Monday, October 19, 2009


Count me surprised that you were not aware that Hobbesian Nature is the opposite of Aristotelian teleology. The idea that Hobbes marked the transition from summum bonum to summum malum is widely understood.

Yeah, I jumped the gun a bit on that. Actually, I thought that he was getting to something more profound. Instead, as I read on, he was simply drawing on Hobbes too strongly. This makes sense in context.

A useful maxim, when it comes to writing, is: "When in doubt, draw a distinction." Given that Levin is writing about biotechnology, Hobbes' summum malum, Death, makes an appealing contrast to the Platonic Good or Aristotelian Nature in this milieu. Medical science defines itself as the good because it is in opposition to Death and illness.

I don't think that fear of death is all that defines or motivates moderns, even scientists. The opposite, love of life or of knowledge, are also motivations. Indeed, the idea that we are upset about losing a loved one is, almost by defintion, more about love than fear.

So, I think I was hoping that the book had some insight into the modern mind, but I was reading too much into it. It is definitely a good book and worth a read to understand how science acts as an undemocratic force in American politics, but my post was a bit like Obama's Nobel Prize; it was given in expectation rather than manifestation.


Constantin Constantius said...

"The idea that Hobbes marked the transition from summum bonum to summum malum is widely understood" only by those people whose knowledge of the early modern period is limited. Or those for whom there is no political theory between Aristotle and Hobbes.

FLG said...

I had issues with that too, but it did give me a good excuse to retreat a bit from my earlier statement. Which, in hindsight, wasn't my smartest post evah.

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