>Hobbes and Kierkegaard on Bees, Humanity, Politics and Art

>Recently I noticed a passage  in Søren Kierkgaard, Either/Or I (1843), ‘The Insignificant Introduction’ to ‘The Immediate Erotic Stages of the Musical-Erotic’, which is is largely on Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In the passage which caught my eye (Either/Or Part I, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1987, page 50), Kierkegaard says that art of genius cannot purely be the product of the artist.  Kierkegaard’s explanation is that if art was purely the product of the producer, then art would be produced in the same way that the cells of a honeycomb are produced by bees.  As the cells are identical, and great works of art are not identical, there are is a strong reason for saying no art is the pure product of the individual artist.  This gives Kierkegaard the opportunity to introduce issues of accident and of the ideational content of art.

I was reminded of Hobbes comments about the difference between humans and other kinds of social animals like bees and ants in Leviathan(1651).  The passage can be found in ‘Part II: Of Commonwealth’, Chapter XVII ‘Of the Causes, Generation, and Definition of a Commonwealth’, ‘Why Certain Creatures Without Reason, or Speech, Do Nevertheless Live in Society Without Any Coercive Power’.  Hobbes argues that bees can live together without what can be described as a a sovereign power, an artificial man, a commonwealth, civil power, or what we would now call a state, because they do not have language.  Since they do not use words, they cannot deceive other bees.  Without deception, through the rhetorical misuse of words, bees have a community which exist without coercion.  According to Hobbes, the way that a political community arises from ethics in Aristotle, could not apply to humans and can only apply to bees, and similar creatures.

In Kierkegaard, if art came purely from within ourselves, we would not be capable of producing distinct works of art.  We could only produce in the way that bees produce.  Humans can only exercise choice in the creation of art, if what is from outside the individual is part of that creation

In Hobbes, bees are lacking in the manipulative possibility of words, so can only co-operate with each other fully.  They just cannot choose to live any other way.  Humans must create a state, in one of its possible forms .  They must exercise choice

We are not bees, because we have a state and we have works of art.