Tag Archives: Thomas Hobbes

Marginalia, no.228

A Person is he whose words or actions are considered, either as his own, or as representing the words or actions of an other man…whether Truly or by Fiction. When they are considered as his owne, then is he called a Naturall person: and when they are considered as representing the words or actions of an other, then he is a Feigned or Artificiall person.

~ Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

It may help us to understand the lives of certain novelists if we think of them as ‘feigned persons.’ To judge by their example, dissipation in chemical or sexual form must be a requirement for membership in the Cult of the Artist. General dishevelment, poor manners and complicated politics don’t hurt either. Flaubert cautions against affected bohemianism, recommending that an artist live like a bourgeois and save his energy for his work. Along similar lines, Jules Renard writes in an 1890 journal entry: “You can be a poet and still wear your hair short. You can be a poet and pay your rent. Even though you are a poet, you can sleep with your wife.”

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Marginalia, no.199

If his philosophy freed him from the former fear and not from the latter, it did not hinder him from being miserable.

~ Pierre Bayle, Dictionary

It was rumored that Thomas Hobbes disliked being alone because he was afraid of ghosts. Bayle quotes a contemporary biographer who scoffs at the idea: It’s not that Hobbes was afraid of “spectres and apparitions, vain bugbears of fools,” he says; these he “chased away by the light of his philosophy.” Instead, he feared assassination (hence Bayle’s comment above). This morning I united both concerns when I looked in the mirror and mistook myself for an executioner’s ghostly victim. That’s how nearly last night’s haircut approximates decapitation.

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