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Obscure political theory blogging


File under “I can’t believe this actually made it through peer review”. If you’ve been wondering what Thomas Hobbes really had to say about Beethoven, your wait is over. Adrian Blau deploys the hermeneutical techniques of one of the giants of 20th century political thought to explore precisely this question:


Why does Hobbes write no book on music? It would be scandalous to say that this was an oversight. But what shall we make of Hobbes’s silence about music? An author may reveal his intentions by the title of his books. Two of Hobbes‟s books, and only two, have titles consisting of one word only: Leviathan and Behemoth. The number of books in the Leviathan is five, if we include the “Review and Conclusion”; the number of books in Behemoth is four. Five letters in the word “Leviathan”, and four in “Behemoth”,combine to produce the word “Beethoven.” It is of the essence of devices of this kind that they are merely hints. But one is compelled to look for other hints that Hobbes was writing about Beethoven. Hobbes’s manifest blunders reveal his homage to Beethoven. Hobbes writes that Aristotle’s Politics depicts ants and bees as political animals (De Cive 5.5, 71). But Aristotle does not mention ants (Politics 1253a). It would be an injustice to deny that Hobbes has a perfect memory. It is a rule of common prudence to ask what Hobbes intended by this error. Later in the same paragraph, Hobbes uses a sentence with the words ‘trumpet’ and ‘thunder and lightning’. We do not think it is coincidence that in the only sentence in the Leviathan where ‘trumpet’ occurs, Hobbes again mentions thunder and lightning (Leviathan 40, 324). Yet the intelligent reader will see that the context of these words is entirely different in the two books. Why then does Hobbes identify trumpets with thunder and lightning?


I don’t want to give away the thrilling conclusion, so you’ll have to click through and read the rest to find out.

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