to culture

After laying out the natural causes of religion, Hobbes note that they are “made different by culture”. For us, this is a quasi-substance but for Hobbes it is an action – think “agriculture” or the cultures of Petri dishes. Culture is to culture, i.e. to tend to something so as to draw out possibilities that either cannot develop at all or develop well without extrinsic aid. This extrinsic aid is the political order acting by law, which is an extrinsic source of action.

Any notion of culture thus has to be sensitive to both the varieties and the uniformities in the species. As to varieties, culturing German Shepards is a very different program from culturing St. Bernards; popcorn isn’t raised by the same program as sweet corn; dairy and beef cattle follow different regimentations, etc. We can expect something like this to be true of persons too. But what counts as a variety and a uniformity is itself the fundamental political question, and one to which we give conflicting answers – perhaps because these are the only sorts of answer that can be given.

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