Overview on Thomas Hobbes Psychology Theory

January 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

One of the greatest contributors to modern-day psychology, in my opinion, would have to be Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), a contemporary of Descartes. Hobbes was a mechanistic thinker and saw living organisms not in terms of the whole but as a sum of the parts (Atkins, 2017). This was a very unusual way of looking at human beings as well as all other living creatures at his time. To illustrate Hobbes’ idea, think of a human in terms of being like a machine—a cell phone, for instance. There is the phone, as a whole, that can be broken down into parts: the battery that gives the phone life, the camera, the dial pad, etc. If one of these parts is taken away, then the phone cannot function. Hobbes viewed humans in these terms—as machines working in a much larger machine (the universe).

Although Hobbes was greatly influenced by Descartes, Hobbes differed in his idea of what separated man from beasts. It was the soul. The soul gave man consciousness (Atkins, 2017). Therefore, we can say that Hobbes was a materialist, because he believed that everything in the world and everything that has existed and will ever exist is physical. We can also assert that he was a machinist, because he believed that everything in the world worked like a machine (even humans). He is an empiricist, because he believed that all knowledge was derived from sensory experience, and he was a hedonist, because he believed that human behavior (as well as non-human behavior) was motivated by the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2009).

The work of Hobbes opened the door to modern-day cognitive psychology—how we perceive, how we think, how we act, etc. For Hobbes all ideas came from prior experience or sensory experience. He made the assertion that all mental activity could be explained by sense experience that results when the motion of external bodies stimulates the sensory receptors thereby causing internal motion. For him the brain was just reacting to what was happening around it. In fact, he denied the idea of a non-material mind (Fitts, 1970).

I believe this attempt to better understand the driving force behind behavior was one of the most important contributions to modern-day psychology. Although I do not quite agree with Hobbes’ views, I can still see the value in trying to understand human behavior, especially during his lifetime.

Read more