Sunday, March 08, 2015

He's One of the Old Gods

Christopher Caldwell:

The late political scientist James Q. Wilson described “Calvin and Hobbes” as “our only popular explication of the moral philosophy of Aristotle.” Wilson meant that the social order is founded on self-control and delayed gratification—and that Calvin is hopeless at these things. Calvin thinks that “life should be more like TV” and that he is “destined for greatness” whether he does his homework or not. His favorite sport is “Calvinball,” in which he is entitled to make up the rules as he goes along.

Day-in, day-out, Calvin keeps running into evidence that the world isn’t built to his (and our) specifications. All humor is, in one way or another, about our resistance to that evidence.

Aristotelian philosophy? Pfft. What this shows is that Calvin is the modern-day embodiment of a trickster deity. Selfish, amoral, and prone to delusions of grandeur, his wild adventures nevertheless tend to produce beneficial results for others, however inadvertently (in our case, at least, we are greatly entertained). He belongs to the realm of mythology, predating philosophy.