FELICITY, therefore (by which we mean continual delight), consisteth not in having prospered, but in prospering

I can never ever find this quote when I want it. But, I’ve got a blog. So now I will be able to find it. It is from Hobbes of course; but Elements not Leviathan – though there’s a similar passage in Leviathan which I can’t find just now. Here’s the full quote in context, from Chapter 7: Of Delight and Pain; Good and Evil

Seeing all delight is appetite, and appetite presupposeth a farther end, there can be no contentment but in proceeding: and therefore we are not to marvel, when we see, that as men attain to more riches, honours, or other power; so their appetite continually groweth more and more; and when they are come to the utmost degree of one kind of power, they pursue some other, as long as in any kind they think themselves behind any other. Of those therefore that have attained to the highest degree of honour and riches, some have affected mastery in some art; as Nero in music and poetry, Commodus in the art of a gladiator. And such as affect not some such thing, must find diversion and recreation of their thoughts in the contention either of play, or business. And men justly complain as of a great grief, that they know not what to do. FELICITY, therefore (by which we mean continual delight), consisteth not in having prospered, but in prospering.

This naturally enough is relevant to modern economics; see for example Timmy though I’m not impressed by his “a long standing postulate of mine”, especially since I pointed out the Hobbes quote to him in 2012. Ah, such is the memory of man.

Refs

* Time Race, 2016. We can second by 12 seconds to Tabs 1; but they’re leet.

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11 thoughts on “FELICITY, therefore (by which we mean continual delight), consisteth not in having prospered, but in prospering”

  1. Leviathan, beginning of Chapter 11 may be what you were thinking of:

    Felicity is a continual progress of the desire from one object to another, the attaining of the former being still but the way to the latter. The cause whereof is that the object of man’s desire is not to enjoy once only, and for one instant of time, but to assure forever the way of his future desire. And therefore the voluntary actions and inclinations of all men tend not only to the procuring, but also to the assuring of a contented life, and differ only in the way, which ariseth partly from the diversity of passions in diverse men, and partly from the difference of the knowledge or opinion each one has of the causes which produce the effect desired.

    So that in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.”

    [Thanks; but that’s not the right bit. In fact the just-preceeding To which end we are to consider that the felicity of this life consisteth not in the repose of a mind satisfied. For there is no such finis ultimus (utmost aim) nor summum bonum (greatest good) as is spoken of in the books of the old moral philosophers is closer -W]

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  2. To those oppressed by Leviathan, the height of Felicity consists in the abrupt disappearance of their Oppressors,

    Hence the condemnation of the demise of the Department for Energy and Climate Change. as “plain stupid”, “deeply worrying” and “terrible” by politicians, campaigners and experts whose felicity has long depended on Leviathan’s growth..

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  3. I’m curious that a free market enthusiast would be a Hobbes fan. Now, I’m far from a Hobbesian scholar but I always categorized Hobbes as someone that advocated for the necessity of government regulations. I’d be interested to know how Hobbes views align with your views, Dr. Connolley.

    [Hobbes believes in the need for a strong central authority, or sovereign. However, he says little or nothing about regulations. He says a lot about Law. his view would be that the sovereign had the right to impose whatever regulations it likes – which would have the force of law, law being equivalent to the sovereign’s command. However, I very much doubt he would have liked to see as much regulation as we have. For example, he states somewhere something roughly equivalent to “it must be possible to know what the law is”, and clearly no-one can possibly know all the law we have, there’s far far too much of it -W]

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  4. {“it must be possible to know what the law is”, and clearly no-one can possibly know all the law we have, there’s far far too much of it}

    If the world is simple, and one person can understand all of things in the world, perhaps so.

    I don’t think of the world as being that simple.

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  5. Phil Hays writes: “I don’t think of the world as being that simple.”

    Of course it is. Markets cannot fail, they can only be failed.

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  6. > I very much doubt he would have
    > liked to see as much regulation as we have.

    I recall, a decade or more ago, an old senior partner at a law firm pointing out that the reason we (in the US) have such complex regulations is — loopholes, which lawyers are well paid for having crafted and lobbied for. You can start with a simple law that calls for a simple regulation, but then every interested party calculates whether it’s worth spending the money for lobbying to change the law and participating in the process of amending the regulation. And it usually is profitable to do so.

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  7. One law – “don’t poison the water” is sufficient? Sadly, no. Law or regulation, long lists must be drawn up. Too complex for Hobbes.

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  8. Yep.

    Is it toxic waste, a gasoline additive, or a fracking chemical?

    Sorry, we can describe how it’s used, but the actual chemical constituents are proprietary. You can’t regulate it unless you can show sufficient damage and prove a connection.

    Ain’t regulation wonderful?

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