Ginsberg on Blake continues – 3 (Thomas Hobbes)

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1579

Does anybody know Hobbes?  Thomas Hobbes?  Can we have a little paragraph on Hobbes and what Hobbes’s significance is?

Student: He was the first overtly materialistic philosopher, and he was pretty much atheistic and his doctrine of Leviathan was this doctrine that the State is this highly centralized and absolutely autocratic organ.

AG: Should be.

Student: That’s how it should be.

AG: Yes.

Student: And that showed how it’s necessary to have that kind of State.

AG: That’s because of man’s being essentially evil or something?

Student: Yeah.

AG: Having to be clamped down into this prison of State, (or not this prison but this organization, or this organism), to keep him from destroying the fabric of society.  Actually, it’s Bill Buckley, Jr.

Student: B.F. Skinner.

AG:  ….right now, is a Hobbesian – Pardon me?

Student: B.F. Skinner.

AG:  Is Skinner a Hobbesian in that sense?

Student: I would think so.  He’s a….

AG:  That he fears chaos and thinks we need a condition of everybody not….

Student: He supports the idea of total behavioral control.

Student: Um-hmm.

Student: I think.

AG: Okay.  He’s doing that for progress.But Hobbes’ thing is not merely for progress, just for stability.

Student: Yeah.

AG: Just to survive, that people are so evil.  It’s sort of like atheism with original sin, sort of.

Student: Yeah.

AG: That people are so evil that an absolute powerful leviathan – the Leviathan – is necessary to keep them in order.  And we have the Leviathan named here –  “now we saw, it was the head of Leviathan.”  So, actually, it’s amazing how Blake was clicking in, or flashing in, to the historical and philosophic currents of his time, and then putting them in these “Memorable Fancies.”

Student: The Leviathan is a reptile?

AG: Leviathan is, well, it’s from the Bible, remember, Jonah was caught in the belly of a Leviathan.

Student: Yeah.

AG:  So, whale.  In Hobbes, the Leviathan is the State, and it’s a book by Thomas Hobbes, called Leviathanright?

Student: Yeah.

AG (to Student): M’am, did you have any more to suggest about … I’ve forgotten your name..

Student:  Essentially man is essentially selfish.

AG: Hobbes is saying.

Student: Right.

AG: Right.

Student: And so you’ve got to control.

AG: Yes.

Student: And the State is an instrument of controlling our selfish desires.

AG: Right.  So it’s a control mechanism, and this has been the subject all along.  So the bounding, the boundary, the control mechanism, the angel and God – in Blake, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell –  are all these diabolical forces trying to control.  So he’s turning it inside out.  So the angel here, (I assume you understood), was not a good guy but he was a rationalistic idiot, who is trying to repress energy.  So in this particular thing, in this particular book of Blake, everything is turned inside out, it really is “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, with the names inside out. In other words, if he starts out with an angel, it means it’s a creep.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixteen-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately nineteen-and-three-quarter minutes in.   

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