:15.200



The Hobbesian Concept of Fear

According to Hobbes, fear is the ultimate motif. Fear, according to Hobbes, suffuses and shapes human life.

Now, I will present to you some quotes:

The hobbesian man is drive by pride but above all, by fear of other men.


He lives in constant fear of his life because he is bloated with unnatural passions such as pride, which cause men to invade one another.

Hopefully, we can now simply agree on Hobbes' concept of fear. Now let's link it to love.

The Hobbesian Concept of Love

I will present to you several quotes from Thomas Hobbes himself (can be found in his Leviathan):

What quality soever maketh a man beloved or feared of many, or the reputation of such quality, is power; because it is a means to have the assistance and service of many.

To Hobbes, it does not matter if one is feared or loved, as long as he attains power.

To show any sign of love or fear of another is honour; for both to love and to fear is to value. To contemn, or less to love or fear than he expects, is to dishonour; for it is undervaluing.

Again, Hobbes does not make a distinction between love and fear, just that in either case they attain values for a person.


And therefore to be honoured, loved, or feared of many is honourable, as arguments of power. To be honoured of few or none, dishonourable.

Therefore, Hobbes doesn't really care. He doesn't make a distinction between the two. According to him, all that matters is attaining honour and if that means attracting the love or even fear of others, then so be it.

This, therefore, is how love is related to fear. As a means of attaining honour, power and values. However, based on my own interpretation, I don't believe that Hobbes believes that the love expressed by the people is genuine, rather merely a means of expressing their agreement.

EDIT: The above quotations are from Part I, Chapter X of Hobbes's Leviathan, which can be found here.


Posted 2012-03-10T06:21:59.460

Reputation: 617

3This is a thought-out answer but it could be improved even more by citing where the quotes are from. :) Of course, we all have google, but save all your readers an extra step and include it for us, so I can just whip open The Leviathan which is not 3 feet from me. :P – stoicfury – 2012-03-10T20:24:56.127

1Sorry, you're right. I edited my post and Hobbes' Leviathan is now included. :) – Outlier – 2012-03-10T22:29:10.823

@Outlier Thanks a lot. That made a few things clear. But, can love be seen as an appetite for Hobbes? considering that we are constantly seeking for someone's love. I dont get one thing Hobbes has to say, if fear is the ultimate motif, do the appetites and aversions also get derived from fear and how? – None – 2012-03-11T02:10:55.267

Yes, according to Hobbes, the source of all emotions is fear. Therefore, if you're seeking love, it can perhaps be (for example) a result of the fear of being alone. Aversions can also be derived from fear. For example, jealousy would be the fear of the excellence/possessions/wealth/power/etc of others which can easily be resulted in hate/opposition. – Outlier – 2012-03-11T02:25:52.567