Log24

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday March 16, 2007

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 10:48 AM
"Geometry,
 Theology,
 and Politics:

 
Context and Consequences of 

the Hobbes-Wallis Dispute"
(pdf)

 

by Douglas M. Jesseph
Dept. of Philosophy and Religion
North Carolina State University

Excerpt:

"We are left to conclude that there was something significant in Hobbes's philosophy that motivated Wallis to engage in the lengthy and vitriolic denunciation of all things Hobbesian.

In point of fact, Wallis made no great secret of his motivations for attacking Hobbes's geometry, and the presence of theological and political motives is well attested in a 1659 letter to Huygens. He wrote:

But regarding the very harsh diatribe against Hobbes, the necessity of the case, and not my manners, led to it. For you see, as I believe, from other of my writings how peacefully I can differ with others and bear those with whom I differ. But this was provoked by our Leviathan (as can be easily gathered fro his other writings, principally those in English), when he attacks with all his might and destroys our universities (and not only ours, but all, both old and new), and especially the clergy and all institutions and all religion. As if the Christian world knew nothing sound or nothing that was not ridiculous in philosophy or religion; and as if it has not understood religion because it does not understand philosophy, nor philosophy because it does not understand mathematics. And so it seemed necessary that now some mathematician, proceeding in the opposite direction, should show how little he understand this mathematics (from which he takes his courage). Nor should we be deterred from this by his arrogance, which we know will vomit poison and filth against us. (Wallis to Huygens, 11 January, 1659; Huygens 1888-1950,* 2: 296-7)

The threats that Hobbes supposedly posed to the universities, the clergy, and all religion are a consequence of his political and theological doctrines. Hobbes's political theory requires that the power of the civil sovereign be absolute and undivided. As a consequence, such institutions as universities and the clergy must submit to the dictates of the sovereign in all matters. This extends, ironically enough, to geometry, since Hobbes notoriously claimed that the sovereign could ban the teaching of the subject and order 'the burning of all books of Geometry' if he should judge geometric principles 'a thing contrary to [his] right of dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion' (Leviathan (1651) 1.11, 50; English Works** 3: 91). In the area of church government, Hobbes's doctrines are a decisive rejection of the claims of Presbyterianism, which holds that questions of theological doctrine is [sic] to be decided by the elders of the church– the presbytery– without reference to the claims of the sovereign. As a Presbyterian minister, a doctor of divinity, and professor of geometry at Oxford, Wallis found abundant reason to reject this political theory."

* Huygens, Christiaan. 1888-1950. Les oeuvres complètes de Chrisiaan Huygens. Ed. La Société Hollandaise des Sciences. 22 vols. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

** Hobbes, Thomas. [1839-45] 1966. The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, now First Collected and Edited by Sir William Molesworth. Edited by William Molesworth. 11 vols. Reprint. Aalen, Germany: Scientia Verlag.

 

Related material:

"But what is it?"
Calvin demanded.
"We know that it's evil,
but what is it?"

"Yyouu hhave ssaidd itt!"
Mrs. Which's voice rang out.
"Itt iss Eevill. Itt iss thee
Ppowers of Ddarrkknesss!"

A Wrinkle in Time

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix07/070316-AMScover.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

"After A Wrinkle in Time was finally published, it was pointed out to me that the villain, a naked disembodied brain, was called 'It' because It stands for Intellectual truth as opposed to a truth which involves the whole of us, heart as well as mind.  That acronym had never occurred to me.  I chose the name It intuitively, because an IT does not have a heart or soul.  And I did not understand consciously at the time of writing that the intellect, when it is not informed by the heart, is evil."

 

See also
"Darkness Visible"
in ART WARS.
 

3 Comments

  1. Then, we can all wrap our heads around this Hobbes.

    Comment by BlueCollarGoddess — Friday, March 16, 2007 @ 11:56 AM

  2. Or, in belated recognition of Michael Caine’s Pi Day birthday and of the film “The Prestige,” this Hobbes.

    Comment by m759 — Friday, March 16, 2007 @ 12:08 PM

  3. 😀

    Comment by BlueCollarGoddess — Saturday, March 17, 2007 @ 11:41 AM

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