What would Hobbes say? The January Edition

Since E has disappeared in all her many forms (though I unexpectedly ran into her husband yesterday), I've decided to do a takeover of the blog. Nepali folk are pretty well practiced at that sort of thing but I'll try rein in my Imperial tendencies.

To those readers (one person, probably) that remain, let me assure you that, to the best of my knowledge, E will be back soon.

As the first step in the takeover process, I'm starting a monthly post entitled "What would Hobbes say?". This involves picking a current news story or a question and deciding what Hobbes would say to that, if he could say something and wasn't already dead.

This month, the question comes from the World Question Centre. Their question for 2006 is "What is your dangerous idea?". There's a list of people who have answered this, including Richard Dawkins, Paul Davies, Martin Rees (the President of the Royal Society) and Jared Diamond. The list is skewed towards natural scientists and people who write on the natural sciences, but what these people consider to be a dangerous idea is a good read in itself.

But, I know you're wondering about Hobbes.

In Chapter 13 of the Leviathan, he says:

"Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good and evil in the conversation and society of mankind. Good and evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions, which in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men are different."

I take that to mean that Hobbes is saying Good and Evil will differ according to social and historical contexts. Pretty dangerous stuff for Hobbes' time and even for now (try telling people at "security conferences" in Washington that there just might be other ways of studying/dealing with security apart from the military-as-security option).

Next month, a different question for Hobbes, a different answer and a side of Hobbes you've never read before.


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