Thomas Hobbes: Magnanimity, Felicity, and Justice

Hobbes Studies 26 (2):130-151 (2013)
Thomas Hobbes’s concept of magnanimity, a descendant of Aristotle’s “greatness of soul,” plays a key role in Hobbes’s theory with respect to felicity and the virtue of justice. In his Critique du ‘De Mundo’, Hobbes implies that only genuinely magnanimous people can achieve the greatest felicity in their lives. A life of felicity is a life of pleasure, where the only pleasure that counts is the well grounded glory experienced by those who are magnanimous. Hobbes suggests that felicity involves the successful pursuit of desires, a pursuit at which the magnanimous are particularly adept. Additionally, Hobbes implies that those who possess the virtue of justice must also possess magnanimity; it is the just person’s “Nobleness or Gallantnesse of courage, (rarely found).” Leo Strauss and Dorothea Krook suggest that this cannot be Hobbes’s “final word” on justice, because, they say, Hobbes considers magnanimity a type of pride, which he derogates and cannot consistently associate with virtue. I argue that magnanimity, associated with well-grounded glory, is not a type of pride; only vain glory is.
Keywords Justice   Happiness   Magnanimity   Glory  Pride
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DOI 10.1163/18750257-02602003
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