Monty Python and Hobbes’ “Leviathan”
by Robin Marie
Turns out, Monty Python sketches prove to be remarkable pedagogical devices for teaching Hobbes’ Leviathan. Allow me to illustrate:
See “The Argument Clinic” to spark a discussion on whether Hobbes has a point with his obsessive need to strictly define every term involved in discussing human nature and political theory, lest we be unable to even know what we are talking about or understand each other during political discussions:
For an interrogation of whether Hobbes is correct that human laughter is merely the “sudden glory” of feeling superior to another, consult what is widely considered the funniest sketch of all time, “The Dead Parrot Sketch,” which employs strategies (such as surrealism and word play) not easily fitted into Hobbes’ narrow definition, yet also seems to contain some elements that reinforce it:
And to explore Hobbes’ suggestion that people who get very passionate about things are, in some sense, crazy, see the “Dirty Fork Sketch”:
Personally, I found these remarkably effective in engaging my small group of students. Discussion all around! I’d like to keep doing this for the next two weeks; can you think of more connections between Python and Hobbes?