An interview with Steven Pinker and Noel Malcolm on Hobbes

Audio. BBC Radio 4, Great Lives, 23 Dec 2011.

The writer and psychologist Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the great English philosopher  Thomas Hobbes. Noel Malcolm from All Souls College, Oxford provides the expert analysis.

Power and violence are themes of the discussion of Hobbes who, Steven Pinker argues, was “perhaps the first cognitive psychologist.” Although he was born in the late sixteenth century, we are fortunate to have some rich biographical description of Hobbes thanks to his contemporary and friend, the writer John Aubrey.

Now, the word Hobbesian is often used to describe a world in which life is “nasty, brutish and short.” But Professor Pinker suggests Hobbes was actually “a nice man, despite the fact his name became a rather nasty adjective.”