March 10, 2020

Author-itative Adjectives, pt. II

To attain and keep power by scheme, craft, and deceit is often called “Machiavellian” after the whatever-it-takes principles laid out by Niccolo Machiavelli in his 1513 book “The Prince.”

“Darwinian” refers to the natural selection concepts attributed to naturalist Charles Darwin, which can be summarized as “survival of the fittest,” or, more broadly, as the long-term selection for the traits of those organisms best suited to their environment.

The adjective “Hobbesian,” is named for philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who saw humans as naturally inclined to compete and battle for their own advantage rather than cooperate, though cooperation may be better for all. In a “Hobbesian trap,” each of two equal rivals (which could be individuals, groups, or nations) knows the other might destroy them, so each is inclined to acquire greater armament, thereby increasing distrust further, or attack the other first in a preemptive strike to save themselves. Arms races and cold wars can be examples of this.