Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hobbes on Lust

As a coda to my recent entries on the morality of sex, I thought I might share this quote from Thomas Hobbes on lust.

Hobbes is, of course, known for his pessimistic attitude toward human nature. And yet for all that he appears to be lust-loving humanist at heart. (Quote is from The Elements of Law Natural and Politic 1994, OUP, p. 55)
The appetite which men call LUST . . . is a sensual pleasure, but not only that; there is, in it, also a delight of the mind: for it consisteth of two appetites together, to please and to be pleased; and the delight men take in delighting, is not sensual, but a pleasure or joy of the mind, consisting in the imagination of the power they have so much to please.
So we see here that Hobbes saw the sexual act as not simply an expression of animal instincts, but as an intellectual act of moral reciprocation. An act in which the humanity of the other person is appreciated.

I mention this simply because, in his article on sexual morality, Belliotti argued in favour of a Kantian approach to sex. This required the existence of a hypothetical sexual contract that did not commodify the parties to the contract, but recognised their moral agency. It appears that Hobbes got there first.

I read A.P. Martinich's biography of Hobbes some years back, and I can't recall many details emerging about Hobbes's sex life. He certainly wasn't married and died without heirs, as far as I recall.

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