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2001-02-05 3am

hobbes and hobbes

Two movies watched last night- a sneak preview of Saving Silverman, and SLC Punk. Saving Silverman was charming- it had its moments but nothing overly original. SLC Punk... Welcome to my world. I'm no punk, but it struck home in a lot of ways... "If the guy I was then met the guy I am now, he'd beat the shit out of me." If the me of three years ago met the me of now... he probably wouldn't beat the shit out of me, but he'd probably be horrified.

Anyway, without further ado, I now take a cue from Mysteria and reproduce my actual essay on Leviathan for my History of Civilization class. And considering the fact that I was almost encouraged to write on this topic, I'll probably even get a good grade. Anyway...

"A Survey of Similarity and Disparity Between Two Philosophers of the Same Name"

Over the millennia, man has pondered the questions of his existence. Where did I come from? What is my purpose? Where am I going, and why? What is the ideal form of government? Which is smarter, tigers or humans? Western civilization has been witness to a veritable parade of philosophers- lovers of wisdom- who have attempted to answer these questions. But in light of these last two questions especially, one name (and two philosophers) stands alone. And that name is Hobbes. Both Thomas Hobbes of 17th century England and Hobbes the Tiger, the vaunted companion of the thoughtful Calvin, have contributed immeasurably to our understanding of these and other topics. While Thomas Hobbes tended to concentrate on political science, with his counter part the Tiger focusing more on areas of comparative intelligence, there is nonetheless much to compare between the two and their respective paradigms. In this brief essay, the author will attempt to enlarge and expand on the similarities and differences, sometimes shocking and always surprising, between these two paragons of sagacity, undoubtedly enlightening and improving the quality of life of whosoever should read it.

To begin with, let us compare the ways in which the works of the two Hobbes was received. Thomas Hobbes, though liked by Charles II, was hated by the episcopal party and denounced as an atheist. The publication of Behemoth, his sequel to Leviathan, was prohibited. All in all, Thomas Hobbes expended great effort coming up with ideas to have them much talked about but ultimately ignored. Hobbes the Tiger was similarly unsuccessful in his attempts at reform. When once he suggested, "I suppose we could try being good," his companion, Calvin responded, "I must've gotten water in my ear. What did you say?" Hobbes could only respond with, "Nothing. Forget it." His revolutionary idea of "being good" was thus brushed off instantly- this was a common occurrence. And so, Hobbes the Tiger, too, found his ideas about the way things should be run falling on deaf ears. While both of the Hobbes suffered setbacks, both were recognized as great thinkers even by those who disdained their views.

One of the most striking similarities between the two Hobbes is their view of human nature- not a positive one. Thomas Hobbes, in his great work Leviathan, said "Of the voluntary acts of man, the object is some Good to himselfe." Thus Thomas Hobbes believed that most humans act selfishly the greater part of the time and are untrustworthy and greedy. In light of this, he postulated that fear was the only effective method of keeping humans civilized, saying, "The force of Words, being too weak to hold men to the performance of their Covenants; there are in man's nature, but two imaginable helps to strengthen it. And those are either a Feare of the consequence of breaking their word; or a Glory, or Pride in appearing not to need to breake it. This later is a Generosity too rarely found to be presumed upon, especially in the pursuers of Wealth, Command, or sensuall Pleasure; which are the greatest part of Mankind . The Passion to be reckoned upon, is Fear." Hobbes the Tiger also expressed his disdain for the mass of humanity on several occasions. When asked by the great Calvin whether he believed in the devil, "a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man," Hobbes responded, "I'm not sure man needs the help." Hobbes the Tiger also had similar ideas to Thomas Hobbes as to how to go about circumventing this problem in human nature, having once stated that man's true purpose on Earth is as "tiger food."

However, while the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes was most certainly monarchist, Hobbes the Tiger's views would more easily fit under what is commonly called "rational anarchy." [A proper discussion of the tenets of the "rational anarchist" is beyond the scope of this article. The gentle reader is referred to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein, p.83-85, July 1997 Orb trade paperback edition, for a primer.] Thomas Hobbes spent much energy arguing for the irreversible bestowal of sovereignty on one person, to act in the interests of the group, while Hobbes the Tiger has shown repeatedly in word and action a marked preference for a return to the "state of nature" so maligned by his predecessor. This glaring disparity between such remarkably similar minds is odd. One is tempted to explain this divergence as a product of the respective backgrounds and intellectual environments of the two, but this would perhaps be an oversimplification.

In conclusion, the author (who finds existing in the first person boorish and uncouth) states the obvious, for the benefit of those whose inductive powers may not be quite on the same level as his: In light of the striking links between Thomas Hobbes of 17th century England and Hobbes the Tiger of the modern era, the author concludes that Hobbes the Tiger is in fact most certainly and without a doubt the very same person as Thomas Hobbes, only reborn in the modern day, thus conclusively proving the metaphysical reality of reincarnation and most likely initiating a new golden age in our understanding of the universe.