A new philosophy of life

Holbeins Dance of Death

I have been neglecting my web site of late, due to the death of my Mother in July. I am sorry to disappoint any visitors to my cyber kingdom, that nothing has been happening here.

The loss of my mother has caused me to reflect somewhat on life in general. I was in any case going to give over a page to more philosophical musings than the usual polemic. So here goes.

Life is Nasty Brutish and short! who said that?

Thomas Hobbes was a pessimistic philosopher who lived through the English Civil War. His observations of the times sometimes look like the society we find ourselves in today, where all want and claim their rights, but none are prepared to concede any. The only rights being those of the strong, which they are able to secure for themselves. Justice and Equality being but artificial concepts, made by Civil Society and not within the laws of nature.

In 1651 He said in Leviathan Chapter XIII

"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

I believe that we can still make something for ourselves in a Society without enforcable laws by acknowledging the limits of our own interests and encouraging the respect of others. It is particularly important to acknowledge that although we are each the Centre of our own Universe, we are only a very humble part of the greater Cosmos which we abuse at our peril

Leviathan is hundreds of pages long so I cannot hope to encompass a complete philosophy of living in one HTML file but here goes. I hope it does not sound too pretentious

I don't know for certain how the universe of creation came into being nor do I know whence I came or when and how my end shall come. But I do know that I am a part of all creation rooted in time and I have gifts to share with my fellow beings.

It is not so much that we are all a part of the Earth, rather that the Earth is a part of us. It shapes everything we do, and we are after all what we eat. There may well be a spiritual component to our being, but while we are on Earth we had better respect the Earth and leave something for those who follow us.

If the elements themselves are all against us so why do we still persist in doing harm to each other?

We are all of one mind, one equal mind, and if each of us persists in being the centre of our own existence (like my cat) we are all doomed to suffer at each others hands. I cannot exist on my own without you, neither can you be without me, what is the world wide web about after all. We are interdependent whether we are aware of the fact or not and I can't even claim a copyright on my own name there are dozens of Larry Arnolds out there.

Hobbes believed we are all at the mercy of our own animal passions and that there were no absolute heaven sent laws. He said.

"The desires, and other passions of man, are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions that proceed from those passions till they know a law that forbids them; which till laws be made they cannot know, nor can any law be made till they have agreed upon the person that shall make it."

I believe there are still fundemental human laws of cause and effect which come into play whether there is a Society to enforce them or not.

You can do me harm and you may not feel the loss, yet once you perform a violent act you have through your actions sanctioned another's right to do you harm in the same cause, you have resigned yourself to defend yourself against the rest of the world. On the other hand if you tolerate me, and by implication all others. if you listen to what I am saying, you will come respect others beliefs and cultures, and they will let you be as well.

If you really want to protect yourself from human harm you would be best to destroy all others, only then is your back safe from the stray knife, but believe me if you think that way , all others will be out to destroy you first!

If you live in peace with those around, if you refuse to co-operate in anything that strangles the growth of others, then you ought to be safe.

Nonetheless I agree with Hobbes that Civil Laws are wholly artificial and no guarantee of Justice. This is particularly true when you consider what is happening to legal aid in Britain today. We will be at the hands of the insurance companies those most venial of companies, whose premiums will decide whether we can use the law or not.

To quote Hobbes again

"To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses and passions. They are qualities that relate to men in society, not in solitude."

"The passions that incline men to peace are: fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to ob-tain them. And reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These articles are they which otherwise are called the laws of nature,..."

As I say now, do as you will and disregard the scorn of others, do without as much as you feel able, live every day as if your life will never end but live each day only for that day. Above all live in peace, with yourselves, the earth and your neighbours. If life is truly Nasty Brutish and Short, then try and leave it with a smile on your face when the day comes.

To quote another philosopher. "Therefore send not to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee" It tolled for Mum.

Mary Arnold Tribute site 

Copyright 1997 Laurence Arnold
This page was created on, Friday, October 24th 1997
Most recent revision Saturday October 25th 1997