Subtleties Of Thought

Stephen Turner wrote in 2001:

* ‘Presentism’ is a term that covers a multitude of not very well defined sins, but its main meaning is this: texts may be read in a variety of ways, and a text that is read as though it were a text written in the present and responding to present day concerns and present day distinctions is ‘presentist.’ Authors of these classic texts, as historical agents, of course did not intend to say these things, and indeed may not have been in a position, owing to the lack of the network of relevant concepts, to have even formed intentions of the kind necessary to hold the views that presentist readings attribute to them. Very often the classic text is primarily an attempt to persuade certain contemporaries, in pursuit of particular tactical ends. So the question of what they actually intended and what, in this ‘historical’ sense, the text meant is a separate question from the question of what can be made out of the text in the way of a present-day argument, problem, or position.

* What is of interest about Hobbes, to put it bluntly, is what thinkers like David Gauthier abstract out the great mish-mash of Hobbesian arguments (1986).

* Let me quote from Serres and Wood’s standard text on diplomatic protocol on the reasons for the use of French as the language of diplomacy: ‘that it has qualities of clarity, precision and firmness not found in English, the latter being too often elliptic and its construction and vocabulary lacking conciseness, thus resulting in a looser version of the same text’.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in History, Stephen Turner. Bookmark the permalink.