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Hobbes and the Katéchon: The Secularization of Sacrificial Christianity Wolfgang Palaver Universität Innsbruck Hobbes and equality: his knowledge of mimetic desire When reading Thomas Hobbes we immediately recognize that he was writing in the early years of our modem age. Hobbes's world is very different from ancient cultures. This is most clearly demonstrated by the importance in his political philosophy of equality and individualism, concepts which cannot be found in ancient political discourse. Hobbes fully rejected Aristotle's view that nature made some human beings commanders and others slaves (1984, 211). According to Hobbes, all human beings are equal. The same applies to individualism. Whereas Aristotle's main concern was the polis, not the individual, Hobbes takes the individual as the starting point of his political philosophy.1 The difference between the two views can be seen as a result of the biblical transformation of the world: the biblical message slowly transformed the ancient world as it increasingly replaced ancient concepts of human nature and social life with those of equality and individualism. The biblical impulse did not, however, result in the creation of a peaceful Kingdom of God on earth. Hobbes 's quite doubtful reputation does not stem from his rejection of Aristotle's philosophy but rather from his insight into the deadly consequences ofequality. According to Hobbes, the natural equality of human beings means that all have the ability to kill one another: On Hobbes and individualism, see Louis Dumont 95-9. 58Wolfgang Palaver Nature hath made men so equall, in the faculties of body, and mind; as that though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind then another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and man, is not so considerable, as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit, to which another may not pretend, as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger with himself. (1984, 183) Hobbes further argues that the equality of the faculties of mind is even greater than that of the faculties of body: From this equality of ability, ariseth equality of hope in the attaining ofour Ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their End, . . . endeavour to destroy, or subdue one an other. (184) In Hobbes's opinion, then, the direct result of equality is the war of everyone against everyone. His description of equality as a state resulting in war immediately reminds one of mimetic theory. Although Hobbes does not explicitly refer to mimetic desire in the above passage, his words reflect the logic of conflictual mimesis: exclusive objects lead mimetic desire to rivalry, violence, and war. Is Hobbes aware of the mimetic problem? Throughout Hobbes's work one finds clear insights into the logic of iriimetic desire.2 Hans Achterhuis points to one such instance in a definition of power in Hobbes's Leviathan: "Naturall Power, is the eminence of the Faculties of Body, or Mind" (150; Achterhuis 23). Hobbes's observation of human behavior led him to conclude that man always looks to the other, that only by comparing himself with others does he achieve a measure of power. The same is true, Hobbes contends, for honor and prestige: The manifestation ofthe Value we set on one another, is that which is commonly called Honouring, and Dishonouring. To Value a man at a high rate, is to Honour him; at a low rate, is to Dishonour him. But high, and low, in this case, is to be understood by comparison to the rate that each man setteth on himselfe. (152) 2 For further discussion, see Palaver 1991, 40-5. Hobbes and the Katéchon59 The typical passions of mimetic desire, vanity, and envy are also described in many passages of Hobbes's work.3 According to Stephen Holmes, in his new introduction to Hobbes's Behemoth, Hobbes characterizes the human being as imitator, as "L'homme copie."4...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 57-74
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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