Consider Calvin and Hobbes

Feb 19, 2018 | 0 comments

I love Calvin and Hobbes.  Bill Watterson is a genius who managed to take the thoughts out of my head (and countless others’) and put them to paper in a way that almost everyone could laugh at.

What some people may not know is that he named the strip after John Calvin, of Protestant reformation fame, and Thomas Hobbes, one of the founders of modern philosophy and a strong proponent of the right of the individual, the equality of all men and the thought that political power must be representative.

Calvin was also what is termed a “polemic” writer.  Meaning he used contentious rhetoric to support his positions about controversial topics.

Hobbs is credited with the theory of a “social contract,” which he laid out in his book Leviathan.  Later his philosophy branched to the idea of a “civil society.”

In The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson stated that Calvin is named for “a 16th-century theologian who believed in predestination,” and Hobbes for “a 17th-century philosopher with a dim view of human nature.”

[By no means do I claim to be a Calvin or Hobbes expert.  For a better understanding of why Watterson named his characters Calvin and Hobbes, look into their histories and you’ll see even more evidence of why I think Watterson is a genius!]

When I first started to enjoy Watterson’s work, I knew some of what Calvin’s ideas were and what they represented; I knew very little of Hobbs.  So, back in the early 90’s (my early 30’s) I set out to learn more about both of them.  I soon realized that while I enjoyed digging back into history to get a better understanding of philosophy and religion (and still do), so much of the world that we live in today has changed since Calvin and Hobbes’ time, that is hard to place their beliefs and ideas into the construct of today’s world.

There is no doubt they were two of the big thinkers of their day, but with a much smaller world to build their philosophies on.   I wonder how they would see the world we live in today.

Could they have imagined World Wars?  Nuclear threats? Over-population, climate change, the world’s largest cities running out of water?  Or religious wars (which they were quite familiar with) taking on the level of destruction that we find today?

The point of all this is to say that there have been serious thinking people looking at serious questions for thousands of years.  Religion has frequently been at the core of all of it.  The relative value, or detriment of that is not for me to judge.  God, if you believe in that entity (as do I), will I think make that decision for us.

On a personal level, we all create our own moral beliefs, self-identities and philosophical foundations.  As we grow up we become who we are through both our nature and our nurture—at east that is what I believe.  I know many people don’t believe that (e.g., those that argue that people choose to be gay).  And while that is counter to my imagination, I still can’t expect to change their views on it.

Someone wisely wrote in response to last week’s column, that they agreed with what I wrote with the exception that racism or bigotry was not something they could overcome in other expatriates, regardless of us all coming from the same “set of filters.”  I agree.  I did not intend to imply otherwise so I am thankful for the opportunity to state that here.

The last two weeks I used my column (my soapbox) to suggest (strongly) that those who wrote comments on should at least be civil about it.  SOME of those who are specifically known to fail to show civility objected to that suggestion.  But many others objected to what I said in a civil manner.  That’s all I was asking for.  I’m done with that topic now (sigh of relief from many of you).  I’ve said my piece.

This week’s column is not a continuation of that debate.  This week’s point is that we all come with our own set of beliefs that no one else can easily change.  Also, I still love Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes strips and love to pull one of the collections out every once in a while to get a good laugh from them.

So, why did I start this week’s column with a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon implying that I am always right?  Hey, even I get to be a little smug once in a while!

I’m just sayin.’

Michael Soares

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