I have a feeling that when Hobbes was a child he got beaten up by a radical anarchist and nobody dealt with it. In order to deal with that childhood trauma he has written a book that could essentially stand the attacks of anyone who doesn’t want to be ruled. To be honest there are simply so many ideas presented in this book that I spent the majority of the time retreating into myself and making ridiculous metaphors about leviathan crocodiles. I have a lot of questions that I felt like I could not come up with a sufficient answer for, so i’ll just write them here. Like The Prince, I found myself disagreeing on some points of Hobbes argument on the “no…that couldn’t be” basis. Morals do matter to Hobbes, but he approaches them in a way that is just as systematic as any other Hobbesian machine. In the end I was glad he did this, because morals have always been some of the most difficult things to work an argument around. Strangely enough, seeing human emotions and ideas explained into a machine was actually quite comforting. In some senses, Hobbes is actually very similar to Plato. Everything must be governed strictly, and even if they don’t like it, it is for your own good. Where they differ is with the idea of the leader, and this is where my first question arose: Although Hobbes believes we need a ruler, good or bad, he also talks about universal rights. Is there really nothing we as society ought to do about a bad king, or one that presents us with acts of sudden and violent death that we apparently have a right to not experience? Really, it seems to me like Hobbes idea is not very different from any we have today at all. When people have a revolution, we are temporarily reducing ourselves to a state of nature, although if we are smart, we will have a new preferable leader ready, because we surely need a ruler no matter what. Today, all our electoral policies can, at their bare essentials, be seen as nothing more than an attempt to avoid a state of nature. BUT, if actions are not unjust or just by nature, than how can one tell what is a good leader? I understand that a “good” leader isn’t part of Hobbes argument, however, I still think it is important to understand how his system would work, or… is working today. I have no doubt Hobbes was an atheist. It is almost impossible to separate a genuine belief about how we were made with how we as men should act on earth. He did it though, and I thought he did it well. In short, I agree with what Hobbes is saying. It’s true. Do I like why it’s true? Not sure.
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Alright, now it’s time for me to start my long overdue blog post introducing myself. My name is Yi Le Lu (pronounced Yee-La), and I have lived in Canada (specifically British Columbia) since I was 4 years old. I have attended 6 elementary schools and 1 high school prior to coming to UBC. For those of you who are interested in which 6 elementary schools I have been to, they are listed in the following chronological order: Florence Nightingale, Lord Nelson, Rock City, Charles Dickens Annex, Florence Nightingale (again!), Charles Dickens, and Marlborough (my favourite elementary school as well as my favourite school of all time, including UBC). All of my elementary schools are located in Vancouver, with two exceptions; Rock City is located in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, and Marlborough is in Burnaby, where I now live. For those of you who are wondering why I have mentioned Florence Nightingale twice, it’s because I attended Nightingale for Kindergarten, part of Grade 1, and when I moved back to Vancouver from Nanaimo, I returned to Nightingale (my 2nd favourite elementary school) after a brief, 3 day stay at nearby Charles Dickens Annex. Those who are interested as to why I stayed 3 days at Charles Dickens Annex can comment on this blog post and ask.
My interests include reading, writing, horseback riding, and travelling to Canadian as well as American national parks. One of my favourite places to travel to is the Canadian Rockies. I’ve already been there 3 times but I’m still not tired of it. I also go horseback riding during the spring, summer and early fall months. I have taken English riding lessons in the past, but now I ride Western. I ride in Campbell Valley Park, which is a beautiful equestrian park located in Langley and very close to the Canadian-US border. My parents were willing to make the 1 hour drive from Burnaby to south Langley every week in order to let me ride! And I think the fact that I ride regularly also allowed me to tell UBC one more thing about myself when I applied.
For those of you who managed to read this entire blog post and not get bored in the process- I really commend you for your ability to do so! I’m going to skip over the typical ending posts where people write “I can’t wait to meet you all!” because I have already met you all already, and say instead- Thank goodness the term is ending soon!
I find myself to thoroughly enjoy shorter reads that are filled with much insight and knowledge, and I think that The Prince by Machiavelli does exactly that. However, I did not find this read to be all that interesting to me. I initially thought that this book would strike my interest and by right up my alley when it came to preferences, but that was definitely not the case for me here. But in spite of this opinion, I thought that the text was substantial and a great outline of how one can gain power and superiority.
This text is quite reminiscent to Plato’s account, as they merely take the same route by creating an intricate guide to help others succeed in a certain area. Much like Plato’s Republic, The Prince describes step-by-step the way in which a man should act, or the course he should take if he desires to prevail as a Prince. Upon reading Machiavelli’s guide to success, I began to compare past characters we have analyzed in this course to Machiavelli’s expectations and rules; basically seeing which characters are Machiavelli, and which are not. Machiavelli’s dialect acts as a mere handbook dictating the seemingly proper way in which one should rule.
Furthermore, I also found in this book that Machiavelli expresses how a Prince mustn’t be dominated by emotion. I found this to be interesting, for as stated above, this particular rule or standard, is quite similar to Plato’s handbook, which states that guardians should not show extreme emotion of any sort for they will appear as weak. Also, in the guide, Machiavelli also states how a Prince must maintain a proper illusion of goodness to find confidence in his citizens, as a means of strengthening his support from fellow citizens in his nation. With all these little suggestions and rules, I think that it is safe to say that Machiavelli makes extreme presumptions about us as human beings. He is quick to generalize humans, and thinks that we are easily manipulated and naïve. Although I believe that instilling a strong, political structure in a nation is of great importance, I do think that Machiavelli has some harsh and cruel expectations.
Overall, I found this to be a somewhat intriguing read. Although I got bored at many parts and found this book to be more of a task than a fun and interesting read, I thought that it was alright.
The Tempest was a particularly interesting read for me. I found that it was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I happen to find fiction and play-like reads to be easier for me, since it doesn’t appear to be as difficult of a task. Essentially, I find that plays are a friendlier read (if that even makes sense), less overwhelming for me.
With that being said, The Tempest kept me invested and entertained as a reader. I greatly enjoyed it as a whole. From the plot, to the magical aspects of the play, and the complexity of the characters; everything, I found was quite interesting. In class we analyzed many parts of The Tempest, that of which being how a predominant theme in this play is centered around stagecraft and the theatre itself. I found that it was interesting learning of how this play was interpreted and presented during Shakespearean times, as it addresses audiences directly and it’s power over other people.
Additionally, upon reading The Tempest, the lingering thought about monstrosity was in my mind. In this play, monsters are greatly looked down upon, mocked, and immensely belittled. Essentially, they are viewed as unnatural, outsiders, and deceptive. This particular stereotype has a great effect on one character in particular, Caliban. With Caliban being perceived and represented as a figure for monstrosity, I believe that he is a mere victim in this case. He is bullied by others that merely have the power to demean and undermine his intelligence, which significantly and heavily disadvantages Caliban’s confidence, and ability to defend himself from constantly being harassed and looked down upon.
While reading this, I also definitely got a sense Prospero’s character as well. For instance, Prospero greatly demeans Ariel, making him feel forever indebted to him. Essentially, I got a sense of how Prospero is abusive, and greatly takes advantage of Ariel, demonstrating his superiority and narcissism, whereas Ariel expresses his fearful and submissive attitude towards his mistreatment. I also found it quite captivating with how The Tempest is Shakespeare’s final play that he wrote. Thus, I thought that Prospero’s monologue when he explains how he is going to get rid of his books containing magic was an excellent way to relate both conceptsAs a whole, I found The Tempest to be a great classical play to read. I felt as though I was able to engage with the characters and the storyline.
In my opinion, I would say that I really enjoyed Robinson Crusoe. I feel like people had many different reactions or opinions regarding this particular novel, however I thought it was far more interesting than many other books we have read thus far.
Initially, I was pretty skeptical about reading a story such as this, mainly because it looked like a daunting task. The font was smaller than usual, and it seemed like the story was one that would drag on. However, with that being said, Robinson Crusoe really intrigued me. From the start, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and got quite invested with the story.
Robinson Crusoe tells of a story about a man forced to survive on his own on a deserted island. He is forced to rely solely on himself, and the nature that surrounds him if he wants to survive longer than just a few days. I think that Robinson Crusoe teaches valuable lessons to readers. There are the obvious lessons, that of which being that Crusoe exemplifies a true survivor in the face of adversity, however, there is an underlying lesson that it teaches. I think that Robinson Crusoe demonstrates an improvement in one’s character; how experiences such as these shape a person, and change them for that matter. Thus, I think that Robinson Crusoe is a man to be greatly acknowledged for the way he handled the obstacles that were put before him. Rather than backing down and surrendering to his misfortune, he does the opposite, and finds ways to conquer every battle.
Crusoe demonstrates the way an individual should act in such scenario. His fearlessness and willingness to succeed is very evident throughout the novel as a whole. In my opinion, Robinson Crusoe is exceptionally written, and the narrative makes readers feel like they are more involved in the story.
I thought that the novel was intriguing and immensely captivating with each turn of a page. I became more and more invested, desiring to read further on every chance I could. Contrary to many other people, Robinson Crusoe is by far one of my favourite reads in this course.
This wasn’t a dreary historical account, or a boring adventure story. Robinson Crusoe, (in my opinion at least) is a detailed narrative that really allows the reader to get a deeper sense of Robinson Crusoe as a person, and how he describes life through his eyes.
Well, to say the least, this text was boring. Albeit, it had its moments of interesting-ness, but for the most part, it was the perfect lullaby.
With the exception of its dullness, I was rather intrigued by Hobbes’ argument for our perceptions of good and evil. To think of everything we crave, or consider good, to be mere appetite and everything else aversion slots perfectly into our way of being. Our want to do well on a test, for example, derives from a simple want to feel pride and be acknowledged for our hard work, and to avoid feelings of shame and disappointment. In truth, all of our actions are purely selfish, no matter how selfless they appear. We are always trying to stimulate the appetizing feelings, such as those we receive by helping others.
I really don’t agree with Hobbes’ perspective on religion. His statements that religion simply derides out of fear. and that only those who do not understand science and philosophy need it truly irked me. Science constantly tries to disprove the value of religion, deeming it as “opium for the masses,” as Karl Marx said. However, science itself cannot prove everything and anything, just as there are many unanswered questions in religion. To deem it as for the weak-minded truly demonstrates an ignorant viewpoint, like some Bible Belt Americans who cannot accept simple scientific truths, such as evolution.
The juxtaposition between nature ordering peace amongst humans and the natural desire for power was very intriguing as well, but proves indefinitely true. As Acton said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and not only possessing power, but the desire for it leads to mass chaos. Even when we examine the totalitarian reign of Gaddafi, his war against his people was completely out of a selfish want for power, even though he should have been trying to maintain the peace needed. This is why communism and Plato’s Kalipolis look so perfect on paper, but when put into effect, lead to horrendous results. Humans will simply never be able to displace this lust for power, ruling idealist societies impossible.
This text, or the part of it we were assigned, is somewhat of a hit and miss on the readability scale. When it talks about laws and where they originate from, it is engaging and thought-provoking; when it talks about the applications of those laws and their various definitions, it is convoluted and akin to reading a dictionary. I took my time with the former and scanned through the latter at a rate of approximately 7 wps.
Content-wise, Leviathan is a great resource for political scientists. The talk of contracts, rights, and everything in-between is an excellent way of analyzing sociopolitical structures in my opinion, which might not be worth much considering that I’m not a political scientist. However, Hobbes makes two fundamental mistakes (imo) with concern to philosophy; the first I won’t say, but the second is that he is a total environmental determinist. Wait, looking that term up, I see that I’m not applying it correctly, so what I actually mean is that he believes in all nurture and no nature. No, those terms don’t work either…okay, what I truly mean is that Hobbes believes that we only exist in the physical realm. He made this quite clear when he said that dreams are derived from memories, maintaining that we are everything we can sense and nothing more. Now, this basis is perfectly functional when applied to political science, and he shows just how functional it is by deriving the three human laws from it. Many issues arise, however, when he begins to apply them to absolute concepts, which I won’t elaborate on since it would just turn into a convoluted mess. That aside, although I say that his physical determinism is flawed, the fact is that it’s the best mold from which to work out political science, as society itself is, in the end, an illusion. Hobbes does a good job of masking the issue, stating that every human has equal right to all things in existence, is equal to every other human in relation to the world, and are only able to lose that right by willingly forfeiting it. The first two points I agree with, but the third, unfortunately, is both the one most necessary for society and the one most false. For although a truly stable society can only be created through the transferring of rights, a human is not capable (i.e. does not have the right) of giving away their own right. The reason for this lies (1) in the falsehood of physical determinism and (2) in the structure of the space-time continuum. Hobbes masks this contradiction using the most popular way to do so (morality), and although his is certainly one of the best ethic codes I know, it is not…well…I’ll just leave it by saying that I consider moral philosophy an invalid term.
Even though I usually do not enjoy reading fiction, the addition of magical elements to the story as well as as the overall conciseness of The Tempest kept me entertained. Prospero received awful treatment from his brother and others, and in the end did not release his fury on the people that wronged him. He simply forgave them and then said nothing after that about them making him flee his own country and give up his Dukedom. Prospero comes off as an extremely intelligent and mild-tempered man, which is why it seems even more so unfortunate that his brother conspired against him.
Caliban and Ariel, Prospero’s two servants feel very differently about their situations as servants. Caliban is extremely angry about being stuck as Prospero’s servant and even went as far as attempting to rape his daughter in order to make his disapproval more clear. While on the other hand, Ariel after being saved by Prospero, feels indebted to him, and willfully carries out Prospero’s wishes. Interestingly, even though I pictured Ariel as a man, I’m pretty sure that his gender is ambiguous throughout the story.
I found the possible connection between Prospero denouncing his magical powers and Shakespeare ending his solo play-writing career pretty interesting. Prospero has a monologue in which he explains that he is going to get rid of his books which held his magical powers, and at the same time, The Temptest is Shakespeare’s last play that he solely wrote.
This class is great because I am finally getting a chance to read the “classics” that I have always heard about. I may not love every book that we’ve been assigned to read, but at least I can say that I know what these so-called classics are all about. I’m even finding that I have begun to enjoy writing the assigned essays because I have enjoyed having to deeply engage with all of the readings. Didn’t think I would ever say something like that.
It has been said that every piece of art/media ever made somehow has an ideological standpoint. If it doesn’t change your way of thinking, it could well be reinforcing certain aspects of a dominant social ideology. While reading Robinson Crusoe, that idea is what I thought about the most. After being bludgeoned over the head with the ideas of “proper” religion, “proper” expansion, and “proper” gathering of material goods, I am quite sure that, whether intentionally or not, this book is reinforcing the primary first world ideology of the time, that of the good industrious god fearing capitalist.
One of the most obvious and tiresome ideas was that of God and Providence. All of Rob’s problems apparently come from the fact that he is too forward thinking for God, and does not do what he is supposed to do, which is essentially to sit at home and do nothing. God does not approve of an adventurous mind. This is interesting and sort of goes against my theory in a way, because England was just starting to become active on the whole colonialism scene, and you’d think that the books written in that time would reflect that, instead of providing a sort of warning against it. However, I think the book goes on to deal with this by making Rob happiest in one place doing nothing. Funnily enough this place that he has built starts to look a lot like the home of an industrious, god fearing capitalist. Only once he has made his home as similar to what as “regular” as he can, and only once he starts praying and beginning to really acknowledge the glory of God, only then does he start to be really happy again.
Concerning progress and the amassing of material goods: even though Rob eschews money for it’s lack of value, there is still a tremendous focus on obtaining and hoarding things, as well as building and expanding. In fact, the way Mr. Crusoe goes about his business surviving is a very capitalist method, and I do believe that if this story were written by a Brazilian anti capitalist or something, there would not have been such a focus on making the perfect homestead and then expanding across the island and becoming lord and ruler through industry. This book is written in such a way to promote the idea of “build lot’s of stuff and you will succeed.” I wouldn’t necessarily say that is good or bad, especially since reading it in this day and age we are already deeply indoctrinated with capitalist- consumerist ideas, he he. But it is something to notice, in any case.