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The championship! Thomas Hobbes vs. Philip K. Dick

OK, since this is the final round, you’re allowed to make as many Calvin and Hobbes jokes and as many dick jokes as you want.

Bracket v1

These two guys have been through a lot together. To get here, Hobbes defeated, in order, Larry David, Leo Tolstoy, Chris Rock, Ed Wood, and Miguel de Cervantes; while Dick got by Jean Baudrillard, Grandma Moses, Mohandas Gandhi, Jane Austen, and George Carlin.

For last match I’m thinking Hobbes had the edge, as ultimately he was a much more versatile thinker and writer than Dick. Also, both of them had problems with the government but Hobbes issues were real, whereas with Dick it was more paranoia. Finally, Dick dabbled in philosophy and is famous for that, but Hobbes did the real thing.

Still, there’s that indelible image of the missing pull cord . . .

So let me know what you think!

P.S. And, for the last time, here’s the background, and here are the rules.


  1. Xi'an says:

    from “Hobbes’s State of Nature : A Modern Bayesian Game-Theoretic Analysis” by Hun Chung:

    “I personally think that applying game theory to political theory is misguided only when one tries to apply the wrong model; and, not all game-theoretic models are wrong. This is why I believe conserving the details of Hobbes’s logic is important. I believe that the model provided in this paper is the correct game-theoretic model that represents Hobbes’s state of nature in a way that Hobbes had originally intended it to be.”

    We need to know what Hobbes thinks of Chung’s Bayesian analysis!

  2. Jonathan (another one) says:

    I’ve been saving this last quote from Hobbes in case he made the finals. First a little background: for twenty years, Hobbes and John Wallis, Savilian Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, carried on a battle over geometry. Wallis, an early advocate of analytic geometry, saw (with Descartes) geometry as a form of mathematics. Hobbes thought this was crazy; he thought that geometry was a somewhat idealized method of discovering physical truths through graphical methods which idealized actual bodies but represented them. So whatever geometry was, it wasn’t math.

    “…algebra can yield brevity in the writing of a demonstration, but not brevity of thought. Because it is not the bare characters, or only the words, but the things themselves that are the objects of thought, and these cannot be abbreviated.”

    “Moreover, what proposition discovered by algebra does not depend upon Euclid…which one must first know before he can begin to use the rules of algebra? Certainly algebra needs geometry, but geometry does not need algebra.”

    Anyway writing about this, he got off this scatalogical sally directed at the Wallis and arguing the superiority of graphics to equations. (Note: Pappus was a 4th century geometer who proved things with pictures)

    “When did you see any man but yourselves publish his Demonstrations by signs not generally received, except it were not with intent to demonstrate, but to teach the use of Signes? Had Pappus no Analytiques? Or wanted he the wit to shorten his reckoning by Signes? Or has he not proceeded Analytically in a hundred Problems (particularly in his seventh Book), and never used Symboles? Symboles are poor unhandsome (though necessary) scaffolds of Demonstration; and ought no more appear in publique, than the most deformed necessary business which you do in your Chambers.”

    He’s now had 300 years to stew over this somewhat idiosyncratic view of the world of mathematics. Pick him, don’t pick him. Whatever. But now I really want to meet the dude.

    • Dalton says:

      How disappointed would you be if you found out Mr. Graphics didn’t label his axes?

    • zbicyclist says:

      We can thank God Hobbes lost this argument. But, 300 years later, would he admit it? Yes, it would be fun to find out.

      Or, would he be one of those guys using heat maps to analyze Big Data?

    • D.O. says:

      Wow! It’s interesting to compare it to certain unease in linear algebra and differential geometry over use of bases and coordinates. They cannot do without them, but try awfully hard to formulate theorems that do not depend on them explicitly.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think Dick is bowing out of the competition with this quote:

    “Probability, Joe said to himself. A science in itself. Bernoulli’s theorem, the Bayes-Laplace theorem, the Poisson Distribution, Negative Binomial Distribution…coins and cards and birthdays, and at last random variables. And, hanging over it all, the brooding specter of Rudolf Carnap and Hans Reichenbach, the Vienna Circle of philosophy and the rise of symbolic logic. A muddy world, in which he did not quite care to involve himself.”

  4. Dalton says:

    Wow, what a suitably bleak final contest. In one corner, the Empire’s man, the Leviathan of the social contract, the Behemoth of the sovereign’s rights. In the other corner, the gnostic hero in the Black Iron Prison, the prolific (and hopped-up on speed) author of pulp philosophy.

    This is awesome, because as they like to say (wrongly) in political contests these days, the two candidates couldn’t be more different.

    Here’s Hobbes:
    “THE final cause, end, or design of men (who naturally love liberty, and dominion over others) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in Commonwealths, is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent, as hath been shown, to the natural passions of men when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants…” In other words, the purpose of man is in giving up his/her rights to the tyrant for the safety of all.

    And here’s Dick:
    “This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance.”

    Hobbes’ heroes are English Kings, iron-fisted instruments of control who can do whatever they please so long as they hold peace and reality together. Dick’s heroes are all a little like Joe Chip and Rick Deckard, nothing and nobody particularly special, whose only heroic feat is to hold onto their empathy and sense of decency as reality crumbles around them.

    Do you really want to hear some English elitist tell the members of an elite university about the virtues of the elite? Or do you want to hear some cracked-out half-crazy prophet of unreality masquerading as dime-store philosopher absolutely blow the coddled minds of America’s best and brightest?

    Fish can’t carry guns, and Hobbes don’t carry water. The only downside is that a bunch of “Dickheads” (like me) might show up.

  5. prof slug says:

    So glad this series is ending.

    Hands down to PKD. He envisioned a world where technology makes us not more certain, but less certain, where you can no longer tell reality from dream, where all the careful exacting work of science collapses into a miasma of doubt, paranoia, and confusion. And surprisingly enough, PKD was exactly right–we’ve spent years cramming our heads with studies that seemed so credible only to now realize that many of them are unreliable to a still hard to pin down degree. Even worse, we now cry out in the wilderness about new findings that seem patently absurd only to see many of our peers (and all Psych Science editors) embrace these findings as sound and definitive.

    PKD predicted the epistemic shitstorm that is modern behavioral science. I’d like to learn from him how to swim in these waters, and or to to schedule my own VALIS event.

  6. Adam says:

    Hobbes: What better seminar speaker than someone who recognized that “the most noble and profitable invention of all … was that of speech.” Besides that, on there are many articles that mention both ‘Hobbes’ and ‘Bayesian,’ but none that mention ‘Philip K. Dick” and ‘Bayesian.’ Was Dick a closet frequentist? Let’s not take the risk!

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