Leviathan

Excellent stuff over at Whiskey Bar – an extended and erudite essay on Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, and how Hobbes’ philosophy could really serve as the underpinings of the Bush administration .. the state as hungry and unrestrained beast, and all that, finishing off with a marvelous quote:

“The creature doesn’t know all the things it can do, but only because it hasn’t tried to do them yet. But it’s starting to figure this out, and it’s going to take more than an election and a few corruption probes to make it back down. Having entrusted their security and their liberties to the beast, Leviathan’s subjects will be lucky not to wind up like Jonah, lodged in its belly.”

Read it. And thanks to Riggsveda for the tip.

Sixty odd percent of the great unwashed masses think it’s “OK” for the government to be administering the full rectal probe into our lives. Mention 9.11 and you can justify anything. As an educator, this is when despair kicks in.

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2 thoughts on “Leviathan

  1. Hobbes’s is great antidote to excessive postmod. bickering and conceptualization, to belle-lettrist whining and all around chichi-ism. OK, his ideas of the sovereign were a bit draconian–but I think capable of progressive readings. And he’s no pal of theists or aristos: more like a republican who felt a strong monarchy was the most effective strategy for maintaining order. His ideas on contracts, covenants, state of nature, etc. are still worth reading closely and worth reading in the King’s English–he’s not that difficult a writer and indeed rather eloquent. Of course his materialism was very influential–not only to Locke and the sensationalists, but even to Marx and utilitarians. I would say in ways he anticipates Darwin, or at least understood territoriality and the problems of altruism, or lack thereof. He’s at least as powerful a thinker as Hegel and Marx were; indeed I would venture to say rather more powerful. Descartes may have been his superior, at least mathematically; but in political terms there are few thinkers equal to his force.

    An interesting and enigmatic man as well was Hobbes: he was a student of Bacon (that itself a bit scandalous) and acquainted with leading figures of the day such as Ben Jonson and of course the royalists. He probably knew “Shakespeare” (tho’ Hobbes would have been rather young) and had most likely had some hushhush stuff on King Jimmy, Chas I, Cromwell, and the rest. Hobbes, expert latinist, may have had some hand in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays as well. He was probably a scoundrel early on, as was his mentor Bacon (whom he later rejected), but Leviathan shows quite a melancholy and even tragic aspect as well.

  2. I recently discovered an excellent series of podcasts from BBC, with one on Hobbes, which I have yet to listen to. The Whiskey Bar piece piqued my interest, so I will follow up on that. Meanwhile, thanks for your comments, which I am still digesting. I suspect that Hobbes may be on the brink of rediscovery, though perhaps that is just my limited impression of the matter. I would value your insight on the podcast, should you get a chance to listen to it. All the best on the new blog, Phritz. Trenchant stuff!

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