Calvin and Hobbes and John Paul : The Morality Debate

By James Q. Wilson

Printed in Current, Feb. 1994. Vol.360, pg.11
The following is an excerpt from a longer theological essay originally published in the 11/26/93 NY Times.
This is the only portion of the article that mentions Calvin and Hobbes:

Many people find philosophy boring and theology frightening. They would rather read the comics. And so would I: I can't imagine starting a day without studying Calvin and Hobbes. But whether we notice it or not, that comic strip is often about the fundamental moral issue of our times. Here is a little bloy (implausibly given the name of a stern Protestant theologian) asserting that what he wants -- fame, luxury, diversion, staying out of school, hitting Susie with a snowball -- is all that should matter. I am the center of the universe, he says; values are what I say they are.

And then there is the tiger (paradoxically given the name of an English philosopher who pretty much defended the little boy's view) who offers the sober judgment of mankind about this self-centeredness, all in the language of gentle irony. Periodically, just to prove that mankind is in charge, not little boys, Hobbes beats up on Calvin. And periodically, just to prove that the life of a solitary egoist is inadequate, Calvin blissfully nuzzles the tiger's fur.

This may seem an odd introduction to an essay on papal encyclical. But it is a matter of the highest importance to discover the grounds for our belief that Calvin is usually wrong and Hobbes is almost always right. At a time when some critics think literature is meaningless, some philosophers think morality is without foundation and some sociologists think the family is an arbitrary institution; we need to ask why so many of us think just the opposite.