Thomas Hobbes

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Summerlander
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Thomas Hobbes

Postby Summerlander » 10 Jul 2015 12:11

I found this exposition on Thomas Hobbes which I wrote a year ago and decided to share it with those of you who might be interested: :-)

Thomas Hobbes, a 17th century English philosopher and the first political theorist, harbingered political science with his masterpiece Leviathan. This book, having been published a few years after the English civil war, highlights social mores that urge its readers to obey the state for the sake of peace and may be partly responsible for the survival of monarchy in the UK today. The book doesn’t go without criticism. In The History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell points out, in complete contrast to Hobbes’s submissiveness to the state, that governments need some fear of rebellion as a means to forestall tyranny (as this one can be so bad as to make anarchy more desirable). Russell brings our attention to the fact that Hobbes appears to make the assumption that everybody shares the same interests, dismissing the clash between different social classes - a detail which Karl Marx so eloquently addressed - and the solution to prevent anarchy which should have been obvious to the Royalist philosopher was the sharing of power, not its total ascription to the sovereign. Nevertheless, Hobbes was a real anachronism in what he proposed.

Hobbes was an early proponent of egalitarianism within a social contract. He advocated civility, community, and endorsed monarchy as the best political state and the only political prophylactic device capable of safeguarding us from the excogitation of anarchy and its perils. Hobbes believed that people are inherently prone to cruelty because they are selfish - thus his insistence that mankind needs governments and laws to keep it in check. Without such control, morality dwindles down. This view was in opposition to the views of Aristotle - who saw the natural state of human beings as largely altruistic, compassionate, and communal in social terms, and believed this to vindicate monarchy as an inevitable corollary.

Hobbes had a materialist outlook on life in which everything could be explained by mechanisms and motion. (He was strongly influenced and impressed by the works of Galileo and Keppler.) At the same time, Hobbes didn’t see the scientific method as wholly reliable on the basis of subjective heterogeneity (a diversity of observers is involved). For him, geometry is 'the only true science so far created.' (These are the opinions of one enlightened man during the Scientific Revolution.)

Hobbes used his rationality to criticise superstition and religious doctrine, too. For example, as a determinist and subscriber of Heraclitus’ vision of impermanence in reality, he pointed out that without free will divine punishment makes no sense. He derided Descartes’ dualism, and, as a man who also translated Homer’s literature, asserted that 'the legends of the Gentiles came from failing to distinguish dreams from waking life' and that 'beliefs that dreams are prophetic, and that ghosts and witchcraft are real, are delusions.' (These quotations may be slightly paraphrased.)

I believe Thomas Hobbes was an atheist, too. The accusation of disbelieving in an almighty creator had been made, and, in order to protect himself, Hobbes claimed to follow the traducianism of Tertullian - the founder of Western theology who professed God to be of a corporeal nature. The truth, as I strongly suspect, is that Hobbes was terrified of the 'heretic' label (in the 17th century, charges of heresy and profanity were was as bad as accusations of rape and paedophilia). This can be inferred when, in 1666 (after the Great Fire), the House of Commons legislated against atheistic and blasphemous manuscripts - mentioning Hobbes’s Leviathan as a prime example. Sensing danger ahead, Hobbes went as far as burning some of his compromising written work. This strikes me as a man who was limited in fighting for what he believed to be right and didn’t have it in him to go against the dissenting majority. (Perhaps the recommended caution in Christopher Hitchens's Letters to a Young Contrarian was applicable in Hobbes's case.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg2wJFpntvQ

I expect to see a treatise on Anthony Burgess by deschainXIX. :mrgreen:

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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