This book presents a new interpretation of the seventeenth-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes’s philosophy of religion. I argue that the key to Hobbes’s treatment of religion is his theory of religious language. On that theory, the proper function of religious speech is not to affirm truths, state facts, or describe anything, but only to express non-descriptive attitudes of honor, reverence, and humility before God, the incomprehensible great cause of nature. The traditional vocabulary of theism, natural religion, and even scriptural religion is (...) preserved intact, but only as a system of natural and conventional signs of honor, as we laud the ‘infinite,’ ‘wise,’ and ‘good’ cause of nature, and speak of it in conventionally-approved scriptural terms—not in an attempt to describe it, but only as a way of expressing our veneration. The proposed reading undercuts the most influential alternative interpretations, revealing that Hobbes is neither an atheist, nor a literal-minded theist with a realist conception of the traditional divine attributes. At the same time, understanding Hobbes’s non-descriptivist approach to religious discourse helps us to see why so many have found either an atheistic or a realist-minded theistic interpretation attractive. The book advances a comprehensive analysis of Hobbes’s highly original philosophy of religion, including both his treatment of natural religion and his treatment of revealed religion and scripture. It also connects his philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, and theory of human nature to his engagé religious politics, including his views on religious toleration, sectarianism, religious education, ecclesiology, and the religious function of the civil state. (shrink)
El miedo, originario y transversal, no está repartido de forma uniforme, como tampoco lo está la fuerza que es capaz de dar sentido, o sea dirección y significado, a los vivientes y las cosas. De modo que, desde el punto de vista político – que aquí tendremos que caracterizar – el incremento y la representación de la fuerza multitudinaria es un factor que puede contribuir a la paz. Mientras las mayorías no se vinculen, organicen y expresen sus proyectos comunes serán (...) siempre “masas” que deben ser gobernadas, usualmente con violencia. Hobbes lo dice de modo explícito cuando al ofrecer las razones por las cuales ha escrito De Cive señala que con su proyecto quiere evitar que hombres ambiciosos abusen de la sangre de los muchos para aumentar su poder personal. (shrink)
To understand Hobbes’s handling of Christian scripture in Part 3 of Leviathan we need to see it in the light of his own radical account of the norms controlling public religious speech and practice as set out in Part 2 and in other works such as De Cive and De Corpore. As these texts make clear, Hobbes holds that we ought rationally to venerate the first cause of all, and that the proper way to venerate this awesome and incomprehensible being (...) is to publicly adopt the local culture’s religious practices, however arbitrary or conventional those practices might be. For the seventeenth-century English subject, the Anglo-Protestant scriptural religion provides the appropriate vehicle to express this rationally mandated religious piety, and thus provides a form of devotion that Hobbes embraces in a spirit of genuine religious reverence. At the same time, he also regards this religion, like all scriptural religions, as a conventional human artifact that, given the ear of the sovereign, he might hope to shape in favor of Hobbesian ideals such as civil obedience, the separation of philosophy from religion, and the extirpation of belief in an immaterial spirit-world. The proposed interpretation dissolves systematic problems facing irreligious readings on the one hand, and more straightforwardly Christian readings on the other. (shrink)
Almost all scholars of the Enlightenment consider Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke as the founding theorists of the “secular modern state.” In contrast to the widely held view of the modern state, I argue that far from being “secular” it was the product of the sacralization of politics, which resulted from the way these philosophers interpreted the Scriptures as part of their philosophical inquiries. The analysis of the “linguistic turn” in their biblical interpretations reveals how they tried to undermine the power (...) of the Church to claim greater freedoms for the state. Their philosophical inquiries initiated the secularization of the Christian religion and the sacralization of politics as two correlative developments, rather than the secularization of the state per se, as is usually supposed. The philosophical arguments proposed by Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke helped to resolve the religious battles of Europe’s many confessions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but are still pertinent to our c... (shrink)
This article contrasts St. Thomas More's theoretical work on the role of faith and history in biblical exegesis with that of Fr. Richard Simon. I argue that, although Simon's work appears to be a critique of his more skeptical contemporaries like Hobbes and Spinoza, in reality he is carrying their work forward. I argue that More's union of faith and reason, theology and history, is more promising than Simon's for Catholic theological biblical exegesis.
This article shows that core ideas of Hobbes's argument for civil authority have their sources in commentary on or texts of the Hebraic Bible. These ideas centre on the Hebraic idea of created nature and of man . It is further shown that both the eschatological and enlightenment components of Hobbes's philosophy originate in these same biblical ideas. Therefore, the often stressed and accustomed division of Leviathan into a secular and a religious teaching is mistakenly conceived.
This paper examines Hobbes’s Leviathan with reference to seventeenth-century discussions of Job to determine what Hobbes’s titular reference might be intended to accomplish. I argue that for a seventeenth-century reader, Job stands not just for patience in suffering but also for a warning against the hubris of attempting to reason with God. In this light, the reference suggests a Hobbesian immanent critique of scholasticism for having the arrogance to presume it knows God’s way on earth. This gesture both creates the (...) discursive space for a secular politics, and underlines the cohesion of the early and late parts of Leviathan. (shrink)