It’s better to live on your knees than die on your feet: Thomas Hobbes on the dangers of political idealism
Wednesday 19 September from 5-6.30pm in ib3.307 on the Waurn Ponds campus
This Wednesday 19 September from 5-6.30pm the Deakin Philosophical Society will discuss political idealism. Dylan Nickelson will open the meeting with a brief presentation of Thomas Hobbes’ criticism of political idealism.
In the December 1982 edition of Rolling Stone Thomas Hobbes published a scathing review of Midnight Oil’s album 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Midnight Oil, Hobbes claimed, were corrupting Australian youth with such politically incendiary tracks as ‘Short Memory’ and ‘US Forces’. But it was the lyrics to ‘The Power and the Passion’ with which Hobbes took particular issue, writing:
We hear that “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”. How foolish! What vainglory! Who penned such rot? Was it Hirst, Moginie or Garrett? Have The Oils taken leave of their senses? Anybody who has lived through the English Civil War and who can ratiocinate knows that the opposite is true. Standing up for political ideals can only lead to political subversion, civil unrest and, ultimately, civil war. And with civil war comes a return to the State of Nature — a state in which all persons, upright, kowtowed and prostrate, face the constant threat of death; a state in which, as I have argued elsewhere (see my Leviathan (Bohn, 1651)), life for all is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. All things considered, therefore, it’s better to live on one’s knees than to die on one’s feet.
In this paper I clarify the finer points of Hobbes’ criticism of political idealism and his argument that domestic peace and commodious living require us to forfeit our political ideals lest they undermine the sovereign’s authority.
See you there.
Treasurer, Deakin Philosophical Society
The Deakin Philosophical Society is funded by Deakin University Student Association (DUSA).