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Archive for January, 2016

The New American Perspective Is Here

At last, my new project, The New American Perspective, is up and running. We will cover politics, policy, culture, history, and theory.

Virtually all of my blog posts will be published at NAP’s website from now on.

See you there!

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Jefferson and Madison, Hobbesians

It is commonly argued that our Founders, though devoted Lockeans, were not especially influenced by Thomas Hobbes. This is false — for Lockeanism is a variant of Hobbesianism:

Thucydides teaches us in the Melian Dialogue that legalistic justice originates between competitors of approximately equal strength; that when there is inequality between competing forces, there is only domination by the strong and submission on the part of the weak. Greco-Roman politics was defined by a relatively rigid — though not ironclad — social hierarchy, held in place by an understanding that certain types of people are by nature fit to rule over others. Democracy came into being in Greece when the myth of the ‘great chain of being’ became unbelievable — the ancient parallel to the ‘death of God’ — which untethered ‘eros’ and eventually led to the dissolution of antiquity.

Modern philosophers, starting with Machiavelli, sought to conceive of a new, more stable vision of justice — one to replace the chain-of-being/hierarchy myth — based on that which is common to all men. If we can conceive of a new vision and spin a ‘rational mythology,’ then we can reboot Western civilization, ‘liberate it from the barbarians [Christians],’ and avoid a repeat of the collapse of antiquity and the tragic thousand-year-reign of Christendom, which ‘turned Europe into another appendage of Asia.’ Hobbes knew his Thucydides — as Nietzsche says: to be untimely is to know the Greeks — and recognized that In order for there to be enduring justice among all people, they must be convinced of their essential equality. Anything else will result in another unstable hierarchy. In Hobbes we find the rational mythology called for (to those who had ears to hear) by Machiavelli — the roots of materialism, egalitarianism, secularism, and natural rights doctrines, based on what Hobbes insisted was a purely technical account sufficient to cover the sweep of human experience. These planks of the liberal doctrine are designed to neutralize that which makes men distinct from one another — especially religious belief, but also physical (and yes, even mental) strength, and ancestry. But most of all, what unites us is our common fear of death and our craving for security and safety. If we are all equal, then none of us stands any better chance than anyone else of surviving against the other — so let’s agree to pursue justice together rather than attempt to dominate one another. Hobbes was much-persecuted in his native Britain, though, and had to cloak his brutal attack against Christendom as a defense of monarchy.

When a little more time had passed and attitudes toward the Church continued to soften, Locke came along: Lockeanism is practical, humane Hobbesianism — democratic Hobbesianism. But Hobbes himself knew his face-value doctrine was inhumane — he simply had no choice but to cater to those in power if he wanted to avoid persecution. Hobbes would have undoubtedly approved of Locke — and would have fully recognized himself in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

See also: My outline of the essential arguments of the Leviathan.

Thanks to Jon Rowe for re-blogging this at American Creation!

 

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