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Thomas Hobbes

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(@phidippides)
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I would really like to start a discussion of Thomas Hobbes.


   
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(@donaldbaker)
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You are an admin here so you can do as you please.  Thomas Hobbes would agree with this statement. 🙂

Even if Trump were to be revealed as the Dark Lord of the Sith, he's still better than the last four presidents we've had.


   
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(@donaldbaker)
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This discussion didn't get very far.  What about Hobbes do you wish to discuss?  

Even if Trump were to be revealed as the Dark Lord of the Sith, he's still better than the last four presidents we've had.


   
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(@phidippides)
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Sorry, I had to collect my thoughts.

So Hobbes is sometimes recognized as a great anti-religious thinker of the early Enlightenment, and he might even be thrown behind Locke in terms of social importance within our modern, western conception of government.  But is there a case to be made that at least some of Hobbes' views are more important than ever these days?

I say this especially in regard to his conception of the state, and what's its very purpose is.  Whereas the Christian and/or civic republican tradition was to consider the state in terms of normative ideas, Hobbes treated that state more as a deterrent to danger.  Hobbes saw that the religious traditions of his time were not able to agree on issues which led to fighting (massive conflict, actually, including the Thirty Years' War).  The state could find a distinctive role, then, in preventing man from killing or oppressing his neighbor, rather than in ordering him to some ideal, such as eternal life. 

In other words, if there is no reasonable way for everyone to agree on one common objective of government in terms of bringing man to his ultimate happiness, can people at the very minimum agree that the state should prevent one person from killing another? Or from stealing his stuff?  Or cheating him?  In the Hobbsian view, the state seems to take on a role of preventing negative acts by man, rather than to promote his positive acts.

In our highly pluralistic society today, in which our ideals seems to shooting off into different directions, isn't Hobbes' message all the more important?  The right and left used to agree on many principles in the past, but separated when it came to policy, but in today's world it seems like these sides are breaking apart more and more at the level of principle.  This seems to be a sort of recycling of the Catholic-Protestant wars of the seventeenth century which spurred Hobbes in his thinking about the nature of the state.

With this in mind, is a Hobbsian approach to the state an answer to our current problems?  If right and left were at the boiling point and were about to declare all-out war on each other, would it behoove them to sit down with one last-ditch effort to try to agree on the bare minimum of government?  Because it's quite obvious that right and left aren't going to be agreeing on a common, forward-looking vision for society.

 


   
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(@donaldbaker)
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I'm a little rusty on Hobbes.  I will do a little research and get back to this.  Im inclined to say Locke is more needed than Hobbes, but that would be steering this conversation into more convoluted waters.

 

 

Even if Trump were to be revealed as the Dark Lord of the Sith, he's still better than the last four presidents we've had.


   
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(@phidippides)
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Well, perhaps even consider Hobbes' views even apart from his larger philosophical framework.  Hobbes shifted the conversation away from the state as a means of creating ideal citizens (whether this be the Christian ideal or the Greek/civic ideal) and toward the idea that the state is basically there just to prevent people from killing each other.  Is this a worthy conception of government?

I was trying to find out what a modern Christian conception of the state is.  Would Christian philosophers of today hold that the purpose of the state is compatible with Hobbes' view?  I found, for example, that modern Catholic thought (as espoused by Pope St. John Paul II and perhaps others) that the state exists to "promote the common good", by which people/groups can attain their fulfillment while respecting certain universal norms regarding respect for life, private property, etc. 

While I'm not sure how Protestant thinkers would treat the purpose of the state, I would be surprised if it were much different than the Catholic view. 

I am engaging in this topic because it seems like the American vision for its political future is in doubt.  Americans are divided unlike at any time before since the Civil War, and we're not going to agree on the large issues.  Basically, the ideal society for left and right is radically different, and has been different for a growing number of years.  This is why several years ago I concluded that America would break apart within the next few decades.  

But - and this might be a pipe dream - if Americans could set aside their ideal goals for American society, and instead focus on governing with the sole intent of preventing people from terrorizing each other, the American experiment could continue.   


   
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