[hist-analytic] McPherson's Hobbes

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Fri Feb 12 11:42:35 EST 2010

Sorry for the delay JL . There is a lot of long winded stuff 
in political theory. Let me comment on a couple of things. 

First, actually, I'm not a New Englander . I lived in NE over 
twenty years, but the family is from the South and the Midwest. 
My branch came up through Tennessee to S. Illinois around 
1850. Historically, deep roots in the Confederacy, although 
my sympathies were never with the ideas of succession or 
slavery etc. Now on counterfactuals . 

MacPherson describes his counterfactual approach as 
"abstraction," and I think this is pretty much unobjectionable. 
But there is something very interesting here. The 
counterfactual specification of worlds is one thing, but 
its equivalence to a form of abstraction is something 
else difficult to deny. By stipulating a world which is 
the same except with regard to X in a way I abstract from 
the world. So I abstract a class of facts from the world. 
Recall Locke. There as I recall abstraction is not of 
facts but ideas. So the difference is fundamentally one 
of "facts" vs. "things" but there is still abstraction. 
There is an important difference. 

That important difference is that Locke is an empiricist 
and his abstraction is empirical. In the counterfactual 
case we extend the method of abstraction to facts or 
classes of facts. So we can view counterfactual 
stipulation as non-empirical abstraction. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: Jlsperanza @ aol .com 
To: hist-analytic@ simplelists .co. uk 
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 1:53:05 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: Re: McPherson's Hobbes 

What an excellent quote! 

S. R. Bayne quotes from 

  McPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism:  
Hobbes to Locke (Oxford, 1962) 

   "[Hobbes’s] state of _nature_ 
   is a 


this is slightly ambiguous. People do use 'manifesto', 'predicament,  
'statement' -- 'fashion as a statement', etc. but call me neo-Strawsonian if I  
say that a statement needs to have a better logical 'dress'! 

McPherson continues: 

"of the behaviour to which men as 

they _now_ are," 

    i.e. in 1628. This _is_ important, given the political  agenda behind 
Hobbes's Leviathan -- and the events of amusingly referred to by  Grice, as 
"The decapitation of Charles I's head was the cause of his death, they  say". 

   "men who live in civilized societies" 

-- as was England during the Civil War! Give me a break! 

( Bayne , as a New Englander -- he isn't but I think he SHOULD! will  
understand that all I love about the Americans was when visiting New Haven I  found 
out that all the streets in that town bear the names of the  regicides!) 

     "and have the desires of  
civilized men," 

such as Cromwell. There is a town in Connecticut I used to visit often:  
Cromwell. And L. Horn lives in Hampden! 


   "would be led if 

       all law 

           -- and  *contract* 

         enforcement  …  were  removed." 

which is precisely what the royalists (in their typical cavalier attitude  
to death) were thinking the roundheads like Cromwell were doing! 

The good thing about his counterfactual is that it IS imaginable. 

The terrorists from MY part of the world used to chant a counterfactual ,  

         "If Evita Peron were alive  today, 
                  she would be a suicide bomber" 

(Si Evita viviera seria montonera). 

I always had problem with that counterfactual and not because it's  



-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://rbjones.com/pipermail/hist-analytic_rbjones.com/attachments/20100212/4f2d880f/attachment-0002.html>

More information about the hist-analytic mailing list