Hobbes's Psychological Egoism and the State of Nature
The determinism found in nature and human activity also applies to human motivation. On this point Hobbes is clear: people are egoistic hedonists, always guided by their own pursuit of pleasure. Hence, you are unfailingly self-interested, psychologically determined to seek your own pleasure. What is good, according to this view? Good is simply what makes you feel good, and that is what you will pursue. This understanding of human nature also affected Hobbes's view of politics.
Hobbes embraced the view that human beings are self-interested in their behavior. He does not merely state that people act in their own interest some of the time. Rather, as a psychological egoist he takes it to be true that
You call the object of a desire good and the object of an aversion evil, which are terms derived from pleasure and pain. Good and evil are thus subjective notions. But how can so many egoists pursuing their own goods ever live together harmoniously in a community? This leads to a discussion of Hobbes's political theory.
To ask whether or not one ought to act in this way is an irrelevant question.
Ethics and the State of Nature
Morality is subjective, not absolute, according to Hobbes. If by “good” you mean what is an object of desire and “evil” is an object of aversion, then you are determined to pursue the first and avoid the second. This has to do with the laws of human psychology. Good and evil are terms derived from pleasure and pain. Since people find different things pleasurable and painful, good and evil are subjective notions. But if we are all seeking our own well-being, even to the detriment of others, what are the chances that people can live peaceably in a society?
To answer the question, Hobbes talks about an imaginary condition called the “state of nature.” In essence, he is asking what our situation would be like if there were no government. In this state of nature everyone has a right to everything, even to one another's body. If we are all egoistic hedonists, this state of nature will be a state of war, when “all against all” is the rule for living.
In the state of nature, the law of the jungle rules and only the fittest survive. While Aristotle said that people were “social animals” who needed communion with others, Hobbes would say that having sympathy for others required social conditioning. Altruism is not an innate emotion. The state of nature, then, is a state of fear. The state of nature is a place where there is always “a danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”