Thomas Hobbes: Fascist Exponent of Enlightement Science?

Yes really, complete with miss-spelling of “enlightenment”. Don’t stop reading just because its about Hobbes, though :-). Its really about the LaRouche nutters, I think (the connection is via the Schiller Institute). My source is Brian Lantz, from the Spring 1996 issue of FIDELIO Magazine, found in the course of trying to work out the relationship between Hobbes and Francis Bacon (was he a pupil of, or just secretary to?). But moving on from that, we have a cornucopia of delights including

Over the past century, for geopolitical purposes, the British oligarchy has orchestrated a true Hobbesian “war of each against all,” bringing about two world wars and innumerable regional conflicts including, most recently, the horrors of Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia


Like his homosexual lover Francis Bacon and fellow British empiricist John Locke, Thomas Hobbes was deployed by the then Venice-centered oligarchy against the ideas of the Golden Renaissance, which had been set in motion under the influence of Nicolaus of Cusa at the 1439 Council of Florence.

After pausing, briefly, to note that the article does state that Kissinger was correct in identifying the axiomatics of British foreign policy as “Hobbesian,” which is in its favour. But mistaken; the most Hobbesian foreign policy is clearly that of the USA); I ought to note some oddities about the circle-squaring stuff:

For example, Cusa discovered why it was impossible to “square the circle” through algebraic methods, thereby discovering what we know today as the transcendental numbers. Why? Because a linear approximation of curvature is never curvature; circular action is not reducible to straight-line action.

This isn’t true; certainly the wiki article doesn’t mention him; and indeed the task wasn’t proved impossible until 1882. The reference to “algebraic methods” is odd, too: Cusa would have been concerned with geometrical ones. But this does touch on Hobbes, who was also interested in squaring the circle. Unfortunately he decided that he had managed to prove this, which was a futile waste of time as well as prestige. Ah well, a warning that however eminent you are in one field, that doesn’t necessarily transfer across; and that learning maths by yourself is Hard.

But enough from the article: doubtless everyone will find their own favoured bit of nonsense in there. I’ve now heavily hacked the [[Nicholas of Cusa]] article. Here is a before-and-after difference and here is the old version. I am (obviously) no expert in this area, so if anyone out there reading this is, please comment here or edit there.

[Update: How Not to Square the Circle by Tony Phillips provides some interesting detail on N of C’s circle-squaring activities. If you believe that, then the LaRouche nonsense I started from gets it totally wrong: N was actually trying to square the circle and failing, not trying to prove it impossible (and failing). That article also points to an interesting parallel between Hobbes and N: both were attracted to the rigour of maths, both were amateurs, and both tried to use it to prove philosophical points (unsuccessfully, of course).

However, it gets worse, because the LaRouchies provide On the Quadrature of the Circle, 1450, Nicolaus of Cusa which (perhaps unwisely) I’ll trust them to have reproduced accurately. That appears to be internally contradictory to me; perhaps the attempt to translate from the language of 1450 to present day has proved too hard. This may provide some further clues; or perhaps N was muddled himself.]

Hobbes on climate change

Via HT I find Kerry Emanuel saying:

I think debate is good but we should be debating points that are actually debatable

and who could disagree with that? But the problem is who gets to say what is debatable. You and I know, of course. But the wackoes don’t [What is the Plural of “wacko”? Is it -oes or -os? And what about “Bozoes” – that looks wrong]. Or rather, it is impossible to distinguish from outside their heads the difference between “this is debatable” and “I’m going to force you to debate this if I can, either because it plays well or in order to avoid debating real issues” (compare For if a man pretend to me that God hath spoken to him supernaturally, and immediately, and I make doubt of it, I cannot easily perceive what argument he can produce to oblige me to believe it).

The connection to Hobbes is that he argues, for example, that if you let someone “independent” interpret your laws, then that person or group is effectively sovereign; and therefore argues for all judges to be effectively the person of the sovereign, delegated (as I believe was the theory in England, but no more). With no-one wielding the civil sword to decide questions such as “what is debatable” there is no law in this area, no compact, and thus effectively a state of war. Which is exactly what we see.

[Updated: to include sea ice pic and link to Neven.]


* Calvin and