Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hobbes (1588-1679 A.D.)


By Richard E. Noble

If John Milton can be considered press agent or propagandist for Oliver Cromwell, Thomas Hobbes was his counterpart for the King. Hobbes wrote something called the Leviathan in which he defended the Kings right to rule, not by Divine Right but by reason or logic. Of course, it was his version of reason or logic that he used. He said that aggression and war were the normal state for the natural man, but man was also possessive of reason and intelligence and by applying these qualities he could establish peace. Peace, according to Hobbes, could be established, by keeping ones mouth shut, and doing what you are told ... shut up, and obey the King. Hobbes was a friend of Francis Bacon, and as Bacon defended the King’s right to torture, Hobbes defended the king’s right to slaughter. Hobbes it seems felt that anything was worth arguing over but nothing was worth fighting over. When it looked to Hobbes that the present Head of State would very shortly find his head in a bucket, Hobbes filed for conscientious objector status. In his application he stated that if the Sovereign could no longer protect his subjects then the subject (he, in particular) had no obligation to try and protect the sovereign. He beat a hasty path for France; there was no Canada at the time. While in France he revised his political philosophy, slightly. Yes, everyone should shut up and obey the king, but if the king's head was now in a bucket, everyone should shut up and obey whoever it was who put the king’s head into the bucket. This got him a free pass back to England. But then the plague along with a fire in London naturally convinced the people of England that God was P.O.ed and that they should purge their nation of witches and atheists. They demanded that The Leviathan be reexamined as an atheistic tract. Hobbes once again had his Reeboks on, and was ready to make, if not a dash, a shuffle (he was old now) for the border. But his buddy the King stepped in and said; Why don't you guys read another book, and I'll tell Tommy to shut up. Everyone agreed.
During his life Tommy wrote lots of stuff and was always in some kind of a debate with somebody. He argued endlessly with this one guy named Bramhall on the subject of Free Will. John Bramhall was a religious Bishop. He believed strongly in Free Will because without it where would God get the right to put all of his enemies into Hell. Tommy said that humans had the freedom to conform to the dictates of their nature, and nothing more.
Tommy didn't like the pope either, and he felt that the pope was certainly okay, but when push came to shove the pope should shut up and do what the king tells him.
Tommy also didn't like war. He said that war was stupid on practical grounds. Not only was it a waste of poor peoples lives, but, it was a waste of money and was not good for the economy. Obviously Tommy didn't have any shares in the local sword factory.
I don't really think that Thomas Hobbes is a guy that I can take too seriously. I'll put him on the reading list but he has a long, long line of folks ahead of him. He's ahead of Rush Limbaugh but below Ayn Rand and Madalyn O'Hair.