20 OCTOBER 1984, Page 22


New philosophy

Sir: Peter Levi's suggestion (Letters, 13 October) that we philosophers might do better to write in Latin, is virtually a paraphrase into modern English of what Hobbes himself said in Leviathan. On the one hand, he rejected philosophical jargon for being (then as now) too Latinate: 'which Terms being meer Words, and in this occasion insignificant, passe onely in Latine, that the vanity of them may bee concealed.' But on the other hand, if anyone needed convincing of the meaning- lessness of contemporary philosophical writing, let him take a Schoole-man

into his hands, and see if he can translate any one chapter concerning any difficult point . . . into any of the moderne tongues, so as to make the same intelligible; or into any tolerable Latine, such as they were ac- quainted withall, that lived when the Latine tongue was Vulgar.'

I trust that Spectator readers, at any rate, will not stumble over Hobbes's wise words.

George MacDonald Ross

The University of Leeds, Department of Philosophy