Articles from 09/2013

5 September 2013

Where’s Hobbes?

Why did Hobbes write Leviathan?

With some philosophical masterpieces this might seem a redundant question: they got written because their authors felt the truths in them had to be set down. But Thomas Hobbes broke off from writing what was meant to be his philosophical masterpiece in order to produce Leviathan. In the late 1640s, while in Paris to escape the extreme hazards of the English civil war, Hobbes had been laboring away on De Corpore, the foundational part of a projected Latin trilogy of natural and social philosophy. He was stuck, bogged down in intractable puzzles…Read

How I Ended Last Summer

I saw this film at the end of a long tiring day. I think that’s why I didn’t have quite the same ecstatic response to it that seems to be the case with so many audiences. It won the ‘Best of Festival’ prize at London last Autumn plus Silver Bears for the two actors at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.

Writer-Director Aleksei Popogrebsky has always been fascinated by polar exploration (see the interview in the Press Pack downloadable from UK distributors New Wave). After two previous art film successes (Koktobel, 2003…Read

Does hypocrisy have a place in politics?

David Runciman’s new book is erudite and thought-provoking. But in lambasting the cynics who are obsessed with exposing political hypocrisy it risks defending the democratic facade to state power. Deriving from the Greek word Hypokrisis, meaning ‘to play a part’, hypocrisy is very much the ancient art. Literally, as it happens, since the original Hypocrites were, in fact, classical stage actors.

Its theatrical origins shed some semantic light on this most frequent of accusations. For hypocrisy is not simply lying – that is, a non-coincidence with the truth. Hypocrisy is, rather, a question…Read

Thomas Hobbes

Human beings open their eyes in a world that is full of rules, regulations and most of the time without having the chance to refuse or change them. The majority of the world population lives in territories where there are official, organized institutions called “states” which regulate and organize social life. The existence of the state has become an absolute condition for the well being of society starting from a long time ago. However, the state did not appear immediately with the beginning of human life. There was a long period of time in history during which…Read

Distributive Justice

This article first appeared in issue 92 of Philosophy Now

Justice, John Rawls claimed, is the first virtue of institutions. Certainly it seems to be the first concern of contemporary political theorists, and has been since A Theory of Justice was published in 1971. A great deal has been written about it and, given the on-going nature of the investigation, it is difficult to see the wood for the trees, in particular because justice is, to borrow Michael

Freeden’s phrase, an essentially contested concept: Philosophers disagree about what ‘goes into’ justice, what weighting…Read

Hobbes, Stirner & Authority

More than three centuries after the death of Thomas Hobbes, the issue of state power versus individual rights remains as contentious as ever. Paul Rowlandson on the case for strong government .

In 1967 Commander George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, launched his campaign for the Presidency. (He was assassinated later the same year by one of his own lieutenants). At one of his televised press conferences he was asked about his policy towards Red China, then undergoing the Cultural Revolution. “Fifteen minutes after I’m President” he replied, “there won&rsquo…Read

Politics – it’s a dirty job

According to opinion polls, politicians are one of the least trusted professions. However, this does not stop New Zealand Members of Parliament from being paid around $140,000 per annum (which is three and a half times the average income) plus a salubrious package of perks. The most alluring perk of all is power. Although many enter the field believing that they can make the world a better place, power has always been the predominant raison d’etre of politicians throughout the ages.

However disliked they may be, though, no one is in a hurry to get rid…Read