A Discourse on Inequality (Mostly about Natural Law)

After reading this and Leviathan, I have an itching desire to clarify the subject that all these big thinkers are needlessly complicating—that of “natural law”. Now, I can’t speak for what those philosophers are trying to do with the term, but for me, the definition of this concept is one so simple that it can and should be considered obvious. So here we go.

In order to define natural law, it is necessary to understand that it is made up of two parts—the “natural” and the “law”. Putting the natural aside for now, the definition of law is apparently controversial in philosophy. Some think of it as limitations and/or regulations, some as things you can’t do no matter what, and some as things you can choose to do or not do. In this context, I will use a slightly modified version of the second; my definition of law, then, is an absolute rule that cannot in any circumstances be disobeyed or broken in any way, shape, or form, and one which is not affected in any way, shape, or form, by magnitude. We cannot disobey the law of gravity, and neither can planets. We cannot disobey the laws of motion, and neither can giant robots.

Personally, I do not think that law is a hard thing to define. Where the problem comes, however, is when people look at laws created by society and laws enforced by the world and think of them as the same thing—they are not. Law, when used by itself, is nothing more than a word and has no meaning whatsoever; it is only when another word comes in front of it that it becomes significant. This relates (ironically, I suppose) to the natural law of relativity (gravity and motion are also natural laws) which requires a reference point for anything that has the word “absolute” in its definition. Thus, a societal law—one created and enforced solely by society—is one which is absolute and cannot be broken for anyone who is a member of that society. Should a member of that society break it (killing, stealing, etc.), they will no longer be a part of that society and become a criminal. This applies regardless of whether the lawbreaker is convicted or not. If he is convicted, he is a publicly recognized criminal; if he is not convicted, he is a criminal masquerading as a citizen. Thus, someone who breaks a society’s law is ousted from that society regardless of what anyone might think or pretend; note, however, that as societies are generally indecisive, a law reform might change the status of a criminal into that of a citizen or vice versa.

With societal law now clarified, let’s get to the not indecisive natural law. Just as no member of a society can break a societal law and still be a part of that society, no member of nature can break a natural law and still be a part of nature. So, what defines a member of nature? Putting aside that “state of nature” business that Hobbes and Rousseau love to go on about so much, I put it to you that so long as we are living in this universe, we are members of nature. What defines living in this universe? I can answer metaphysically, but that would be nauseating both to read and write, so I will answer physically—so long as you are utilizing your five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) to interact with your environment, you are living in this universe, and no amount of skyscrapers or social gatherings or video games can change that. Thus, should one break a natural law, they will be ousted from nature; but considering what defines a member of nature, is it physically possible for us to not be one? No. Although it is possible for someone to be alive and not a member of society, it is impossible for someone to be alive and not a member of nature (death is a metaphysical subject, so I’ll leave it alone). Therefore, a natural law is one that more or less adopts the basic definition of law itself—an absolute rule that cannot in any circumstances be disobeyed or broken in any way, shape, or form, and one which is not affected in any way, shape, or form, by magnitude. I won’t elaborate on the actual natural laws here, but I will state them so that you can think about how obvious they are. The two core natural laws are the law of causality and the law of relativity. The three human laws are the law of causality, the law of relativity, and the law of normality, which is a sociopolitical version of the law of gravity. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? It’s supposed to be.

When I hear about the never ending quest of philosophers to discover the great laws of the world, I do not think that they are actually looking for laws—I think that they are looking for insights. Laws are the basic concepts from which everything stems; building blocks which are existent in every part of their contextual relatives. Hobbes and Rousseau didn’t look for these obvious building blocks, however; they searched for patterns in the structures created by these blocks. They desired to uncover secrets in these structures which are absolute and would lead them to the goal that all philosophers aim for, and there’s nothing wrong with that—I just believe that it shouldn’t be advertised as a search for natural laws when science has already found most of them.

Oh, and I enjoyed reading A Discourse on Inequality.

Robinson Crusoe

            Like most parents Robinson Crusoe’s father wanted him to live a stable life with an income, a house, and without need or excess. The middle road. The concept of the path that is between the poor and the rich is one I never thought of. And I’m not sure why since most everyone, including my parents and teachers, talk about. However it never really clicked until I read Robinson Crusoe. I was watching a youtube video on money and happiness in which they suggest that $75K a year is enough for a person to be satisfied and are just as happy as those who make more. (Though I am not entirely sure of the source, I think I’d be pretty good with $75K a year). Like Robinson Crusoe I also listened to the advice of my father before letting it go; the middle path shows safety and stability, and lacks the adventure and glamour of being a starving artist who moves up to become renowned and applauded. Or the adventure of being a seamen, I guess. I enjoy the fact that Robinson Crusoe went out of his way to do what he wanted, and that he kind of kept it under the radar until one day he jumped on his friend’s boat. I tended to do the same, for which now my father thinks that the only solution and salvation I have with an arts degree is a future career in law.

            Robinson Crusoe after being handed what he wants he instantly regrets it and then pushes what regrets he had away. I thought this was interesting as I believe that people do these things. Some they regret but the course and where they are being taken is so interesting and in their grasp that they push whatever negative thoughts they had and focus on the now. 

The Republic

Let me get this out of the way: I hate the Republic and Plato. I find Socrates arrogance ridiculous and his inability to be held accountable for his opinions irritating. Despite how much I disliked reading the Republic, and how it scares me to think of how much our society is built off of his ideas, his book did make me think, which is all I really ask from a book.

I found the debate that Plato brings up about opinion versus knowledge really interesting. The idea of true knowledge is something that has motivated both “good and bad” leaders (politicians, religious leaders, etc.) throughout time. I find his idea that knowledge is the greater, true power that only philosopher kings know form curious because who decides what the true form is?  But, how is a conclusion drawn on what the true form of an object is, unless it is taken from peoples opinions and perspectives. And, doesn’t Socrates demote opinions as being merely the power to opine? Socrates and his cohorts/robots, discuss the virtues and education, but how on earth would he be able to decide what the true form of a cat (per say) is? Perhaps I’m looking at this from a simplistic view, but if he is saying that people don’t know what is real in a grand philosophical approach, and that we are all just looking at shadows on a wall, wouldn’t that include a mundane object such as a cat?

I find his allegory of the cave one and book one of the Republic, the most interesting parts to be honest. This is mostly because of how the first few books are supposedly a mistake and I like to think of what the books impact would be without those first few chapters. If Plato was trying to show how he is all knowing (gee, doesn’t that sound familiar to another very popular book in our society?) then why would he demonstrate how he can be challenged? I found the literary style very convincing for the first few chapters, and felt as if “oh, maybe I really don’t know anything about anything, and this guy has all the answers?” And then I realized that the way he wrote his arguments enabled the reader to be slowly convinced that he is completely confident and right in his “knowledge”. I found it interesting how when the characters just started agreeing with him constantly, and didn’t put up any debate (because all of the debate was lead by Socrates) I questioned his ideas more than when other character’s such as Thrasymachus brought up aspects for debate.

Anyway, that was my rant on Plato, I hope it made you think and not just roll your eyes.


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The Tempest

Oh Shakespeare, so much controversy over a curious human being. I love some of his work, and roll my eyes at other pieces. “Romeo and Juliet”, “Macbeth”, and the “Taming of the Shrew” are all ones that make me want to hit my head on a desk repeatedly. However, “The Tempest” and “A Mid Summer Night Dream” are plays that I continue to enjoy a second time round. That being said though, I had some issues with the interpretation that we have read, and found some of Orgel’s change of wording silly. But I guess this goes along with the whole history of the play, and the various forms it has been presented in.

On another note, I’m glad that we read this after Columbus because it allowed me to view Caliban, and character’s reactions to Caliban, differently. When Trinculo first stumbles upon Caliban, he states that “this monster would make a man- any strange beast makes a man. When they will not give a doit to a lame beggar, they will will lay out 10 to see a dead indian.” (p.145) This made me realize that this, Caliban, is something completely strange, new and foreign, and is what Columbus was looking for.  And that, while he brought back indigenous people, they were not the savage beast that had been anticipated.

I find the themes of monsters in the Tempest intriguing because, Caliban can be perceived as having the physicality of a monster, while his goals and reasoning is actually very human. The difference between him and the other’s is that he succumbs to his natural instincts, such as greed, lust and anger in a way that is deemed unacceptable by the other characters, and our society. The only difference between him , Sebastian and Antonio, is that Sebastian and Antonio didn’t succeed in killing the Alonso and Gonzalo, and they didn’t get caught. This also goes along with how perception is used, because if we are judging Caliban by his greed, lust and anger, then wouldn’t Prospero be the most monstrous? He ignores his dukedom for his own benefit, is enraged when he is mutinied or whenever he does not have a person’s full attention/submission.

Along with Prospero and his need for people’s submission to him,comes another prominent theme of sleep. I was intrigued by Sebastian saying what “a strange repose, to be asleep with eyes wide open- standing, speaking, moving, and yet so fast asleep.” (p.138) I like this statement because it alludes to the waking of different characters throughout the play. It is almost as if Prospero is acting as fate, dictating what each character shall do to arrive to their destiny. k


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Well, I can surely say that I found the argument in Leviathan much more compelling than anything Plato sent out on in The Republic. I am not saying I adored this book or anything, I just thought it went a bit deeper than The Republic did. I did however, find a few comparisons between the texts. One formidable example of this was the discussion of speech. Both show the dangers of arts and specifically language. Plato argued that language was a destructive creation. It allowed for the diluting and destruction of exact meaning. Words, being so subjective and interpreted, were considered bad by Plato’s standards. He hoped to build a world of certain truths, removing all possibilities for mistake from it. Hobbes argues similar ideas, but not to the extreme extent that Plato does. Hobbes says that language is of great importance. He identifies the four effective uses of speech. He points out each idea, stating how they each work to produce “speech” as a whole. this is a difference from Plato’s argument. Hobbes does not banish the art form of speech altogether, he presents a more level-headed and introspective view of his form of communication. He is certain, regardless, to bring forth the negative facets of speech. He points to things such as lies and misinterpreted words as negative aspects of language.

On another note, I really enjoyed and agreed upon the idea of wit. Hobbes states that there are two types of wit, being natural wit and acquired wit. I fully agree that there are two types of wit present in society. One, being the creations which we, as a society, have deemed important, and therefore learned by the individual seeking to acquire wit. However, this is very different from natural wit. This is a type of wit that is biological. It is found present and ingrained in the human at birth. This is what Hobbes would argue, makes one “smart” or “stupid”. This is the same phrase which I heard growing up as “street smarts” or “book smarts”. In my mind, these two notions go hand in hand. Streets smarts is the common sense and logic found naturally in the form of “natural wit”. “Book Smarts” are the opposite, being the type of knowledge which is acquired rather than naturally present.

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Thoughts on Robinson Crusoe

Instead of taking the secure route that was expected of him in life, as a boy born into a middle-class family, Robinson Crusoe decided to venture out to sea rather taking up law as a profession. This led to a life of loneliness and difficulty, making this a pretty weak book for younger teenagers to read, because it is basically showing that instead of doing what you really want to do, it is better and safer to just do what your parents want you to do. This story solidified my thoughts that I should just go through college and end up at law school instead of going to culinary school, which is what I’ve truly wanted to do my whole life. Thanks Defoe for shutting down my dreams!

Though I find it to be a pretty captivating and interesting story, I don’t necessarily understand what makes certain books considered “classics”. At the time, this story must have been extremely interesting to people around that time who were generally unable to break out from what is expected of people in their social class or even travel more than a few miles away from their homes. But today, I see it as an interesting story, but not necessarily anything that is life-changing or deserves to be considered a “classic”, because in my opinion even the Harry Potter series was much more entertaining. Little bit off topic, but I think that the Harry Potter series will stand the test of time as a classic. I have a feeling that Robinson Crusoe will as well, but I don’t think that it is any more interesting than books that are coming out nowadays. I appreciate that it was one of the first of its kind, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best.

In general, I find fiction stories to be much less necessary to read. Because in the end, it may have been entertaining, but I always feel like my time could’ve been spent more intelligently reading something that is not false information. Not that I enjoy reading autobiographies, or dry nonfiction very much, but at least after reading it I feel like I picked up some new knowledge along the way.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, and I look forward to our next semester of Arts One!

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Hobbes Leviathon

Every fairy tale and epic adventure looks at fear a different way. However in most cases they believe that fear must be embraced in order for the protagonist (reluctant hero or wannabe Hercules) to fulfill his eventual destiny – involving defeating the “monsters” and getting the princess. Hobbes says that there are no monsters in life but there is fear, a prevailing and corner of the eye living fear of a violent and sudden death. While this idea is interesting and fits in quite well with our society – scientists trying to find the cure to fatal diseases, people spending millions wanting to find immortality, the prevailing themes of books about fantasy worlds is the capability of not dying – its interesting that Hobbes says this fear exists while at the same time saying that monsters don’t. A monster can be anything really, a monster does not have to be a living (subjectively) tangible being but instead fate itself could be a monster. And is it not fate that decides our end, at the end? Hobbes attempts to remove all idea of the fantastical and the imaginative. Hobbes says that demons and the like are merely from our own minds however could it be that people decided to create these demons and monsters in the dark in order to explain the facts of life which mere chance could not? At some point in time, when bad and unexplainable things happen isn’t it easier to create a monster or a being who could take all the blame and make it appear as if what happened was inevitable? Perhaps that’s the basis of all of these monsters in the dark, that we are only afraid of looking in the mirror and realizing that everything bad that has happened, happened because it was meant to happen. Are these monsters our ways of looking away from the mirror and allowing a manifest being to become the reason for all misfortune? With the removal of monsters from society and the acceptance of a underlying fear throughout our lives of sudden and violent death are we left with having to face the mirrors and realize that what we see, and what happens to us, is merely what happens and there is no real reason for some of the terrible things that occur except that some man, somewhere, made a decision and acted upon it? That, that is it – the answer to everything

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Hobbes’ Leviathan

I’d heard about Hobbes and his Leviathan in my politics class last year, and it was definitely not quite what I was expecting. I was thinking it would be very pessimistic and about the evilness of humanity, which I was sort of looking forward to, but it wasn’t really, at least not to the extent I was thinking. It wasn’t an easy read for me, but I usually tend to have a bit of trouble getting into the feel of these texts from hundreds of years ago. But I really like them, since I find them really interesting, and even though I don’t agree with a lot of what is said (I wonder how an argument between Hobbes and I would go…) I still enjoy them.

I wasn’t expecting all that at the beginning about speech and definitions. Leviathan felt a little bit more like a dictionary for a while there. But defining terms is very important when making an argument like this, and I understand why he did it. Though it was a little tedious to read.

I feel like fear plays a large role in all of our texts, which makes sense, since our theme is monsters in the mirror. But every now and then I go ‘wow, that really fits perfectly’. The reason we strive for peace and hand over unlimited power to the sovereign is fear of death, Hobbes says. The phrase “better safe than sorry” is coming to mind. He isn’t saying that given half a chance, we’d all be out to kill each other. It’s more that it’s a possibility that there are those who would, so ultimate power to the sovereign would protect us. Makes sense. But, I’ve gotta say, something about “unlimited power of the sovereign” brings to mind villainous cartoon characters cackling about world domination.

It’s easy to see how this has become a very renowned text. Sure, we don’t live in a 100% Hobbesian state, with our many rights and the fact that we can take away power from a “sovereign” (anyone heard the news with Rob Ford?), but you can see things that Hobbes would be pleased with, were he to ever visit Canada, as was brought up in the debate. Though I’ll say that I think there’d be more that he would be thoroughly displeased with. But until I finally get my time machine working (it’s in the planning stages) we’ll have to live with the uncertainty.

 I hope everyone has a great winter break, can’t wait to see you all when we get back! 


Alright, so for me, Leviathan was a pretty interesting read. To be completely honest, I haven’t really developed a full opinion on it. Speaking on the book generally, I think that it was intriguing—yes, but without a doubt, DEFINITELY dull and at times. I guess what I can say though, is that Hobbes brings up some thought-provoking ideals , though some that I don’t necessarily agree with; or perhaps do, but only to an extent.

For instance, a point that really caught my attention, was Hobbes’ views on religion and how it stems from fear of the unknown. He stresses this adamant notion that religious practices and belief in God should not be practiced outside of one’s home.But instead of just religion, Hobbes further describes how our fear of a painful and violent death is a major factor as well. However, I found that learning of the Leviathan as a whole was immensely intriguing.  Essentially, Hobbes describes how we should look to a higher superior power to defend and protect us; to maintain an orderly state. He basically describes how citizens should not obtain much control and should thus be stripped of rights. However, a living environment such as the one that Hobbes has suggested, in my opinion, would be the least bit beneficial. Think about it, who would actually desire to live in a society where one’s rights and freedoms were neglected or taken away? A place where freedom of thought, speech, personal opinions were non-existent and merely unheard of.  I think that Hobbes means well, but the way in which he sees a perfect state is a place that is completely controlled and taken over by a set group of individuals, or set laws to keep it orderly. In one of our seminars we discussed if Canada need be more Hobbesian, or if we, as a nation are already Hobbesian enough. I think that we are Hobbesian enough. I don’t think that we, as citizens, need to be completely controlled by the government. Call me crazy, but I think having a say is a pretty important thing. Plus, with giving citizens more power and ability to make their own decisions, wouldn’t the need for strict protection be a bit less necessary? Taking away people’s rights to express themselves would case a great uproar, so perhaps allowing them the ability to put their own input and express themselves would eliminate the need for a completely Hobbesian state, a Leviathan (to a small extent at least!)

All in all, Leviathan brings up some pretty good points forcing you to really carefully analyze what it is he is trying to convey.

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe was one of the few slower books – in my opinion – we read this term however even though it was slow it was still an interesting read. The idea of a novel which is based upon a man alone on an island for about 180 pages of the book with the only real action happening in the pages before and after the island scenes is quite fascinating really. I think that a book about the lack of action, the lack of anything really happening is kind of fascinating because we usually expect that in order for a book to be really interesting it must be action packed and full of things happening instead of a stalemate of all action which is what the majority of Robinson Crusoe is made up of. Defoe redefines my idea of a book because he makes it possible for a book in which things happen at a slow, and in some ways nonexistence, way that it would not normally be the kind of book I would enjoy reading however Crusoe is kind of a compelling and interesting read in the fact that I wanted to find out what was going to happen. However at the same time it also made evident why most books that we read have a lot of action because it takes actual dedication to read a book in which the majority of the time nothing really happens. The book also reminded me of the an old movie, Cast Away, where the protagonist (Tom Hanks to be exact) adapts to his new environment with the leftovers from his cargo ship (in this case a FedEx plane) and, in essence, builds a life for himself. Apart from that this book also highlights how we may think we are civilized human beings who belong in society however when put back in the wild we can become like the bases of our own selves. We become like the ancient humans we believed inhabited the world before we did. We can also go into a state where all the things which mattered before, like societal problems and clothes and social constructs, become obsolete and the only things which matter are survival. Thus Darwin’s theory about survival of the fittest can also apply here since only the fittest, and the most capable of adapting, are able to adapt the all situations we are placed in and thus survive.