Reflections on Aphorisms #82

This was originally supposed to go up on August 3rd, but I was traveling and forgot to upload this to the blog when I wrote it, so it’s going up on August 4th.

I’ve never really read much of Hobbes. In fact, I’ve probably read more Calvin and Hobbes than Hobbes. This is not a great comparison, since I believe I’ve read, the entire corpus of Calvin and Hobbes at least twice, with individual comics and collections occasionally receiving more repeat attention, but the fact remains that I know Hobbes more from how people have talked about him than what he said.

When I first wrote this, I think I missed an important point that runs contrary to my main argument but reflects another way of interpreting the aphorism out of context: when you try to imitate something it is often possible to unintentionally cheapen it, to miss the essence in pursuit of the image. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is still mere flattery.

Aphorism 120

To imitate one’s enemy is to dishonor.



One important part of life is to establish guiding principles. They serve as a shelter against oneself. The reason for this is that we aren’t perfect, and in moments of weakness or uncertainty we make bad decisions.

The modern era is full of examples of people who attempt to find a moral equivalence with others. Modern morality seems to be about being better, or at least equal, but not about being good.

There are a few problems with this, the most obvious of which is that there’s a strong temptation to fall in line with patterns of behavior that we would find objectionable in ourselves, but which we justify because it is at least as good as what other people do.

Because we justify things in relation to others, we have the ability to overlook the faults our choices and decisions reveal in ourselves.

The failure of others becomes the failure within ourselves, but we do not comprehend it.

Another problem is that not only do we justify our flaws, but we work against our own purpose. It is not the case that everyone is designed to have the same role in the universe. There may be one higher goal, but the method of achieving it needs to follow the individual’s capabilities and tendencies.

Living one’s life using primarily one’s own weakness is the same as failing to do one’s best in their areas of strength.

To contribute all an individual can, they must find out what makes them special and different.

Looking at another person and choosing their path is only going to minimize their potential to bring their own gifts to the world (even if both people manage somehow to work for the good).

However, one can also see a parodic imitation of sorts play out. It’s the Israelites forging the golden calf in the desert: the desire to be like one’s enemy and beat them at their own game is blind to the fact that the game of the enemy may be self-destructive.

What makes the enemy an enemy?

It is the fact that they are working against all that the individual needs to have.

To fight fire with fire is to burn the world down.


Don’t imitate others just because they seem to be successful.

In everything seek the right path, do not assume it is obvious.

Remember that it is possible to be a monster without being conscious of it.

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