Reason as danger and remedy for the modern subject in Hobbes' Leviathan

Philosophy and Social Criticism 35 (9):1099-1118 (2009)
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Abstract

The article argues that Hobbes articulates a modern problematic of reason, where the shared rationality of human beings is an integral part of the danger they present to each other, and where reason suggests a solution, the social contract and the laws of nature, enforced and interpreted by absolute sovereign authority. This solution reflects a tension in modern reason itself, since it requires the alienation of self-determination of the rational human subject precisely to preserve the condition for the possibility of the rationality of the rational human subject, i.e. one’s life, which is threatened by the very rationality of other human subjects. I discuss interpretations of Hobbes which stress the other motives of conflict, i.e. competition and vanity, and acknowledge that they play a role in the threat subjects present to each other, but argue that the danger presented precisely by shared rationality, which I discuss with some reference to the Hegelian dialectic of consciousness and mutual recognition, has been underplayed by Hobbes’ interpretation

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Gregory Sadler
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

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