ABSTRACT: Hobbes belonged to philosophical and scientific circles grappling with the big question at the dawn of modern physics: materialism and its consequences for morality. ‘Matter in motion’ may be a core principle of this materialism but it is certainly inadequate to capture the whole project. In wave after wave of this debate the Epicurean view of a fully determined universe governed by natural laws, that nevertheless allows to humans a sphere of libertas, but does not require a creator god (...) or teleology to explain it, comes up against monotheism and its insistence on the incoherence of an ordered world in the absence of a God and his purposes. The following questions were central to this debate: Can we understand the universe as law-governed in the absence of a god? If so, what room is there in a fully determined mechanical universe for human freedom? If humans do enjoy freedom, does the same hold for other animals? Is this freedom compatible with standard views of morality? (shrink)
This paper brings new work to bear on the perennial question about Hobbes's atheism to show that as a debate about scepticism it is falsely framed. Hobbes, like fellow members of the Mersenne circle, Descartes and Gassendi, was no sceptic, but rather concerned to rescue physics and metaphysics from radical scepticism by exploring corporealism. In his early letter of November 1640, Hobbes had issued a provocative challenge to Descartes to abandon metaphysical dualism and subscribe to a ?corporeal God?; a provocation (...) to which the Frenchman angrily responded, but was perhaps importantly influenced. Hobbes's minimal realism was consonant with atheism, to which Descartes felt he was being forced. Moreover, Hobbes was unrelenting in his battle against Cartesian dualism, for which he saw Robert Boyle's experimental science as a surrogate. (shrink)
Reformation commentators were well aware of the allegorical referents for Leviathan and Behemoth in the book of Job, representing the powerful states of Ancient Egypt and Assyria, but played them down. Hobbes did not.
Philosopher, theologian, educational theorist, feminist and political pamphleteer, Mary Astell was an important figure in the history of ideas of the early modern period. Among the first systematic critics of John Locke's entire corpus, she is best known for the famous question which prefaces her Reflections on Marriage: 'If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?' She is claimed by modern Republican theorists and feminists alike but, as a Royalist High Church Tory, the (...) peculiar constellation of her views sits uneasily with modern commentators. Patricia Springborg's study addresses these apparent paradoxes, recovering the historical and philosophical contexts to her thought. She shows that Astell was not alone in her views; rather, she was part of a cohort of early modern women philosophers who were important for the reception of Descartes and who grappled with the existential problems of a new age. (shrink)
Quentin Skinner’s dedication to investigating Hobbes’s concept of liberty in a number of essays and books has born some unusual fruit. Not only do we see the enormous problems that Hobbes set himself by proceeding as he did, but Skinner’s careful analysis allows us to chart Hobbes’ ingenuity as he tried to steer a path between the Charybdis of determinism and the Scylla of voluntarism – not very successfully, as we shall see. The upshot is a theory of individual freedom (...) and civil liberty to challenge the classical republican traditionThis Article does not have an abstract. (shrink)
As a representative of the papacy Bellarmine was an extremely moderate one. In fact Sixtus V in 1590 had the first volume of his Disputations placed on the Index because it contained so cautious a theory of papal power, denying the Pope temporal hegemony. Bellarmine did not represent all that Hobbes required of him either. On the contrary, he proved the argument of those who championed the temporal powers of the Pope faulty. As a Jesuit he tended to maintain the (...) relative autonomy of the state, denying the temporal powers ascribed by radical papalists and Augustinians. Their argument was generally framed as a syllogism: Christ, who possessed direct temporal power as both God and man, exercised it on earth; the Pope is the vicar of Christ; therefore the Pope possesses and may exercise direct temporal jurisdiction. Bellarmine simply denied that Christ had exercised the temporal power, which as God, it is true, he possessed. Moreover, he drew up and circulated a list of patristic passages collected under the title De Regno Christi quale sit, to prove to the Pope the orthodoxy of his position. (shrink)
Attention has turned from Hobbes the systematic thinker to his inconsistencies, as the essays in the Hobbes symposium published in the recent volume of Political Theory suggest. Deborah Baumgold, in “The Difficulties of Hobbes Interpretation,” shifted the focus to “the history of the book,” and Hobbes’s method of serial composition and peripatetic insertion, as a major source of his inconsistency. Accepting Baumgold’s method, the author argues that the manner of composition does not necessarily determine content and that fundamental paradoxes in (...) Hobbes’s work have a different provenance, for which there are also contextual answers. Hobbes was a courtier’s client, but one committed early to a materialist ontology and epistemology, and these commitments shackled him in treating the immediate political questions with which he was required to deal, leading to systemic paradoxes in his treatment of natural law, liberty, authorization, and consent. (shrink)
Thomas Hobbes's 'Historia Ecclesiastica' presents his views on religion and aims to divert the attention of the public from charges against his being a heretic to placing heresy in pagan history, claiming that Greek philosophers were responsible for introducing heresy in the Christian Church. His book reveals his interest in religious history and the growth of hermeticism and Cabalism in England in his age.
When he gave his first political work the title The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, Hobbes signalled an agenda to revise and incorporate continental Roman and Natural Law traditions for use in Great Britain, and from first to last he remained faithful to this agenda, which it took his entire corpus to complete. The success of his project is registered in the impact Hobbes had upon the continental legal system in turn, specific aspects of his theory, as for instance (...) the right to punish, entering the European civil code through Pufendorf, and remaining to this day. This is a topic of considerable importance at a time at which the UK is considering scrapping the European Union, with all the attendant the legal ramifications. But strangely, despite some acknowledgement of Hobbes’s contribution to European civil law, and specifically the German civil code, the larger legal context for his thought has not thus far been systematically addressed. -/- Key words: Hobbes, civil law, common law, jurisprudence, ‘artificial reason’, natural law, sovereignty,. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
The East/West divide seems to be as old as history itself, the roots of Orientalism and anti-Semitism lying far beyond the origins of modern Western imperialism. The very project of Western classical republicanism had its darker side: to purloin the legacy of the Greeks, distancing them from Eastern systems deemed 'despotic' and 'other'. Western Republicanism and the Oriental Prince is a thoroughly revisionist book, challenging not only the comfortable view the West has of its own political evolution, but the negative (...) stereotypes of non-Western systems. Not only did these images serve to legitimate early modern European nation states struggling for an identity, but they also served to justify slavery and other forms of domination over subject peoples. Drawing upon archaeological and epigraphic evidence, Springborg discusses the Mesopotamian and ancient Egyptian contribution of political forms and cultic institutions to classical Graeco-Roman civilization, an Eastern legacy to the West long obscured for political reasons. A different reading of the foundation myths of Athens and Rome, certain texts of Plato, Aristotle, and the writings of Herodotus, Isocrates, Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus, permits us to restore possible lines of filtration. Renaissance thought, long believed to have ushered in the Western classical republican tradition, demonstrates a curious ambivalence towards powerful Eastern system, objects of fascination as much as fear. We do not yet find sedimented the divide between Western Democracy and oriental despotism, in which post-Reformation thought as been set in stone. This major new study will be of interest to students of political history, political theory, comparative politics and political archaeology. (shrink)
"Justice according to Need" is an old socialist slogan and Marxism embraced an ancient theory of true and false needs. But Aristotle also formulated "justice according to need", although in different terms, where "need" is often translated as "demand".
Among the paradoxical aspects of Hobbes's scepticism attention has recently turned to Hobbes's fool of Leviathan , chapter xv, where Hobbes makes a claim about justice that paraphrases Psalm 52:1: "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God." It is a charge of which Hobbes himself could be suspected, but in fact we see that it is on this startling claim that his legal positivism rests. Moreover it is embedded in a theory of natural law that Hobbes (...) inherited from the late scholastics and that he shares in common with Grotius as a practical solution to the problem of scepticism. Indeed, the fool is not even honoured with the designation "sceptic." He is simply dumb, stultus , one of the mindless mob, or those led astray by priests. Hobbes's treatment of the fool as stultus is Epicurean, as we see in the Historia Ecclesiastica , where he gives the topos special attention, and Epicureanism helps us solve the puzzle of the fool. (shrink)
This essay, published in Political Theory in 1975, was one of the first to address the subject of the last two long books of Hobbes's Leviathan on religion. It addresses the purpose of these books and the relation between Hobbes's philosophy, ecclesiology and theology and the problems they raise.
Why would someone concerned with heresy, who defined it as private opinion that flew in the face of doctrine sanctioned by the public person, harbor such a detailed interest in heterodoxy? Hobbes's religious beliefs ultimately remain a mystery, as perhaps they were meant to: the private views of someone concerned to conform outwardly to what his church required of him, and thereby avoid to heresy, while maintaining intellectual autonomy. The hazard of Hobbes's particular catechism is that he and his supporters (...) could never avoid the suspicion of insincerity. His preparedness to believe whatever the prince demanded of him smacked of heresy in the more usual sense, despite elaborate biblical exegesis designed to prove his orthdoxy. Undoubtedly he realized it even as he wrote the last lines of Leviathan, expressing the hope that "I cannot think it will be condemned at this time, either by the Publique Judge of Doctrine, or by any that desires the continuance of Publique Peace/7 Indicating an intention to return to science, he continued, "I hope the Novelty will as much please, as in the Doctrine of this Artificiall Body it useth to offend" (Lev, Rev. and Conclusion, 491). (shrink)
Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843) makes the very case for Democracy as a privileged constitutional form that he makes in the 1844 Manuscripts for communism. Democracy is the "generic constitution" to which monarchy stands as a species. Democracy is "content and form", since the state is essentially the Demos and Democracy is goverment of the People. "Democracy is the resolved mystery of all constitutions".
Recent archaeological discoveries show ancient, and particularly Near Eastern society to have been supremely contractual, while Mediterranean society was historically characterized by strong family structures, challenging the 19th century evolutionary Status-to-Contract canon.
ABSTRACT: Why would someone concerned with heresy, who defined it as private opinion that flew in the face of doctrine sanctioned by the public person, harbor such a detailed interest in heterodoxy? Hobbes's religious beliefs ultimately remain a mystery, as perhaps they were meant to: the private views of someone concerned to conform outwardly to what his church required of him, and thereby avoid to heresy, while maintaining intellectual autonomy. The hazard of Hobbes's particular catechism is that he and his (...) supporters could never avoid the suspicion of insincerity. His preparedness to believe whatever the prince demanded of him smacked of heresy in the more usual sense, despite elaborate biblical exegesis designed to prove his orthdoxy. Undoubtedly he realized it even as he wrote the last lines of Leviathan, expressing the hope that "I cannot think it will be condemned at this time, either by the Publique Judge of Doctrine, or by any that desires the continuance of Publique Peace/7 Indicating an intention to return to science, he continued, "I hope the Novelty will as much please, as in the Doctrine of this Artificiall Body it useth to Offend" (Lev, Rev. and conclusion, 491). (shrink)
Malcolm’s English-Latin Leviathan is a marvelous technical accomplishment. My issues are with his contextualization, seeing Leviathan primarily as an advice book for Hobbes’s teenage pupil, the future Charles II. Malcolm’s localization involves minimalizing Leviathan's remoter sources, so the European Republic of Letters, for which Hobbes so painstakingly translated his works into Latin, is almost entirely missing, along with current European traditions of Hobbes scholarship. Is this very British Hobbes truly credible, or do we need a more European Hobbes to account (...) for the complexity of Leviathan? (shrink)
This Companion makes a new departure in Hobbes scholarship, addressing a philosopher whose impact was as great on Continental European theories of state and legal systems as it was at home. This volume is a systematic attempt to incorporate work from both the Anglophone and Continental traditions, bringing together newly commissioned work by scholars from ten different countries in a topic-by-topic sequence of essays that follows the structure of Leviathan, re-examining the relationship among Hobbes's physics, metaphysics, politics, psychology, and religion. (...) Collectively they showcase important revisionist scholarship that re-examines both the context for Leviathan and its reception, demonstrating the degree to which Hobbes was indebted to the long tradition of European humanist thought. This Cambridge Companion shows that Hobbes's legacy was never lost and that he belongs to a tradition of reflection on political theory and governance that is still alive, both in Europe and in the diaspora. (shrink)
Marx in his early Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843) declared "Democracy is human existence, while in other political forms man has only legal existence". In the Grundrisse and his late Ethnological Notebooks he studied the emergence of "the political" from primordialism, or the rule of family, tribe and clan .
Attention has turned from Hobbes the systematic thinker to his inconsistencies, as the essays in the Hobbes symposium published in the recent volume of Political Theory suggest. Deborah Baumgold, in "The Difficulties of Hobbes Interpretation," shifted the focus to "the history of the book," and Hobbes's method of serial composition and peripatetic insertion, as a major source of his inconsistency. Accepting Baumgold's method, the author argues that the manner of composition does not necessarily determine content and that fundamental paradoxes in (...) Hobbes's work have a different provenance, for which there are also contextual answers. Hobbes was a courtier's client, but one committed early to a materialist ontology and epistemology, and these commitments shackled him in treating the immediate political questions with which he was required to deal, leading to systemic paradoxes in his treatment of natural law, liberty, authorization, and consent. (shrink)
Schwarz pursues a primordial theme by Freudian means, extrapolating from the psychogenesis of a person to the psychogenesis of a nation. He thus associates monarchy with culture in its infancy, displaying infantile narcisism and meglomania. But as perhaps the best worst case, Pharaonic Egypt, demonstrates, meglomania and narcissism expresssed in colossi, grandiose claims of the king that would shame even the gods, are more likely a sign of weakness than strength. And classical republicanism continues to maintain a monarchical element, now (...) transferred to presidents. (shrink)
It is my thesis that Renaissance classical translations and imitations were often works of political surrogacy in a literary environment characterized by harsh censorship. So, for instance, the works of Homer, Virgil, and Lucan were read as coded texts, that ranged across the political spectrum.
This essay advances the following set of arguments: First, that we must take seriously Hobbes's claim in Behemoth that "the science of just & unjust" is a demonstrable science, accessible to those of even the meanest capacity. Second, that Leviathan is the work in which this science, intended as a serious project in civic education, is set out. Third, that Hobbes is prepared to accept, like Plato & Aristotle, "giving to each his own," as a preliminary definition of justice, from (...) which however, he draws some very un-Aristotelian conclusions. Fourth, that though in Hobbes's theory "just & unjust" are equivalent of "lawful & unlawful," this is far from being a simple statement of legal positivism, but rather the conclusion of a practical syllogism. Fifth, that the impediments to this demonstrable science of justice being universally accepted, on Hobbes's account, are twofold, explained in terms of religion & the role of preachers & educators produced by the universities, on the one hand, & by the activity of "democratical gentlemen" & classical republicans dominating parliament, on the other. Sixth, that Hobbes's account of the transition from jus to lex, specified in terms of a transition from the state of nature to that of civil society, although Epicurean in origin, is much closer to a conventional civil law position. Adapted from the source document. (shrink)
Mary Astell's A Serious Proposal to the Ladies is one of the most important and neglected works advocating the establishment of women's academies. Its reception was so controversial that Astell responded with a lengthy sequel, also in this volume. The cause of great notoriety, Astell's Proposal was imitated by Defoe in his "An Academy for Women," parodied in the Tatler, satirized on the stage, plagiarized by Bishop Berkeley, and later mocked by Gilbert and Sullivan in Princess Ida.
Hobbes's interest in the power of the Image was programmatic, as suggested by his shifts from optics, to sensationalist psychology, to the strategic use of classical history, exemplified by Thucydides and Homer. It put a great resource at the disposal of the state-propaganda machine, with application to the question of state-management and crowd control.
The papal monarchy is the subject of Thomas Hobbes's Historical Narration concerning Heresy, much of Behemoth, and his long Latin poem, the Historia Ecclesiastica. Hobbes's was not the only account in his day of the papal monarchy as a history of iniquity, or even as “the ghost of the Roman Empire.” The papal creation of a parallel system of offices in the late Roman and Holy Roman Empires is of immense institutional importance. Hobbes's analysis of the second papal strategy, the (...) co‐optation of Roman Law as canon law, is complicated. Hobbes's account of both the institutional and philosophical consequences of the papal monarchy is surprisingly congruent with some of the most authoritative modern accounts. The fourteenth‐century hierocratic publicists belonged as much to the reception of Averroist Aristotelianism as their contemporary antagonists. None of the parties to the struggle between pope and emperor appears to have been immune to the Aristotelianism of the Arabic commentators. (shrink)
Hannah Arendt's work belongs to a Germanic republican tradition post-dating the 19th century revival of Aristotle, marked by the publication of Bekker's 1831 definitive edition. Her immediate intellectual peers are Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Weber.
Hobbes's Leviathan transformed forever the meaning of the term, long debated by Biblical commentators. Alternatively, in the Book of Job chapter 41, a great chthonic beast, or Lucifer?like ?King of all the Children of Pride?, Leviathan for Hobbes was a figure for the modern state. Recent work by Quentin Skinner and Noel Malcolm treats Leviathan as in part a story about representation. But by juxtaposing the thesis of Carl Schmitt, juridical architect of the Third Reich, and author if his own (...) startling Leviathan, which reads the Biblical Beast as representing the state as demonic machine, we see not only Hobbes's purpose in invoking the God of fear, but also how it served as a self?fulfilling prophecy. (shrink)
The debate over democracy in recent years has resumed where Schumpeter left it, on the question whether democracy constitutes a phenomenon in its own right with the full range of conceptual, economic and institutional apparatuses, or whether democracy is rather a method or set of techniques which can be applied in widely different political contexts to regulate the struggle for power. Marx, who wrote a paean to democracy as a unique constitutional form, ’the essence’ of the political, in his Critique (...) of Hegel’s ’Philosophy of Right, turned in his last days to an historical analysis of the emergence of democracy out of primordial society characterized by the rule of family, clan and tribe. Marx’s various reflections throughout his life on the historical emergence of the polis and the way in which the modern world lay concealed in the heart of the ancient community have important implications for the question whether or not we delude ourselves in thinking that democracy as a modern programme bears any relation to that extraordinary epoch in the history of western civilization. (shrink)
Once in a blue moon a book comes along capable of effecting a Gestalt Switch and Jeffrey Collin’s The Allegiance of Thomas Hobbes is just such a book. Here we have the duck/rabbit Hobbes, so long seen as an unmitigated Royalist, now exposed as an ardent Cromwellian.
(NB Published in translation as“Hobbes’ theorie der Zivilreligion”, in Dirk Bantl, Rolf Geiger, Stephan Herzberg, eds, Philosophie, Politik und Religion: Klassische Modelle von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. The Hague: de Gruyter, 2013, pp. 117-132. ABSTRACT: Hobbes's Epicureanism was a house of many mansions. Under the banners of antiquity he could flag modern positions on religion that if openly presented as such would have made him liable to charges of heresy or blasphemy, given the censorship of the modern state. But (...) Hobbes's Epicureanism was also serious and there are important continuities, doctrinal and political, between ancient and modern Epicureanism. (shrink)