Monday, May 31, 2010

Hobbes' ghost

You should read this interesting article on Hobbes penned by one Ann Talbot:

....""""If the ghost of Thomas Hobbes were to board an airplane and head across the Atlantic, he would surely point out to {Corey Robin, hack at The Nation} that men’s politics are determined by their class interests, because that was the lesson that he had learned through hard experience by the time he came to write Leviathan. Hobbes would recognise in Obama a man whose political actions are determined in the most blatant way by the interests of the financial oligarchy.

And what would Robin do if the ghost of Thomas Hobbes came knocking on his door? He would certainly consign him to one of the inner circles of hell, because Hobbes the materialist, Hobbes the determinist, certainly belongs at the very least in a rogues’ gallery of evil Enlightenment figures for academics like Robin who derive their arguments, at several removes, from the theories associated with the Frankfurt School. The diverse and often antagonistic trends in twentieth century thought that spring from the Frankfurt School are often regarded as some form of Marxism, but they owe more to nineteenth century German irrationalism. They were taken up by the radical left in the postwar period and influenced the ensuing waves of postmodern, poststructuralist and deconstructionist thought in more recent years. What is common to them is the desire to trace back all the ills of modern capitalism to the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, to rational thought, to materialism and most of all to determinism.

These irrational anti-Enlightenment traditions of thought are entirely foreign to the ideas of Marx and Engels. Writing of the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution, Engels described the period as “a time which called for giants and produced giants—giants in power of thought, passion and character, in universality and learning.” [4] Thomas Hobbes would certainly qualify as one of those giants.


J. L. Speranza said...

I like Ghosts, er, I mean, Hobbes. I learned all about him, if you believe this, from Ian M. Hacking: Why does language matter to philosophy! Later on I went to his Computatio, first in English -- and then in Latin. -- and only then to where I should have started: his Leviathan. Great man, great philosopher, great analytical mind!

J said...

Yes I agree, and unfortunately many consider Hobbes a primitive or rogue when he had a rather sophisticated political mind (recalling a few of Scruton's typically Toryish remarks on TH)--and even if one does not agree to all of Hobbes' conclusions in the Leviathan, it's sort of a basic document...or something like that. It's unfortunate most humans, certainly 'Mericans, don't quite realize what was at stake with the Descartes vs Hobbes chessmatch (and I'm not thereby claiming Hobbes necessarily won hands down....) a sense the great divide between continental and anglo thought (and American) might be said to begin with DesC. vs TH. ....

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