Hobbes: Matter in Motion

So we’ve spent the last week talking about Hobbes political science but very little into his philosophical theories. One of my favorites is his underlining belief in determinism.

So where to begin? Lets start with the fact that Hobbes strictly believes in the vacuum of the material world. By vacuum I mean the confines or restricted boundaries, and by materialistic I mean matter’s actions without the belief in either superficial or a deities influence. He believes in the Prime Mover; the creator or spark of creation, the first domino in life’s succession. Whether this be a God or a Big Bang is irrelevant, all what really matters is that the Universe began. Now Hobbes firm belief is that man is predictable and our actions can be likely predicted. We’re like robots our watches, our actions are certain. In theory this really is sound when you get into the core of the argument. Are we constantly just reacting to matter around us? Is every action we make an inevitable succession of prior actions? If so what was our Prime Mover or action that began our succession of actions? Does this destroy the theory of free will?

To be more concise, let’s just think. We pride ourselves with the freedom of choice, but when exactly did we gain conscious choice? We couldn’t of obtained it when we were born, We were merely infants. Babies can hardly do anything on their own nor rationalize their actions.They only reacted to their environments. Dad gives bottle we drink because we’re thirsty. We couldn’t feed ourselves on our own. Shiny read ball? We touch or analyze because it intrigues us. Our parents controlled our fate, and we only responded to their actions. So when did we really start being able to freely choose our own actions? Well according to determinism… never! From that moment onwards our actions were a succession of the actions made when we were infants. If there were a way to compute and account for the nearly infinite number of stimuli that affected us from that point forward we would come to the same equation or conclusion, which is me sitting down and writing this blog post. If we could add like an equation literally every molecule of influence around us we’d arrive at the same instance and character we are today. It’s incredibly complex but easy to rationalize.

Today I woke up at approximately 9:22. It occurred because I went to bed at 2:17 the night before and I would predictably need that amount of sleep due to my biological needs and my characteristic of laziness which I have fostered and developed in my lifetime. I went to my psychology class because I am a creature of habit and have never missed a psychology class and furthermore I fear missing out of lectures, because I fear failing. I fear failing because my parents and society instilled that belief into me whether conscious or unconsciously. Today I didn’t feel a desire to skip class for breakfast because I had a large dinner last night, and because intrinsically I as a person have developed the consistency to make it class and eat late night meals… I’m probably not explaining this as well as I can, but essentially my life as well as yours and all others are dominoes falling in succession, that inevitably interact in a predictable (By which I mean certain, it would be rationally impossible to predict it) manner. At the end of the day our actions are dictated by our surrounding stimuli. We don’t really have free will, we’re just responding to external world surrounding us.

Let’s put it this way. If I were all-powerful. Let’s just say for fun I decided to recreate your morning for you. I place you in a bed, your memories and biological neural circuits are in the exact same condition they were that day at exactly 7:14:0456 am. I place every individual on the earth in the exact place, ready to carry out the plans they did the night before. Every rain drop is ready to fall and every piece of nature and shade of grass is in the exact place it was that very day. I click the play button and watch everyone carry out their days. Would it not be an exact replicate of the initial day I’m trying to recreate? If everything were exactly as it was before would it not be like rewinding a VHS tape to rewatch the same scene carry out? Well determinist like Hobbes, would think so. If we do have free will, we’d be doing completely random actions at every decisions turn, but why would we when actions and influences prior to these decisions have already led to the decisions likely outcome.


Anyways I’m ranting on, but it’s moments like these where I feel we need to embrace the philosophical aspects of the course which are overshadowed by political science.  Really makes me think of my actions everyday. Makes me trip balls on life.

SEE YOU ALL IN A MONTH. Happy Holidays!



A Leviathan in the wild

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.


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!

The Prince — Analysis

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

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.

Robinson Crusoe Analysis

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. 


In some ways, “Leviathan” isn’t always an enjoyable read. It can be boring. It can make you sleepy. It can be difficult to find out what the author is trying to say and what he means. Other times, I actually found it a very interesting read. There was one chapter in particular which I found a very illuminating read- the Chapter entitled Of Religion. In it, Hobbes explains how religion is derived from people’s lack of confidence, low self esteem, and fear of the unknown. This is why they pray to a higher (and supposedly benevolent) power. I never thought of religion in this light. If someone had asked me in the past about the origins of religion, my mind would immediately have thought of Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses or the Bible where Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden. It never occurred to me to think that in reality, the origins of religion stem from humans and their uncertainty regarding the future.


Now that I have taken this into account, I have to say, many things stem from fear of the unknown. Religion is only one of them. It’s because humans fear the unknown that a variety of other things come into place- I mean, the fact that humans continue to live rather than die is also something that comes from uncertainty. Hamlet once said in his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, “that the dread of something after death/The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn/No traveller returns, Puzzles the will,/And makes us rather those ills we have,/Than fly to others that we know not of.” So it’s fear of the unknown that we have religion, and partly why there’s life. So I’d say there’s a lot to say about humans and their fear and lack of confidence over things we have no control over. If there’s one thing I got out of “Leviathan”, I think it’s this one chapter, Of Religion, which particularly stood out.


Another chapter that I found very intriguing is the chapter entitled Of Man. On page 30, Hobbes gives a list of words and how they are connected to one another. He links together Hope, Despair, Fear, Courage, Anger, Confidence, Diffidence, Indignation, Benevolence, Good Nature, Covetousness, Ambition, Pusillanimity, Magnanimity, Valour, Liberality, Miserableness, Kindness, and Natural Lust, etc. one after another, with a one sentence explanation how each is connected to the others. I think it’s a brilliant piece of writing. I think “Leviathan” has some very fascinating chapters, as well some chapters that can be termed a “bedtime story chapter” (one where it helps you fall asleep after reading). But if someone asked me if I’d recommend this book to them, I would definitely recommend it. I think it’s an eye-opener in some chapters, a book that can really expand your way of thinking.

Robinson Crusoe

I can’t say I necessarily loved this novel. (And I’m very happy to finally be able to use the term novel after so much of walking on egg shells to avoid this familiar word) Perhaps my reasoning is the absolutely dense text. But I liked the ideas it conveyed in the book. I clung to the idea of boredom as it guided Crusoe on his ventures. It seems as though this idea can often times be related to every one of us. It is what drives people to do things they have never done before. This extends all the way into humanity, as innovation and new ideas are brought forth through history, in essence, these ideas originated through a sense of boredom. Boredom, as it did for Crusoe, brought forth the idea of challenges. When we are bored, we attempt to repair this feeling through accomplishment and activity. Robinson Crusoe appears to show just how important boredom can truly be in our productivity. Without it, we would not advance in any regard, as our lives would always feel complete.

Another point that I found most interesting was the idea given by Crusoe at the beginning of the novel. He states in his initial overview of his story that he was lectured by his father regarding the many roles and classes of society. His father stated that men of desperate fortune and men of aspiring, superior fortunes were the only individuals who went about on journeys. This is an interesting idea and it seems to coincide with the above notion regarding boredom and accomplishment. His dad appears to show how, through desperation we look to adventure as a remedy and a way of finding an answer to our desperation. It is only through doing this that we find something of substance and importance, in his view. On the other hand, those who seek adventure may also be doing so out of great aspiration. I consider these one and the same. The one who seeks out adventure  through the means of aspiration is in the most basic sense, doing so for the hopes of receiving something from the action. I see no difference between the end result of the two individuals. They both work to reach an end goal, the aspiring one simply has a more defined idea of what he is seeking on his journey.

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