Hobbes, the Scriblerians and the History of Philosophy by Conal Condren

By Conal Condren

Satire used to be center to the paintings of Thomas Hobbes even if his critics extensively utilized it as a weapon to ridicule him. Condren makes use of Hobbes to illustrate to illustrate that an exam of the personality is required to develop our knowing of a writer's philosophy. He demonstrates that satire and philosophy have been heavily associated through the 17th and eighteenth centuries, supplying a brand new point of view at the nature of philosophy in this interval.

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120 A little history, or philology goes a long way, a lot goes too far. Consequently, the price for protecting antiquity is paid in the currency of sustaining and defending superficialities and making do with a kind of Introduction 29 metaphorical applicability. Theirs was nothing if not an uncomfortable insight into cultural continuity of which any history of philosophy is only a part. But additionally, the weight of destructive scholarship required them to ask what is considered now an altogether less respectable question: what kind of person will want to undermine the value of an ancient inheritance?

62 Possibly; but it may also be the case that Hobbes was joking. 63 Hobbes’s assertion that the joy of laughter ‘hath not hitherto been declared by any’ may well have been an in- joke for the sort of gentlemen, not least his patron Cavendish and his immediate circle, amongst whom the work initially circulated. If Hobbes could assume their knowledge of the sort of theory he echoes, he could also assume their awareness of his allergy to Aristotle, the font et origo of such theory. The aside may have been at once a momentary parody of the intellectual independence Hobbes thought necessary for a philosopher and a paradoxical example of the role of the ‘new and unexpected’ in causing laughter on which he is about to insist.

What we might learn from the recovery of the philosophic persona is not as straightforward as the Scriblerians would have us think; and so it will be left to last. PART I In my opinion the philosopher himself is a satirist. T. J. 1 Yet what is striking about Aubrey’s account is the persistent emphasis on Hobbes’s wit and good humour: ‘pleasant facetiousness’, ‘wit and drollery’, the delightfulness of his ‘wit and smart replies’; his lack of rancour in debate, his twinkling hazel eyes. 3 First, however, some of the slippery relationships between humour, wit, jesting, laughter and reason need comment.

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