Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bellum omnium contra omnes

(James Poulos)
""""One drawback of Leviathan is that Hobbes, the great theorist of the individual, doesn’t theorize the kind of individual that emerges in real life in the wake of, say, Napoleon. (This is a kind of individual different yet from the one we associate with the Revolution itself.) Already within Hobbes is the promise that great freedom awaits those savvy enough to surrender their political liberty. Yet the specific interests and passions of individuals ready to dump political liberty today, of course, look rather different than they did in Hobbes’ time. Now, the character of these differences could be summed up as, or chalked up to, certain developments in capitalism or technology — to the outworking of the relations between man and money on the one hand and man and nature on the other. On the other hand, we could consider that the rise of individuality as a moral ideal has been changing the way we relate to one another in a way that’s more cause than consequence of the man-money and man-nature relationship. It’s significant that this development remains only implicit in Hobbes."""""

And to think some Contingencies fans considered references to Hobbes obscure and antiquated! Actually Poulos perceives a different Hobbes than we do. He also makes rather extreme demands by suggesting that TH (or any thinker ) failed to anticipate some historical event X . Regardless, the classic reduction of the state of nature in Leviathan, and the material concerning "omnia bellum contra omnes" hints at a anarchistic world of Napoleons (or would-be Napoleons):

“ the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short..."

Hobbes thus did consider potential Napoleons--both in the pre-society, state of nature (see the brief paragraph in Book XV contra-Aristotle's "magnanimous man"--i.e. frat boy tories the world over, of whatever race), and in civil society--with a tyrant or dicatator who no longer upholds the citizens' covenants are considered nulled/overturned. Indeed at times a protestant "leveller" aspect appears in Hobbes--probably one reason the royalists distrusted him (though the puritan levellers took him to be a...royalist). Leviathan is not Machiavelli--tho' Poulos seems more drawn to machiavellian politics than to Hobbes contractualism. It just goes to show that one never knows even old, dead white philosophers like Hobbes still matter to some in cyberland.


Our Founding Truth said...

Hobbes' state of nature, is intriguing in light of his understanding of Christian fundamentals:

"WE FIND in Holy Scripture three parts of the office of the Messiah: the first of a redeemer, or saviour; the second of a pastor, counsellor, or teacher, that is, of a prophet sent from God to convert such as God hath elected to salvation[sounds like a Calvinist to me]; the third of a king, an eternal king, but under his Father, as Moses and the high priests were in their several times. And to these three parts are correspondent three times. For, our redemption he wrought at his first coming, by the sacrifice wherein he offered up himself for our sins upon the cross; our conversion he wrought partly then in his own person, and partly worketh now by his ministers, and will continue to work till his coming again. And after his coming again shall begin that his glorious reign over his elect which is to last eternally...As the sacrifice of the one goat was a sufficient, because an acceptable, price for the ransom of all Israel; so the death of the Messiah is a sufficient price for the sins of all mankind, because there was no more required. Our Saviour Christ's sufferings seem to be here figured as clearly as in the oblation of Isaac, or in any other type of him in the Old Testament. He was both the sacrificed goat and the scapegoat: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted; he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is dumb before the shearer, so opened he not his mouth":[Isaiah, 53. 7] here is the sacrificed goat. "He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows";[Ibid.Ibid., 53. 6] and so he is the scapegoat. "He was cut off from the land of the living for the transgression of my people": [Ibid., 53. 8] there again he is the sacrificed goat. And again, "he shall bear their sins":[, 53. 11] he is the scapegoat. Thus is the Lamb of God equivalent to both those goats; sacrificed, in that he died; and escaping, in his resurrection; being raised opportunely by his Father, and removed from the habitation of men in his ascension."

"And first, seeing to speak against the Holy Ghost, as being the third person of the Trinity, is to speak against the Church, in which the Holy Ghost resideth; it seemeth the comparison is made between the easiness of our Saviour in bearing with offences done to him while he himself taught the world, that is, when he was on earth, and the severity of the pastors after him, against those which should deny their authority, which was from the Holy Ghost. As if he should say, you that deny my power; nay, you that shall crucify me, shall be pardoned by me, as often as you turn unto me by repentance: but if you deny the power of them that teach you hereafter, by virtue of the Holy Ghost, they shall be inexorable, and shall not forgive you, but persecute you in this world, and leave you without absolution (though you turn to me, unless you turn also to them), to the punishments, as much as lies in them, of the world to come."

Hobbes was a Christian Fundamentalist, most likely a Calvinist, at that.

I agree with his obedience to the sovereign, deferring to the Law.

J said...

Well, the first 20 chapters of Lev. barely if ever refer to theological arguments. Later on, when he's dicussing the specifics of the sovereign, he does bring in the existing church, and Hobbes at times sounds rather churchly--if not dogmatic--but note he does not really make any specific theological claims of immateriality, afterlife, or argue for God's existence (as far as I recall. I have a good handle of first two books of Lev., but don't claim to be Hobbes scholar).

Hobbes offers a sort of anthropological version of the first cause argument: men might be driven--psychologically, really-- to posit a first cause, or God, but he does not, like say some modern dogmatist such as Eddie Feser or WL Craig, ever claim the first cause argument or any Thomistic chestnut is necessarily true. For Hobbes, God is incomprehensible, excepting perhaps as manifested in nature: "Of God, nothing can be known." I don't think that's orthodoxy.

Recall also his long discussion on appetites in Lev,which would not exactly please either papists or protestants:

But whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good; and the object of his hate and aversion, evil; and of his contempt, vile and inconsiderable. For these words of good, evil, and contemptible are ever used with relation to the person that useth them: there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves; but from the person of the man, where there is no Commonwealth; or, in a Commonwealth, from the person that representeth it; or from an arbitrator or judge, whom men disagreeing shall by consent set up and make his sentence the rule thereof.

The Latin tongue has two words whose significations approach to those of good and evil, but are not precisely the same; and those are pulchrum and turpe. Whereof the former signifies that which by some apparent signs promiseth good; and the latter, that which promiseth evil. But in our tongue we have not so general names to express them by. But for pulchrum we say in some things, fair; in others, beautiful, or handsome, or gallant, or honourable, or comely, or amiable: and for turpe; foul, deformed, ugly, base, nauseous, and the like, as the subject shall require; all which words, in their proper places, signify nothing else but the mien, or countenance, that promiseth good and evil. So that of good there be three kinds: good in the promise, that is pulchrum; good in effect, as the end desired, which is called jucundum, delightful; and good as the means, which is called utile, profitable; and as many of evil: for evil in promise is that they call turpe; evil in effect and end is molestum, unpleasant, troublesome; and evil in the means, inutile, unprofitable, hurtful.

So Good is, according to TH, that which is pleasurable, desirable, felicitous, and Evil, unpleasant, not desirable, non-felicitous. So much for any notion of theological duty, sin, or virtue even. Hobbes on "appetites" sounds nearly Bentham-like--the hedonic calculus circa 1650. I don't see how one could extract a traditional religious view from that.

Our Founding Truth said...

J, according to my last post, Hobbes was more of a fundamentalist than Jerry Falwell. He believed in: Original Sin, inerrancy, the sacrificial blood atonement of Christ, the virgin birth and Deity of Christ, the resurrection from the dead, and the judgment of the wicked.

I'm telling you, everyone has him wrong.

His views on nature, good, evil, etc. may or may not be orthodox, but, would mine?

Hobbes had friends in high places, even the King, until some in parliament, gave him a bad name. So, Hobbes wasn't fibbing at all.

J said...

Additionally, I think you're overlooking the political context of Leviathan. The first two books are not at all theological, but political, with some preliminary metaphysics, and his explanation of his geometric method. Hobbes is known as a political philosopher, and he did not argue for a theocracy, but a type of constitutional monarchy (not heretidary) based on a social contract. He rejects the Aristotelian tradition, and seems consistently naturalist, and favors the new experimentalism of Bacon. He avoids the usual religious squabble.

Yes, later in Leviathan he discusses a Christian commonwealth, and does sound rather orthodox, but does quite often remind us of metaphorical aspects of the Bible (see his discussion of hell, afterlife, etc). As with Locke, there appears to be an inconsistency between Hobbes' philosophical writing, and religious---then I suspect the empiricists were under the gun so to speak (or axe). Coercion a possibility as well.

J said...

Hobbes had friends in high places, even the King, until some in parliament, gave him a bad name.

Yes, and that was Charles II was it not?? A papist, and not exactly known for his piety. Ergo, I suspect he offended the puritanical/baptist sorts more than he did the royalists (who were generally anglo-catholic). He also engaged in that nasty bout with Bishop Bramhall. Really, I don't worship Hobbes any more than I do Locke (I find TH's writing a bit pedantic and rhetorical, but he was quite the psychologist in a sense), but he is a key and neglected figure, and Leviathan was definitely secular in intent, regardless of the somewhat odd last few religious chapters. Papists would have us stick to Aquinas, or Aristotle, whereas protestants would probably not have people read anything except the Bible itself.

Our Founding Truth said...

I understand Hobbes' political overtones, but these issues; social contract, nature, etc. are separate issues from Christian salvation.

Because of his philosophy, correct me if I'm wrong, believed knowledge was innate. This appears to align with Original Sin.

Our modern definition of "naturalist" may be different than that of the 17th century. Hobbes affirmed the supernatural, so he can't be a naturalist.

Hobbes' views on materialism, death, hell, etc. are interesting, but I believe the post-modern world has distorted those views to a certain extent. He did believe in the Spirit World:

"In sum, in what matter soever there is place for addition and subtraction, there also is place for reason; and where these have no place, there reason has nothing at all to do. And hence it came to pass, when our Saviour was compassed about with the multitude, those of the house doubted he was mad, and went out to hold him: but the Scribes said he had Beelzebub, and that was it, by which he cast out devils; as if the greater madman had awed the lesser. And that some said, "He hath a devil, and is mad"; whereas others, holding him for a prophet, said, "These are not the words of one that hath a devil."...So that, in sum, it is manifest that whosoever behaved himself in extraordinary manner was thought by the Jews to be possessed either with a good or evil spirit; except by the Sadducees, who erred so far on the other hand as not to believe there were at all any spirits, which is very near to direct atheism; and thereby perhaps the more provoked others to term such men demoniacs rather than madmen."
-Leviathan, Part I, Chapter VIII

I don't see a contradiction in Hobbes, that may be with Locke.

J said...

Because of his philosophy, correct me if I'm wrong, believed knowledge was innate.

You are wrong, sir. He's an empiricist. The first few chapters, indeed first paragraphs of Leviathan outline his "sensationism":

The original of them all is that which we call sense, (for there is no conception in a man's mind which hath not at first, totally or by parts, been begotten upon the organs of sense). The rest are derived from that original.

That denial of innateness (and indeed of the a priori) in itself was nearly enough to have Hobbes excommunicated, if not sentenced to death in 1650 or so. That follows from Bacon's "novum organum" and the development of the scientific method, really--which is to say, the schoolmen and thomists were on their way out, and that included the calvinist henchmen, though I would agree Hobbes seems more sympathetic to protestants, at least of anglican sort, than to the catholics. I do not see support for your labeling TH a calvinist, except in some broad sense (ie not catholic, ergo protestant). Mechanism, and the denial of free will, is not calvinist predestination is it.

Hobbes affirmed the supernatural, so he can't be a naturalist.

Where? Certainly not in the key opening chapters of Leviathan. Later when he's appeasing the churchmen (or following orders from them) he does, alas, start sounding a bit preacherly, but I would say that was mere appeasement. His core doctrine, and the central message of Leviathan hinges on his naturalism, and indeed economic realism (Adam Smith had read Leviathan, be sure of that).

Note Hobbes does not, like Locke, claim there was some golden age, or Beulahland: human history sans a real social contract or civil society is unceasing warfare. The state of nature does not seem christian whatsoever.

The quoted section---"In sum, in what matter soever there is place for addition and subtraction, there also is place for reason; and where these have no place, there reason has nothing at all to do.""---sounds like early positivism, however primitive. If something cannot be expressed mathematically, then it has little to do with reason. Again, probably related more to Francis Bacon's new inductive methods than to theology. Hobbes may use a few biblical examples but did so in hopes of getting his message out to the people.

Our Founding Truth said...

That's fine, I was under the impression Hobbes differed with Locke on empiricism.

Such is what happens when zealous religionists, as 17th century England proves, persecute believers on insignificant matters of faith.

I call Hobbes a Calvinist, by looking at the first quote I made. He says, "as God hath elected to salvation." I could be wrong, but election is Calvinist, not free will.

Practically every word he says in the last 6 or 7 chapters are supernatural. What do call blood sacrifice atoneing for man's sin, the resurrection of the dead, Moses at the burning bush? etc.

I'm with the framers on Hobbes and the Philosophers; I believe what they said. They knew what they were getting into. Both had friends in high places, and what the majority opinion was. They didn't risk their lives by making stuff up. Hobbes wasn't fake, and the framers took him at his word.

J said...

He doesn't actually uphold the miracles. Read it carefully. He does respect scripture--at least ostensibly--but that's not the writing of a Calvin, or Milton, or a churchman. He routinely refers to the events of the bible as metaphorical. I believe he views the resurrection as metaphorical.

That said, England was still a theocracy, for most part, with the Church of England in control. Hobbes' books were banned, censored, and he was attacked as a heretic--and that was from the protestants, probably the puritans supporting Cromwell and so forth (until Hobbes'one time pupil Charlie II gave TH a stipend late in life). Yet he was not liked by the more catholic types (still a force given the Stuarts, french monarchy, and so forth).

I don't worship Samuel Johnson, but Dr. SJ considered Hobbes blasphemous, and later called Hume a Hobbesist or something (he obviously didn't think too much of Hume either). There's little doubt that Hobbes was read as a materialist--nor surprising, since Leviathan does offer a rather mechanical view of human nature. Alex Hamilton called it heresy as well.

Hobbes wrote s political theory, and leaves the theology until very end (and it takes up less than a third of the entire work).

Our Founding Truth said...

Where does Hobbes use metaphor for Christian theology? Hamilton can call Hobbes' views on the state of nature heresy all he wants. But it has nothing to do with Christian salvation, so it doesn't matter. I take these philosophers at their word, as the framers did. Besides, a man is more apt to tell the truth publicly, than privately, since he can get called on what he says. And public perception is the most important to a public servant.

Hobbes was a Christian fundamentalist; a 17th century Jerry Falwell, who was persecuted by religionists, who most likely didn't have a clue what Biblical Christianity was. I can see the catholics persecuting him, and the pseudo-protestants didn't understand him. If England did have a theocracy, it's more evidence showing how ignorant they were about true Christianity. Republican government is the best form of govt. and it's in the bible as early as Ex. 18.

I'm going to do a post on Hobbes.

J said...

I don't think you understand the political context of Leviathan--or at least you are greatly overlooking the political context, along with the implications of Hobbesian empiricism, and sort of "cherry picking" from a few preacherly sections from the end sections, which are hardly fire and brimstone. Read Leviathan from the beginning--at least until the transference of the right from the people to the sovereign (like ch. 17 or 18 or so). Hardly any theology--but Hobbes explains the empirical, mechanistic basis of his political theory in detail, which is rather economic and practical in nature.

The section of appetites makes it clear that he does not hold to any type of metaphysical realism, in regards to justice, the Good, or a soul, etc. (as Poulos says, Hobbes is a theorist of the individual). Can one justify a theological view from materialist, nominalist basis? I don't really think so--nor did, say, Descartes, who also thought Hobbesian thought rather heretical.

There's quite a bit of material on Hobbes online: ""He denies that there is “an idea or conception of anything we call infinite.” And this means, too, that we have no positive idea of God: “the name God is used, not to make us conceive him—for he is incomprehensible, and his greatness and power are inconceivable—but that we may honor him” (36; see also 95).""

I will agree that is not atheism,per se, but the pious of the time considered it heresy. Sounds a bit Lutheran, but I don't think Hobbes ever grants some transcendent realm as Luther does, and as you note, he does not uphold free will (though that is due to philosophical, not theological grounds). So I don't think his empirical-materialism can be overthrown because of a few pious thoughts (fairly common for academics of the time).

Either way, sir, It think we are starting to reach a dead end. Hobbes had SOME influence on the framers, but that was completely political, not theological.

J said...

Actually, I think this topic's been exhausted, and prefer no more comments on Hobbes as religious thinker (he's known primarily as a political theorist)

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