Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Leviathan contains the most devastating attack on Christian political theology ever undertaken

His time in England was fruitful in the making of lifelong friendships with the leaders of English thought in the stirring days of King Henry VIIIJohn ColetThomas MoreJohn FisherThomas Linacre and William Grocyn. … Erasmus's best-known work was The Praise of Folly (published under the double title Moriae encomium (Greek, Latinised) and Laus stultitiae (Latin)).[36] a satirical attack on the traditions of the European society, of the Catholic Church and popular superstitions, written in 1509, published in 1511, dedicated to his friend, Sir Thomas More, and inspired by De triumpho stultitiae, written by Italian humanist Faustino Perisauli born at Tredozio, near Forlì.

At this time Hobbes friend Mersenne was encouraging scholars to respond to Descates' forthcoming treatise Meditationes de prima philosophia. In 1641 Hobbes sent his critique to Descartes in Holland, and they were published in Objectiones with the publication of the treatise. The two men continued their discourse, exchanging letters on the Dioptrique, which had been published in 1637. Hobbes disagreed with Descartes' theory that the mind, independent from material reality, was the primal certainty. Hobbes instead used motion as the basis for his philosophy of nature, mind and society. His correspondence with Descartes led to a paper on his views on physics and a Tractatus Opticus to works published by Mersenne.

On the journey from London to Hanover, Leibniz stopped in The Hague where he met Leeuwenhoek, the discoverer of microorganisms. He also spent several days in intense discussion with Spinoza, who had just completed his masterwork, the Ethics. Leibniz respected Spinoza's powerful intellect, but was dismayed by his conclusions that contradicted both Christian and Jewish orthodoxy.
Leibniz disagreed harshly with Spinoza in Leibniz's own published Refutation of Spinoza, but he is also known to have met with Spinoza on at least one occasion[15][16] (as mentioned above), and his own work bears some striking resemblances to specific important parts of Spinoza's philosophy (see: Monadology).

Comparing Locke and Voltaire Locke and Voltaire - A Tale of Two Exiles by Rit Nosotro
The lives and works of these two men overlap each other, yet their views on politics and religion were quite different. They were different men too. Locke took a more humble view of his call, “…to be employed as a laborer in clearing the ground a little and removing the rubbish that lies in the way on knowledge.” Voltaire, on the other hand, determined to edify an entire country. Locke saw the need for religion in a steady government while Voltaire thought religion, especially Orthodox Christianity, was useless to the well being of a government. In the great experiment of America Locke’s views were put to the test. During the French Revolution the ideas of Voltaire were applied.

When the philosopher David Hume offered refuge to the persecuted writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau it was apparently a meeting of minds. But the friendship soon soured, casting a shadow over the Age of Reason and calling into doubt Rousseau's sanity and Hume's reputation …So, in less than a year, the relationship between Hume and Rousseau had gone from love to mockery by way of fear and loathing.
In hindsight, it seems unlikely that they were ever going to get along, personally or intellectually. Hume was a combination of reason, doubt and scepticism. Rousseau was a creature of feeling, alienation, imagination and certainty. While Hume's outlook was unadventurous and temperate, Rousseau was by instinct rebellious; Hume was an optimist, Rousseau a pessimist; Hume gregarious, Rousseau a loner. Hume was disposed to compromise, Rousseau to confrontation. In style, Rousseau revelled in paradox; Hume revered clarity. Rousseau's language was pyrotechnical and emotional, Hume's straightforward and dispassionate. JYT Greig wrote in his 1931 biography of Hume, "The annals of literature seldom furnish us with two contemporary writers of the first rank, both called philosophers, who cancel one another out with almost mathematical precision." 

As I have detailed in my latest book - which you can read here - there is a "natural order" in civilized human society. I am certainly not the first to think along these lines - in my collection of Basiat's essays, which you can read here, the second essay is on "natural order." Adam Smith too looked at human society as self-regulating and self-ordered. That is, Thomas Hobbes was wrong. It was Hobbes who recommended Leviathan to us all - and in that book he predicted that without the State, society would degenerate into a "war of each against all." Hobbes said that human interests are always in conflict. Bastiat said there was harmony. 

The fundamental preoccupation of classical western political philosophy has been to address the functioning of the human community. As rural village communities developed into city-states, the city provided the context in which philosophers understood themselves as human and then, progressively, as humans with specific rights prescribed by their context – they came to understand themselves as citizens. The contentions of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle over the nature of justice were fuelled by their identification of the city-state as a human arrangement to promote such a value (Meagher, 2008, 3-5). St. Augustine, moving away from Athenian concerns, contended that common good, lost on earth, ought to be recreated in a heavenly city. Machiavelli moved away from the tradition of founding philosophical utopias, yet he too began his work by classifying cities.
It is only with Hobbes that one first sees the privileging of the concept of the state as an entity that goes beyond the city (Ibid, 6-7). Skinner has attributed this to Hobbes’ desire to articulate the state in a new form – one in which sovereignty is located above both the ruler and the ruled – in effect, the manner in which we understand the state today (Skinner, 1989). While the utopia that was dreamt of and written about from Hobbes onward was no longer directly a city-state, it is undeniable that the city continued to be central to the imagination of the state in classical western political philosophy. Indeed, Henri Lefebvre argues that in “classical philosophy from Plato to Hegel, the city was much more than a secondary theme, an object among others. The links between philosophical thought and urban life appear clearly upon reflection, although they need to be made explicit” (Lefebvre, quoted in Meagher, op cit, 3).

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