Hobbes’s Fool the Insipiens, and the Tyrant-King

Political Theory 39 (1):85-111 (2011)


Hobbes in Leviathan, chapter xv, 4, makes the startling claim: “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘there is no such thing as justice,’” paraphrasing Psalm 52:1: “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” These are charges of which Hobbes himself could stand accused. His parable of the fool is about the exchange of obedience for protection, the backslider, regime change, and the tyrant; but given that Hobbes was himself likely an oath-breaker, it is also self-reflexive and self-justificatory. For, Hobbes’s fool is not a windbag, or one of the dumb mob, led astray by priests. He is, in the terminology of Psalm 52, an insipiens, a madman or raving lunatic, whose rebellion against God the King is his own destruction and that of his people. A long iconographic tradition portraying the fool as insipiens, Antichrist, heretical impostor and tyrant king, was at Hobbes’s disposal.


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Author's Profile

Patricia Springborg
Humboldt-University, Berlin

References found in this work

Hobbes and the Foole.Kinch Hoekstra - 1997 - Political Theory 25 (5):620-654.
Reason and Ethics in Hobbes's Leviathan.John Deigh - 1996 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 34 (1):33-60.
Liberty Exposed: Quentin Skinner's Hobbes and Republican Liberty.Patricia Springborg - 2010 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18 (1):139-162.
Hobbes and Ethical Naturalism.Jean Hampton - 1992 - Philosophical Perspectives 6:333-353.

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Citations of this work

Hobbes on Teleology and Reason.Guido Parietti - 2017 - European Journal of Philosophy 25 (4):1107-1131.

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