Online Colloquium (5): Reply to Critics by Raylor

This online colloquium has been established to discuss Timothy Raylor’s recent book, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes. We began with an introduction to the text by Professor Raylor, followed by responses from Ted H. Miller, Patricia Springborg, and Alan Cromartie. We conclude this week with a reply by Timothy Raylor. Many thanks to Oxford University Press for supporting this colloquium.

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An author can hope for no greater honour than a careful, critical engagement with his work. I am most grateful to the three distinguished scholars who have generously offered their thoughtful and candid responses to Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes. It is a matter of great satisfaction that all three respondents agree with the central claims of the book: that Hobbes’s understanding of rhetoric is Aristotelian rather than Ciceronian, and that this allows us to account for his various theoretical pronouncements about rhetoric and its relationship to philosophy without having to posit a series of phases, in which rhetoric is first embraced, then rejected, and finally embraced again. Each of them has questions about my approach to the subject, or objections to particular aspects of my argument, and it is on these, rather than on points of agreement, that I shall focus my response.

Professor Miller finds me too narrowly focused on ‘school logic’, suggesting that while ‘Hobbes attacked pedagogues for the political and social consequences he attached to their teaching, Raylor’s tendency is to turn these pedagogical conflicts into ends in themselves’—as if, as he puts it, while Hobbes is criticizing the direction in which his contemporaries were travelling, I have chosen to treat him as cavilling about the inadequacies of their driving manual. Hobbes was certainly concerned with incorrect teaching and illicit logical processes; but his focus was their political and social consequences. Such consequences were not simply ‘attached to’ school and university teaching; they were, rather, the direct result of the pollution of logic by rhetoric (chapter 5). I do not think it fair to suggest that I shrink this problem to quibbling over a driving manual. I devote the better part of a chapter to Hobbes’s analysis of the consequences of this compromised logic in the world. Chapter 6 examines Hobbes’s exposure of the weak logical foundations of political and indeed most other areas of western philosophy, built as they are on mere opinion and prejudice; it goes on to trace Hobbes’s increasingly sophisticated and wide-ranging analysis of the church’s use of rhetorical argumentation in order to establish and extend its temporal power.

A focus on logic and rhetoric is the prerequisite for an historically informed grasp of what Hobbes is doing. We need to understand, for example, that when he talks approvingly about ‘logic’ we cannot assume that he is referring to the discipline as it was then understood. Such a focus is needed also because Hobbes saw university education as one of the most important means by which the forces of darkness have consolidated and transmitted their power. In analysing the corruption of logic, Hobbes was not just criticizing a driving manual’s skewed and tendentious interpretations of road signage, he was also exposing the identities and motivations of its authors, and those of the instructors who followed it: those who have, without proper authority, taken upon themselves responsibility for road regulation and have, to serve their own interests, led drivers into confusion and peril.

My emphasis on the development of Hobbes’s thinking about the relationship between logic and rhetoric is, for Miller, symptomatic of a ‘monopolism’ of perspective, which allegedly impedes my ability to see other possible contexts. I do not believe that my approach is contextually monopolistic. One of my chapters explores the historiographical background to Hobbes’s translation of Thucydides; another examines the natural historical context of Hobbes’ poem on the Derbyshire Peak. The problem is that the contexts with which Miller wants me to engage do not strike me as useful for the tasks at hand. Thus, for example, Miller thinks I ought to have discussed Hobbes’s rhetorical practice in a work like Behemoth. But Behemoth—important though it is—is a work of history, not a work of philosophy; an analysis of Hobbes’s rhetorical practice therein would be largely irrelevant to an investigation of his understanding of the appropriate relationship between rhetoric and philosophy.

But it is not the absence of Behemoth that most bothers Miller. Readers familiar with his work will not be surprised to find that the most important context Miller thinks I ignore is that of mathematics: specifically ‘the mathematical culture in which [Hobbes] was immersed from the time of his earliest works’—a culture both humanist and courtly, in which the mathematician’s skills were not only admired and patronized but were also practised at the highest levels of society.[1] Miller accuses me of setting up an unnecessary barrier to the search for ‘connections between’ Hobbes and this culture by insisting that ‘we should not credit the notion of a mathematical humanism or its relevance to Hobbes if we cannot first establish that mathematics was at the core of university humanist pedagogy’. This does not reflect my position.

Miller is right that I do not regard mathematics as the core of grammar school or university education; but then neither does Miller—or, at least, he did not when he wrote Mortal Gods (‘Mathematics was not a key part of the education at any given school’).[2] Where he now claims broadly that Quintilian and Vives ‘recommended’ mathematics, in his book he noted more precisely that they recommended it mostly for mental training.[3] Vives saw in it some practical utility (everyone needs to know how to count, it’s helpful to know how to measure things, and so on), but he was concerned, as were others, that a young gentleman who spends too much time on maths would be unfit for public life.[4] In sum, Miller and I agree that within the grammar school and university, mathematics, though a fundamental aspect of a liberal education, was not viewed as a discipline worth pursuing for its own sake.

And yet it does not follow from this that I regard curricular centrality as the necessary prerequisite for taking seriously the notion of ‘mathematical humanism’. The problem, as I explained in the book, is that I am not persuaded by the evidence Miller has mustered to support his account of a high culture of mathematics in which courtiers and monarchs were enthusiastically and knowledgeably engaged. In expressing such doubts, I did not intend (as Miller claims) to ‘stop us from looking towards the court, and to the households of noblemen for such connections’; a large part of my book is concerned with Hobbes’s place in just such a household. Nor do I ‘brush aside evidence of Hobbes’s connection with Britain’s mathematical culture’; on the contrary, my discussion of Hobbes’s surveying work with William Senior furnishes evidence unnoticed by Miller for Hobbes’s connection with the world of practical mathematics. Hobbes clearly had links to this world, as he did to that of scholarly mathematics—in his friendship with Gilles Personne de Roberval, for instance. But I am not persuaded by Miller’s claim that such connections amounted to immersion in any kind of ‘culture of mathematics’. Would anyone thus immersed have committed so many glaring faux pas in his mathematical works as Hobbes? Those who were immersed in that culture (e.g. Barrow, Wallis, Huygens, de Sluse) did not see him as one of their number, but, rather, as a dilettante working beyond the pale. And while personal animus and political opposition can account to some degree for such responses, these cannot be uniformly attributed to enmity: witness the efforts of Hobbes’s friend Sorbière to encourage him to acknowledge and correct the paralogisms that ‘nearly all the mathematicians’ found in his duplication of the cube.[5]

Even allowing for these disagreements, it is unclear to me that a discussion of Hobbes’s mathematics forms a necessary aspect of an argument about Hobbes’s understanding of the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric. Miller feels it necessary because he thinks that many scholars regard Hobbes’s ‘embrace of mathematics’ as signalling his ‘break with humanism’ and that those who wish to argue that there was no such break must confront this ‘head-on’. But I show that Hobbes was always a humanist by looking at the disciplines and genres in which he worked. And while I agree with Miller that there was a turn in Hobbes’s thinking at the end of the 1630s, the view that this amounted to an ‘embrace of mathematics’ is founded on a cursory reading of Hobbes’s approving comments, in texts like the epistle dedicatory to The Elements of Law, about the firmness and certainty of the knowledge attained by mathematical learning, in contrast to the endless controversies generated by dogmatical learning—a topos I discuss in chapter 6 (see especially 272–4). Hobbes does not here embrace mathematics; rather, he embraces the idea of disciplinary protocols that can generate certainty. Mathematics provided a model of accomplishment, but different fields required different approaches. The method by which certainty could be generated in the field of philosophy was, Hobbes argued, his austere apodiectic logic, purged of the approximations and probabilities of rhetoric. Hobbes’s radical redefinition of logic, and his separation from it of the traces of rhetoric, was thus not just pedagogical quibbling; it was central to what he thought he was doing as a philosopher.

Professor Springborg suggests that my book ‘does not really discuss’ Hobbes’s ‘science’, his optics, or ‘the atomism of the Cavendish circle’, in addition to ignoring his mathematics. She finds this surprising because I edited a collection of essays on the Cavendish circle and am working on an edition of De corpore. But one may surely work on different aspects of a writer without talking about them all at the same time. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes is concerned with Hobbes’s understanding of philosophy in general—its character and status, its relation to other forms of knowledge and practice. Thus, I discuss Hobbes’s conception of scientia, and his theorizing of a distinction between those species of philosophy in which scientia is achievable and those (e.g. natural philosophy) in which it is not. But Hobbes’s endeavours within particular sub-branches of philosophy—e.g. natural philosophy (Springborg’s ‘science’), optics, mathematics—are not among the concerns of this book.

Although Springborg thinks my argument is probably right, she feels that in order to prove it ‘we need to know more about the distribution of knowledge in early modern England, which cannot simply be read off from the heavily Ciceronian educational curriculum’. But my account of the context of Hobbes’s thinking is not ‘simply read off from’ the standard grammar-school curriculum. In regard to rhetoric, for instance, I show that he was working in a tradition of neo-Aristotelianism that had nothing to do with grammar school Ciceronianism, and which I trace back via Goulston and Vossius to the editions of mid-sixteenth century Venice. In exploring Hobbes’s thought I have focused on texts to which he had access and on contexts that are demonstrably relevant to our understanding of him. Professor Springborg thinks I would need to range far more widely to secure my case.

Her review essay for Global Intellectual History furnishes a full account of what she has in mind: a survey of the transmission of Greek scientific writings via the translators of Abassid Baghdad and the Clunaic monks of Toledo to the Latin west, together with an account of the renewed search for Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, and Hebrew manuscripts in the seventeenth century.[6] It is a learned, stimulating, and provocative investigation, striking for its geographic and historical reach. But I do not see how it might help me persuade anyone of the merits of my argument about Hobbes. It does not, I think, yield a single new source that might pertain to my argument, and its conclusion that Hobbes saw himself as the inheritor of a discrete tradition of ‘science, philosophy and rhetoric’ derived from Aristotle via the Arabs, and opposed to Latin scholasticism, seems to me doubtful. It is, at least, at odds with Hobbes’s typical self-presentation as either sui generis, or, as in the epistle dedicatory to De corpore, the latest in a short line of modern philosophers (Copernicus, Galileo, Harvey) who have thrown off the dead weight of tradition and established new sciences.

Rather than focusing on topics my book does not attempt to address, Professor Cromartie faces squarely up to the central questions that it does raise, flagging up the difficulties involved in working out ‘the precise relationship of rhetoric with logic’ in Hobbes’s thinking and, in doing so, directing our attention to the importance of attending to the Latin Digest and English Briefe of Aristotle’s Rhetoric—a desideratum also recently registered by Quentin Skinner.[7] Cromartie asks two questions. First, he wonders how much, in his mature political writings, Hobbes’s view of rhetoric has changed from the ‘capacious view’ he registered in his Digest of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, according to which it encompassed not just ēthos and pathos, but also logos. Cromartie observes that human interaction depends upon things that do not meet the strictest requirements of formal logic: we cannot function without beliefs and opinions, for instance, or act without the prompting of the passions. In my view, Cromartie is right on these points, and I think that Hobbes would have agreed with him. But Hobbes’s political philosophy was not designed to regulate such quotidian interactions; it was to lay the foundations for an incontrovertible understanding (scientia) of the principles of authority, on which grounds a solid political structure might be raised. Nor was his earlier view of rhetoric quite as capacious as Cromartie implies. Rhetoric did not, either in Aristotle’s view or in Hobbes’s rendition of it, depend (as Cromartie suggests) upon formal logic. Within rhetoric, logos denotes something offered as a reason, an argument, a proof, rather than ‘logic’ in the strict sense. Thus, while I agree with Cromartie that there is little change in Hobbes’s understanding of the character of rhetoric—the works of his maturity still register an Aristotelian conception of the three kinds of proof (even if, as in the passage from De cive, XII.12, that both Cromartie and I discuss, he sometimes downplays the importance of logos)—the official position of his maturity is, as he puts in Anti-White, I.3, that since philosophy is the product exclusively of formal logical procedures it can have nothing to do with rhetoric.[8]

The second question raised by Professor Cromartie concerns logic’s limitations. Here he suggests that in practice Hobbes often exceeds the boundaries of strictly logical argumentation and that in order to pursue the kinds of quarry he seeks he is obliged to do so. Since matters of faith fall outside the scope of scientia, this may explain Hobbes’s use of rhetorical techniques to attack the church in part four of Leviathan, and since Leviathan as a whole has ‘some elements of advocacy’ its use of rhetorical argumentation is not really surprising. I agree. Techniques of ridicule designed to undermine ēthos are famously deployed in the ‘Comparison of the Papacy with the Kingdome of Fayries’.[9] And Leviathan is clearly engaged in advocating primarily the utility of Hobbes’s political philosophy, as in the suggestion at the end of part two that this should be publicly taught: a claim that follows from, and exceeds, the logical demonstration of its validity of the two preceding sections.[10]

Thus far, I think, Cromartie and I are in agreement. Where we begin to depart is over the question of whether Hobbes’s practice in Leviathan is the consequence of a changed theory of philosophy that now allows room for rhetorical persuasion. In his final paragraph, Cromartie turns to Hobbes’s much-discussed dismissal, in the ‘Review, and Conclusion’ of the argument, drawn from ‘the contrareity of some of the Naturall Faculties of the Mind’, that

‘in all Deliberations, and in all Pleadings, the faculty of solid Reasoning, is necessary: for without it, the Resolutions of men are rash, and their Sentences unjust: and yet if there be not powerfull Eloquence, which procureth attention and Consent, the effect of Reason will be little.’[11]

Cromartie suggests that Hobbes here rejects just the conclusion that strength of reasoning and force of eloquence cannot co-exist in the same person, rather than the premise that ‘eloquence is necessary “in all Deliberations”’. He certainly rejects that conclusion, suggesting that while the two faculties cannot be deployed at the same time, they may indeed co-exist in the same person: ‘Judgement, and Fancy may have place in the same man; but by turnes; as the end which he aimeth at requireth’.[12] But this does not imply endorsement of the premise that eloquence is necessary to deliberation. While eloquence may contribute to the ‘adorning and preferring of Truth’ once discovered, it must be excluded from reasoning, and as such it is, as Hobbes’s discussion of counselling in chapter 25 of Leviathan argued, a threat to proper deliberation.[13]

Despite these disagreements, I think Cromartie is right that Hobbes’s literary practice frequently violates his austere theory of valid logical process, and right that it must inevitably do so. This is certainly the case in Leviathan, which taken as a whole, I have argued, does not constitute a work of philosophy or ‘science’ according to Hobbes’s criteria. But it is not, I think, uniquely true of Leviathan. Hobbes’s logical procedures are so narrow and so rigid that it seems unlikely that they could ever generate in practice all the conclusions to which his philosophy tends; recourse to the improvisations and approximations of informal, rhetorical reasoning seems inevitable. A well-known example of this kind of slippage is Hobbes’s ambiguous use of the concept of conatus at one moment to denote just the beginning of a motion, at another to suggest its cause.

Although his early critics made, as I have noted, much of the contradiction of austere logical theory by high-handed rhetorical practice, only very occasionally does Hobbes acknowledge that his philosophical conclusions exceed his logical protocols.[14] We see this, for instance, in his treatment of natural philosophy (which I discuss in chapter 5), where he acknowledges that hypothetical knowledge only is attainable. We see it also in his backing away, in the preface to the 1647 edition of De cive, from the implication that everything said therein was philosophically demonstrated, and allowing that his argument for the superiority of monarchy was offered only ‘probably’.[15] But any reader keen to find a more substantive acknowledgement or wide-ranging reflection on the problem would, I think, be disappointed. The stakes were too high and the intellectual environment too hostile for Hobbes to open up for scrutiny the foundations of his philosophical practice.

But such practice may well repay further investigation. A full study of the logical and rhetorical moves involved in each of the three parts of the Elements of Philosophy—Body, Man, Citizen—would establish precisely the points at which Hobbes slides from strict philosophical demonstration into rhetorical proof and thus help us grasp more precisely than hitherto the relationship between Hobbes’s theory of philosophical reasoning, with its clear separation of logic from rhetoric, and his practice of it. Such a study might shed light also on the reasons underlying Hobbes’s painfully slow progress on a work that was, allegedly, fully conceived by 1642, but which was not finally available in print until 1658. Research of this kind will be facilitated by the provision of critical editions of the texts that make up the trilogy—editions that register not just the latest printed versions but also the evolution of the texts in question. New editions of all three texts are in preparation for The Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes. It is on an edition of the first part of the trilogy, De corpore (Of Body), that I, together with Stephen Clucas, am currently engaged.

Professor Timothy Raylor (Carleton College)


[1]  Ted H. Miller, Mortal Gods: Science, Politics, and the Humanist Ambitions of Thomas Hobbes (University Park, PA., 2011).

[2]  Mortal Gods, 93.

[3]  Mortal Gods, 17–23.

[4]  Juan Luis Vives, On Education, ed. and tr. Foster Watson (Cambridge, 1913), 200–3.

[5]  The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes, ed. Noel Malcolm, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1994), ii, 565.

[6]  ‘Raylor’s revisionist humanist Hobbes. Patricia Springborg review essay of Timothy Raylor, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes’, Global Intellectual History, online first: https://doi.org/10.1080/23801883.2019.1606692.

[7]  http://www.europeanhobbessociety.org/general/new-directions-for-hobbes-research/ I am at currently work on a comparative study of the two texts.

[8]  Hobbes, Critique du ‘De mundo de Thomas White, ed. Jean Jacquot and Harold Whitmore Jones (Paris, 1973), 107; Hobbes, Thomas White’s ‘De mundo’ Examined, ed. and tr. Harold Whitmore Jones (Bradford, 1976), 26; cit. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, 215.

[9]  Leviathan, 385; see Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, 268–70.

[10]  Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, 270.

[11]  Leviathan, 389.

[12]  Leviathan, 389.

[13]  Leviathan, 390; Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, 249, 252.

[14]  Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, 1–2.

[15]  Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, 177.

Online Colloquium (4): Cromartie on Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes

This online colloquium has been established to discuss Timothy Raylor’s recent book, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes. We began with an introduction to the text by Professor Raylor, followed by responses from Ted H. Miller and Patricia Springborg. We now have a response from Alan Cromartie, before finishing with a reply by Timothy Raylor next week. Many thanks to Oxford University Press for supporting this colloquium.

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It is a pleasure to welcome Timothy Raylor’s Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes. Both specialists in rhetoric and generalist Hobbes scholars will surely find much to admire in its careful presentation. As someone doing work that crosses much of the same ground, I was grateful for the thoroughness of the picture it presents and the deftness and acuteness with which it summarises existing scholarship. Irreversible local advances range from the discovery of natural-philosophical concerns in De mirabilibus pecci to the removal of doubts about the Hobbesian authorship of A briefe of the art of rhetorique. The most striking claims, however, are that Hobbes’s ‘attitude to rhetoric underwent no radical changes during the course of his long life’ (11) and that it remained essentially Aristotelian in basis. To my mind, these claims are convincing; the difficulties lie in working out the implications for the precise relationship of rhetoric with logic. Given the opportunity, I’d like to ask two questions, both raised by presupposing that Hobbes’s rhetoric is broadly Aristotelian in nature. The first is concerned with what lies within the scope of ‘rhetoric’; the second with what lies outside the scope of Hobbesian ‘logic’. The starting point of both is some remarks about A briefe.

There is a case for saying that Hobbes’s concern with ‘belief’ involves a subtle distortion of Aristotle’s views, re-orienting study of the possible means of persuasion towards an unqualified focus on the endpoint of the process. But A briefe is unquestionably loyal to its Aristotelian source in treating the ‘belief’ produced by the art of rhetoric as coming ‘partly from the behaviour of the speaker; partly from the passions of the hearer: but especially from the proofes of what we alledge’ (Briefe, 5) – in other words, from êthos, pathos, but especially logos. The Digest and A briefe are both surprisingly insistent on the dominant role of logic in the art of rhetoric. Moreover, the logic that interests Hobbes is formally valid logic; he shows surprisingly little concern with fallacies (less, certainly, than Sturmius and Goulston). He mentions the use of examples—characterised as ‘short inductions’—but he is much more interested in ‘short syllogisms’ (that is, in enthymemes), which are for the most part presented as conventional syllogisms whose fault is that they are based upon endoxa. The Latin Digest’s summary of Book One, Chapter Six goes so far as to provide cross-references explaining the logical links that obtain between the colours of good. Significantly, Hobbes departs from Aristotle’s text in interpreting refutative enthymemes as arguments ‘wherein from that which the Adversary maintaineth, wee conclude that which is manifestly impossible’ (Briefe, 131). The Greek does not specifically refer to this kind of manoeuvre. In other words, Hobbes was using his rhetoric classes to teach the earl of Devonshire a kind of argument that was to be essential to his ‘scientific’ thinking.

My first question, then, is concerned with the survival of this capacious view of the art of rhetoric in the political writings of his maturity. Aristotle’s appeals to êthos, pathos, and logos all have a fairly obvious potential to go wrong: the hearer’s faith may be misplaced, his passions may distract him, and the commonly held opinions on which his ‘proofs’ are based may be in various respects misleading. But they can also go right; indeed, they must go right if any political order is to be sustainable. Belief is not only the basis of Christianity, but the default condition of human interaction. The Elements tells us that ‘there be many things which we receive from the reports of others, of which it is impossible to imagine any cause of doubt’; such things compose ‘a great part of our histories’ (EL, I.vii.9). Moreover, when specific people do specific things, they do so at the prompting of the passions. Reason is even powerless to make hearers pay attention (217). The point is not just that fear is at the heart of political life, nor even (if Oakeshott and others are right) that good behaviour can be driven by a generous pride, but that the causal chain that sets a human being in motion invariably passes through a passion. From his translation of Thucydides onwards, Hobbes is hostile to deliberate inflammation of the passions (of the type that will inevitably occur in large assemblies), but any presentation of future goods and evils will of its nature stimulate a passion-driven response. Lastly, there is some suggestion that ‘logic’ is still a component of what Hobbes calls ‘eloquence’, at least in the passage at Civ, xii.12 where the ‘art’ of one type of ‘eloquence’ is said to be logic, while the ‘art’ of the other—involving the use of metaphors and endoxa—is ‘rhetoric’ (a weaker claim, I think, than saying that these manoeuvres simply are rhetoric). I agree that this kind of contrast between ‘rhetoric’ and ‘logic’ is in a pejorative sense of the term a rhetorical manoeuvre (182), improperly implying that the art of rhetoric should be identified with some of its aspects. But has anything else really changed?

My second question is concerned with logic’s limitations. Here I differ from the view that natural philosophy is something less than science (14). This raises some deep problems that it would be impossible to settle by quotation. I take it, though, that Hobbes’s official position is that ‘science’ is conditional knowledge; the ‘truth’ that is involved in scientific propositions takes the form ‘if x, then y’. Civil science and geometry do have the special advantage that human beings can bring x about, but science by its very nature rests on suppositions and cannot lead to any non-hypothetical conclusions. Leviathan, Chapter Seven could hardly be clearer that ‘no Discourse whatsoever, can End in absolute Knowledge of Fact, past or to come’ (Lev 1651, 30); not only is there no path from fact to ‘science’, there is equally no path from science to fact. There may of course be passages in which Hobbes lapses from this very radical position, implying that a factual correspondence can be ‘true’ (at 179, the principia vera of Civ, x.11 are a possible example), but if we take it seriously, then science relates tp words, not things. This was the view, at all events, that Hobbes himself expressed in his ‘Objections’ to Descartes (190). Science can police our language—discouraging, for instance, loose talk of ‘liberty’—but cannot map the words we use onto specific actions. If so, it is not much to the discredit of rhetoric that it pursues an object that is not strictly ‘truth’. One such object worth pursuing is destroying pernicious religion. Prophetic religion is based on a historic revelation: the faith of a believer is faith in testimony (in general of testimony that miracles occurred). In other words, its basis falls outside the scope of science. But because it is faith in a person, it is open to attack by anything that attacks that person’s êthos. This surely explains the highly rhetorical texture of Leviathan, Part IV: ‘Of the Kingdome of Darknesse’ that is acknowledged on all sides to constitute a problem.

More tentatively, it can be suggested that the tone of the rest of the volume is appropriate to a project that has some elements of advocacy (deliberative rhetoric encouraging specific people to do specific things: encouraging, for instance, royalists to acquiesce in a republic that they found repulsive). All Hobbes’s major works display much literary art, but Leviathan does seem to aim at different, more varied effects. Pace Schuhmann, these effects do seem consistent with the view that

‘in all Deliberations, and in all Pleadings, the Faculty of solid Reasoning is necessary: for without it, the Resolutions of men are rash, and their Sentences unjust: and yet if there be not powerfull Eloquence, which procureth attention and Consent, the effects of Reason will be little’ (Lev, 389).

It is true that this passage forms part of an argument Hobbes rejects, but the claim that he objects to is not the premise that eloquence is necessary ‘in all deliberations’, but the conclusion that the faculty of eloquence cannot co-exist in one person with solid reasoning. If Leviathan just is deliberative rhetoric, should we be surprised that it uses rhetorical techniques?

Professor Alan Cromartie (University of Reading)

New Directions for Hobbes Research

We asked some leading scholars to identify areas of Hobbes studies that they think have been relatively under-studied to date and deserve greater attention. Here’s what they suggested. (We welcome further suggestions from Hobbes scholars and will happily add them to this post.)

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Gianni Paganini

The “continental” Hobbes – Hobbes’s metaphysical, scientific and theological thought in his relations with correspondents in France and on the continent (in particular P. Gassendi and the circle of erudite libertines, including P. Sorbière and La Mothe Le Vayer).

We usually consider Hobbes to be a great English thinker, and to place him in that context, but we do not often take sufficient store of the fact that he wrote some of his most important works (e.g. Leviathan, De cive and most of De corpore) during the decade of his exile in France (1641–1651), notably in Paris, that is on the continent. In this perspective, it would be helpful to study the printed and manuscript sources related to his “continental” stay.

This aspect has been studied significantly with regard to the debate with Descartes regarding his Meditations, to which Hobbes wrote a series of Objections; however, much less study has been focused on the relationships and ties between Hobbes and the thinkers that were closer to him from a metaphysical, epistemological and also political standpoint, such as the so-called French “libertines” and Pierre Gassendi. Gassendi, in turn, represented the Epicurean renewal, which interested Hobbes both due to its materialist bent as for the importance accorded to instituting a conventional contract as a source of law and politics. This genuine network of Epicurean friendships, in which an interest in science and a passion for philosophy went hand in hand, has yet to be explored in depth. In particular, the manuscripts connected to Sorbière (close friend of both Hobbes and Gassendi) and his correspondence (manuscripts held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris) could provide us with new clues into Hobbes’s associations in Paris and the intellectual ties that he was able to establish with the French neo-Epicurean and libertine tradition. We also need to study systematically the manuscripts (conserved in Tours) that demonstrate the various steps of Gassendi’s writing of Syntagma philosophicum. These manuscripts are very interesting, as they enable us to compare the parallel evolution of both systems during Hobbes’s decade in Paris.

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Quentin Skinner

I think there are still many important questions to be asked about the young Hobbes. How significant was his sojourn in Italy and France in 1614/15? What more might be learned about his relationship with Francis Bacon? What are we to think of his work as a translator? When and why did he translate Thucydides’s History, and how political was his translation? How important was his Latin version of Aristotle’s Rhetoric for his understanding of the theory of eloquence? How far may that in turn have been important in relation to his project for a science of politics? Some of the finest historical work on Hobbes of recent times has of course addressed these and related issues – most obviously the work of Kinch Hoekstra, Noel Malcolm, Timothy Raylor and the late Karl Schuhmann. But it seems to me there’s still considerable scope for more research on Hobbes’s intellectual formation and development.

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Patricia Springborg

My immediate thoughts concern possibilities for empirical research. Quentin Skinner in his recent book, From Humanism to Hobbes—tracing the immediate context for Hobbes’s breakthrough in Leviathan of treating the person of the state as artificial, the seat of power—has made brilliant use of the Thomason Collection of documents held in the British Library, comprising some 22,000 items including civil war pamphlets, and especially those which parroted some of the most exaggerated arguments for popular sovereignty of the radical French Huguenot’s whom Hobbes was desperately concerned to refute. This material must somehow have made its way to Paris, where Hobbes was writing, and there must still be traces of it in the Bibliothèque Nationale or the innumerable private libraries which have survived. Far too little work has been done on Hobbes’s period in Paris, and especially empirical work.

Elsewhere I have suggested that Hobbes is also a perfect candidate for prosopography, which allows us to create from the careers of individuals nested in important networks a profile for the group, to try to throw light on ideas and actions for which in individual cases, like that of Hobbes, we lack material evidence. The parallels between the factions that ran the parliament of 1621, for which we have excellent records, and those which ran the Virginia Company, of which we also have excellent minutes, are striking. Hobbes’s patron, Cavendish, in making Hobbes a member of the Virginia and Somers Island Companies, of which he turned out to be one of the most diligent members, was surely stacking the court. But to what end? Such a study would teach us more about the Virginia Company as a school for politicians, and its possible impact on the formation of Hobbes’s ideas on government and public administration in the critical chapters 22, 24, and 29 of Leviathan!

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Susanne Sreedhar

In his major works of political philosophy, Hobbes makes striking pronouncements about sexual behaviour. For example, in De Cive he asserts that no sexual behaviour is forbidden in nature, that there can be no such thing as marriage in the absence of a civil state, that what counts as adultery is determined entirely by the positive law, and that marriages can be dissolved or not, depending on those laws. In Leviathan he adds that men can take as many wives as the law of their country permits.

Some of these claims are accorded a few sentences of explanation or defence, but most are simply asserted. Even when Hobbes does try to provide some justification for these pronouncements, it tends to be unsatisfactory. His various remarks about sex appear prominently in harsh criticisms by Hobbes’s contemporaries. Bishop Bramhall castigates Hobbes for his remarks on adultery and divorce while the Earl of Clarendon expresses horror at his allowance of polygamy. Present-day readers may not share the horror of Hobbes’s contemporaries. They nevertheless are entitled to an explanation for why Hobbes holds these views, which arguments he enlists to defend them, and how those views fit into his overall moral and political theory.

What are we, today, to make of Hobbes’s provocative claims about sex? How should we understand his view on sex, given that he offers scant or unsatisfying explanations for what he says about it?

Mainstream Hobbes scholarship sheds little light on these questions. With a few notable exceptions, Hobbes scholars of the past, say, fifty years have not had much, if anything, to say about sex. Although there is a growing industry of feminist political theorists, literary critics, and even some philosophers who take up Hobbes on the question of gender, few consider questions about sex and sexuality apart from gender.

Hobbes does not give a systematic view of human sexuality or sexual morality. The pieces of texts where he mentions the subjects are scattered throughout his different works and they are brief. Can we reconstruct Hobbes’s position from these scattered remarks and the logic behind them? If so, how does this effect understanding Hobbes’s overall philosophical political project and what implications does it have for the debates over how to understand Hobbes’s views on gender?

Online Colloquium (3): Springborg on Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes

This online colloquium has been established to discuss Timothy Raylor’s recent book, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes. We began with an introduction to the text by Professor Raylor, followed by a response from Ted H. Miller. We now have a response from Patricia Springborg, which will be followed by a response from Alan Cromartie, and then a reply by Timothy Raylor. Many thanks to Oxford University Press for supporting this colloquium.

***

In his immensely learned and meticulously detailed book, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, Timothy Raylor rightly points to anomalies in what has become the received wisdom about Thomas Hobbes’s understanding of the relation between philosophy and rhetoric.[1] Quentin Skinner, whose Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (1996) is now canonical, in his recent and excellent From Hobbes to Humanism (2018), restates his basic assumption, that ‘by “humanism” and “the humanities”, I am simply referring to a specific academic curriculum widely followed in the grammar schools and universities of early modern England … a course of instruction comprising five elements: grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history and moral philosophy’.[2] Skinner and Raylor assume that Thomas Hobbes was educated in terms of just such a curriculum. But Skinner has detected in Hobbes a growing scepticism about the value of rhetoric, given the political misuse of powers of persuasion, at the same time that his interest in science and evidence-based proofs increased in the 1630s, re-embracing the powers of rhetoric only in Leviathan, and particularly its polemic against ‘the Kingdom of Darkness’. While Raylor has come to doubt whether Hobbes ever embraced the civic humanists’ veneration for rhetoric.

Despite the curriculum, or just because of it, Raylor asserts, ‘Hobbes’s understanding of rhetoric [w]as, from the first, Aristotelian rather than Ciceronian. It was Aristotle, whose Rhetoric Hobbes rather surprisingly chose over the more predictable, Ad Herennium of Cicero, or Quintilian’s Institutes, as the text on rhetoric for his Cavendish charge’; and it was Aristotle who insisted that ‘Rhetoric is a tool, both powerful and dangerous; it needs to be kept apart from philosophy, which is—or ought to be—concerned with truth, not with persuasion’ (129–30). For Hobbes, the sciences must be communicated in language that is perspicuous, and ‘perspicuity excludes, by definition, most of the verbal and intellectual devices, the figures of thought and diction, of rhetorical elocutio’ (253).

Hobbes claimed that ‘philosophy has nothing to do with rhetoric’ as early as Anti-White, I.3’ (171–72), consistently distinguishing logic as concerned with truth from rhetoric as concerned with victory; and this realization ‘allows us to recognize a consistency in the concerns over rhetoric Hobbes registered at various points in his career without having to posit a dizzying series of voltes faces to explain them’ (191–93). I do not doubt that Raylor is right. The elegant simplicity of his revision allows us to see how for Hobbes philosophy (concerned with demonstrable truths) and rhetoric (concerned with the means of persuasion) were, like science (proceeding from demonstrable truths) and the passions (the subject of persuasion), two sides of the same coin, and that Hobbes’s ‘civil science’ was a neo-Aristotelian alternative to Ciceronian eloquence-based civic humanism. This is quite a momentous revision. It does not take away from the excellent work of Skinner and others on Ciceronian rhetoric in early modern England, but it does relocate it.

Raylor dismisses as an exaggerated anecdote Aubrey’s account of Hobbes’s Euclidean epiphany of 1630, where he claims to have encountered geometry for the first time (127), while stressing throughout the book that mathematics was not included in the typical English early modern humanist educational curriculum that prepared nobles and gentlemen for court; and was not part of Hobbes’s own early education either:

Theorists of noble education regarded geometry as a discipline with which the young gentleman should have some acquaintance, to help his understanding of the science of fortification and appreciation of architecture. But few if any regarded it as desirable that a young man should make a serious study of mathematical subjects (128).

In fact, Raylor’s initial judgment that Aubrey’s account of Hobbes’s Euclidean epiphany is an exaggerated incident, is probably the right one. Richard Talaska’s comparison between the Hardwick Hall library catalogue in Hobbes’s hand (Hardwick, MS Hobbes E.1.A), and the statutory requirements of the Oxford University curricula in Hobbes’s day, shows that geometry was in fact stipulated in the undergraduate programme, the required texts being those of Euclid of Alexandria (fl. 300 BC), Apollonius of Perga (3rd to 2nd c. BC), and Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287–c. 212 BC).[3]

Given the fervour with which mathematical and scientific MSS in Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Hebrew and Coptic, were hunted in the seventeenth century, especially by English and Dutch trading companies, the news that geometry came to Hobbes so late is hardly credible. Possibly as a student he might not have given it much attention, but since mathematics plays such a crucial role in determining what for him is science and what is philosophical truth, we should find textual evidence for this epiphany. And we have it already in the exultant Epistle Dedicatory of the Elements of Law of 1640 to his patron, Newcastle, at whose command Hobbes is writing. There he already claims his epiphany (so to speak) to be the distinction between science and dogma, where mathematics, and especially geometry (presumably), that ‘consisteth in comparing figures and motions only’, is the discriminating case:

‘From the two principal parts of our nature, Reason and Passion, have proceeded two kinds of learning, mathematical and dogmatical. The former is free from controversies and dispute, because it consisteth in comparing figures and motion only; in which things truth and the interest of men, oppose not each other. But in the later there is nothing not disputable…’ [4]

In this brief dedication Hobbes defends his method, if he excuses his style, precisely in terms of the philosophy-rhetoric antithesis: ‘For the style, it is therefore the worse, because whilst I was writing I consulted more with logic, than with rhetoric.’ Here Hobbes most clearly demonstrates that he is already post-humanist, belonging to the movement of early modern scientists, within whose company he placed himself, far from the civic humanists of the Renaissance (already revered in Cambridge, but not in Oxford), although this did not prevent him from continuing to observe the marks of a humanist, as the writer of Latin poetry and translator of Thucydides and Homer.

Raylor’s book confines itself to an exhaustive study of Hobbes’s relevant texts, especially those of his so-called humanistic phase: the Briefe of Aristotle’s Rhetoric; Hobbes’s country house poem, De Mirabilibus Pecci Carmen; and his translation of Thucydides. Later chapters address Hobbes’s redeployment of rhetoric as an artful weapon to disclose the chicanery of the Church, culminating in the Kingdom of Darkness of Leviathan Book 4 and Hobbes’s burlesque the Historia Ecclesiastica. The thread of Hobbes’s philosophical seriousness, his indebtedness to his mentor Francis Bacon (1561–1626), and the quasi-scientific interests served even by his exploration of the Peak District in his early Country House or Journey poem, De mirabilibus pecci carmen (1636), are the subject of exemplary scholarly exposition. And it is here that Raylor’s revisionist view of Hobbes on philosophy and rhetoric can tell us such a lot, in noting for instance, the Paduan education of Hobbes’s medical companions to the Peak district, his interest in the ebbing and flowing of a well as a demonstration of Galilean tidal theory, etc. Galileo Galilei (1564–642), whom Hobbes visited in 1636 on the Grand Tour with the young Cavendish, lived and worked in Padua. The University of Padua, which schooled the students of wealthy Venice close by, was not only the centre of Neo-Aristotelian education, but its medical school emphasized Arabic science, and particularly texts of Galen of Pergamum (c. 129–210 AD) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes, 1126–1198).[5]

One of the surprising omissions of the book is that Raylor does not really discuss Hobbes’s science, his optics, the atomism of the Cavendish circle, or Hobbes’s own mathematical endeavours. This is especially puzzling, given that Raylor was the editor of the special issue of The Seventeenth Century on the Cavendish circle, which includes Stephen Clucas’s excellent article on the atomism of the Cavendish circle;[6] and that Clucas and Raylor are jointly editing the forthcoming Clarendon edition of De Corpore, the work which first raised Hobbes’s mathematical claims to the attention of John Wallis (1626–1703), thereafter his bitter adversary. For Raylor to secure his revisionist case and persuade us that he is right, we need to know more about the distribution of knowledge in early modern England, which cannot simply be read off from the heavily Ciceronian educational curriculum. Indeed, the Ciceronian-humanist curriculum of Hobbes’s day, far from representing the current state of knowledge in the country, was a throw-back to an earlier classical revival, ‘the twelfth century renaissance’, in which the Western provinces of the Roman Empire, largely through the efforts of the monastic orders, succeeded in recovering both the legal and rhetorical texts of the Roman Republic, which became the basis of canon law and new literacy in an age in which even kings (including Charlemagne) were typically illiterate; but where, given the Church’s insistence on the literacy of the clergy, monasteries were small islands of learning in a sea of ignorance. [7]

This period also saw the reception of scientific translations from Arabic into Latin. For geo-strategic reasons, England was to play a major role in the transmission and development of this knowledge, and Oxford became its hub. To the polyglot collection of scholars who made the pilgrimage to Sicily and Cordoba we owe the circulation of Greek mathematical texts preserved in Arabic translation, as well as the Arabic commentaries, which further developed late medieval science based on Aristotelian logic and Arabic systems of mathematical calculation. [8] The Abbasid translation movement centred in Baghdad from the eighth to the tenth centuries, and subsequent Arabic commentaries from roughly the tenth to the twelfth centuries,[9] resulted in an Aristotle recognizably distinct from the Aristotle of scholasticism. Among works which were translated over and over, as Arabic science grew and more precise translations were required, were Aristotle’s Organon, his texts on logic, as well as the Rhetoric; but also the works of Galen, Euclid, and Ptolemy of Alexandria (AD 100–170). When the Caliphate moved to Cordoba (AD 912–961), Latin translations of some of these Arabic texts were undertaken, initially for the benefit of the Cluniac monks of the Toledo Cathedral who were Latin speaking, and it was these that were recirculated back to Europe.

Scholars from Norman Britain could be proud of their contribution to science based on the translations from Greek into Arabic and Arabic into Latin, in search of which they travelled to Sicily, Spain, and the Levant, bringing back books and manuscripts. In the seventeenth century an active manuscript hunt was already under way in England, supported by William Laud (1573–1645), Chancellor of Oxford University and later Archbishop of Canterbury, and James Ussher (1581–1656), Archbishop of Armagh, while the foundation of the chairs of Arabic at Oxford and Cambridge opened a new era in oriental studies in England. Laud personally endowed the Laudian Chair in Arabic in 1636, whose first incumbent was Edward Pococke (1604–1691), privately sponsoring travellers to collect material from Constantinople and Aleppo, and even persuading Charles I to enlist the Levant Company in the hunt. The Bodleian Library became the repository for these manuscript collections, a major resource for members of the Royal Society, a remarkable number of whom worked on Arabic MSS. [10] It was this tradition of science, philosophy and rhetoric, from the beginning Aristotelian rather than Ciceronian, I maintain, to which Hobbes saw himself belonging. The vicissitudes of Thomas Hobbes’s long controversy with John Wallis, Savilian Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, are proof of nothing if not the urgency Hobbes felt to prove himself in mathematics, the new science of optics and atomist metaphysics.

Professor Patricia Springborg (Humboldt University, Berlin)


[1]  An extended version of this contribution has recently been published as a review essay in Global Intellectual History, online first (2019) at: https://doi.org/10.1080/23801883.2019.1606692.

[2]  Quentin Skinner, From Humanism to Hobbes, Studies in Rhetoric and Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2018), 1–2.

[3]  Richard A. Talaska, ed. The Hardwick Hall Library and Hobbes’s Early Intellectual Development (Philosophy Documentation Center, 2013) 9, and 32, note 26, citing ‘Bodleian Shelf Mark: Wood, 423 (16)’. Talaska is not listed in Raylor’s index.

[4]  Hobbes, Elements of Law, ‘Epistle Dedicatory’ (Constitution Society online edition, 1640, at https://www.constitution.org/th/elements.htm).

[5]  Regina Andrés Rebollo, ‘The Paduan School of Medicine: medicine and philosophy in the modern era’, História, Ciências, Saúde – Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro, 17:2 (2010), online at: http://www.scielo.br.

[6]  Stephen Clucas, ‘The Atomism of the Cavendish Circle: A Reappraisal’, The Seventeenth Century, 9:2 (1994): 247–73.

[7]  Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century (Harvard University Press, 1927).

[8]  On the Abassid translation movement, Greek into Arabic, see Richard Walzer, Greek into Arabic: Essays on Islamic Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1962); and Dmitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ‘Abbasaid Society (Routledge, 1998).

[9]  For a more detailed account, see Patricia Springborg, ‘Constitutionalism and Antiquity Transformation’, Global Intellectual History, online first (2018) at: https://doi.org/10.1080/23801883.2018.1527516.

[10]  See M. B. Hall, ‘Arabic Learning in the Correspondence of the Royal Society’, in Gül A. Russell, ed., The “Arabick” Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth Century England (Brill, 1993): 147ff.

Online Colloquium (2): Miller on Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes

This online colloquium has been established to discuss Timothy Raylor’s recent book, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes. We began with an introduction to the text by Professor Raylor. We now have a response from Ted H. Miller, which will be followed by responses from Patricia Springborg (Humboldt, Berlin) and Alan Cromartie (Reading), and finally a reply by Timothy Raylor. Many thanks to Oxford University Press for supporting this colloquium.

***

Thomas Hobbes never abandoned humanism. From beginning to end, he condemned the rhetorical practices he associated with demagoguery, but these were never the totality of rhetoric. Hobbes used its other parts to further his philosophical program. His transition from Cavendish family tutor to self-declared pioneer of civil science did not mark, as Quentin Skinner maintained, a turn away from humanism. Leviathan, therefore, did notmark a return to rhetoric. Reading Timothy Raylor’s new book,I was pleased to see an author who agrees with me on these basic assertions.[1] I was less pleased that he chose to highlight our disagreements rather than explore our commonalities (9–10, 28–31). Most importantly, there is now another dissenting voice against the standing view regarding Hobbes, rhetoric, and so-called phases of his intellectual career. Professor Raylor and I do differ on some matters, and I look forward to a productive debate over matters of substance. This entry can only be a start.

The book’sstrengths, and some of its weaknesses, stem from an intense focus upon dialectic, or renaissance era school logic. Particular concern is devoted to the interplay of distinct parts of rhetorical and dialectical practice as they developed prior to Hobbes’s arrival on the scene. For Raylor, however, there can be no discussions of Hobbes and rhetoric which do not first reverently correct Quentin Skinner’s error in assigning the early Hobbes a Ciceronian humanism. Having come from a position that did not assent to the Ciceronian-Hobbes in the first instance, I think his best contribution lies elsewhere.

Why was Hobbes dissatisfied with school logic? Our first impulse might be to speak of the quest for causes, but Hobbes also belonged to an intellectual milieu that still bore the impact of Ramism. Walter Ong described it as having robbed rhetoric to pay logic; it was a curricular maneuver. Ramism appropriated inventio, the rhetorician’s task of searching for proofs, for logic. This turned philosophy into an echo of the rhetorical practice of collecting and deploying commonplaces; the quest through authorities for sententiae had migrated.[2] Having acquired a reserve of received truths, the philosopher might, as demanded by the occasion, assemble arguments. Finding proof became a matter of invention, of drawing upon accepted truths from the reserve.

Some have found Ramist habits within Hobbes’s work (the table in Leviathan Chapter 9 echoed Ramist affinities for visual pedagogy), or in his treatment of Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Raylor pulls in the opposite direction (173–75). Importantly, this also includes inventio’s migration. Its ill affect upon school logic, Raylor emphasizes, were a key target of Hobbes’s aggressive campaign (219–32, 246–53). It could only reinforce, rather than challenge, convention.Raylor’s Hobbes continues to operate within the collection of compartmentalized reasoning and communicative tasks that Quentin Skinner insisted upon, but with an important twist. Skinner saw Hobbes’s assault upon the task of inventio as an attempt to dethrone prudence and history. These sources of received but uncertain knowledge were no longer sufficient for the “human sciences.”[3] The old humanist store houses were no longer good enough, and that was a rejection of eloquence as well. Raylor, by contrast, sees in Hobbes’s assault on inventio a decontamination campaign within logic’s, not rhetoric’s, house. Whether this amounts to a rejection of “the greater part of the Western philosophical tradition” (223) may be questioned, but it does offer an alternative.

Supplying us with contemporaries that may have praised, or denounced, Hobbes on these same terms would have contributed further. Another question for Raylor might be how far Hobbes’s rebellion truly departed from its home terrain. When does a self-declared revolution begin to look more like mere reform?

I wish he had pursued some other questions. Outside the confines of discussions of Cicero or Quintilian (and Quentin Skinner’s) vir civilis, Raylor doesn’t speak directly to what many frame as the grand conflict between philosophy and rhetoric. Some of the scholarship Raylor puts behind him reveled in showing that Hobbes, the philosopher’s philosopher, could be made to eat his anti-rhetorical words. Quentin Skinner tried to demonstrate how and why Hobbes changed his mind—even if the hero of Ciceronian imaginary, vir civilis, was not likewise rehabilitated upon Hobbes’s return to rhetoric. Raylor offers material for what might have been a reframing. No one was more convinced than Thomas Hobbes that rhetoric (or at least its inventio) had become integral to philosophy. He wasn’t defending a timeless Platonic wall, but attempting to reverse part of an already successful invasion. For Raylor’s Hobbes, the question was which parts to keep and control, and which to deport from his reinvented discipline (246).

What did he keep? Loathed inventio was not elocutio. Aside from invention, rhetoric’s tasks included eloquence (style)—dispositio (organization), memoria (memory), and pronutiatio (voice and delivery) don’t figure here. Hobbes, argues Raylor, kept eloquence, if in a subordinate place (246). If we mistake eloquence for the whole of rhetoric, we miss something. Likewise, if we fail to see his counter-attack on inventio in its transplanted home. Eloquence may make itself most felt in Leviathan, but Raylor joins others who find it at work in earlier works including De Cive and The Elements of Law. Don’t mistake Hobbes’s ongoing truce with eloquence for either hypocrisy or a reversal. Raylor does not analyze Hobbes’s use of rhetoric’s subdivided repertoire in other important works including Behemoth, or his heated debates with mathematicians and other rivals for scholarly laurels.

Raylor’s recontextualization is testimony to a now obvious conclusion. Simple claims to read Hobbes “in context” mask something. Interpreters must argue which contexts are most relevant. Raylor’s context is useful, but this larger task is not as well met. This is because he is tempted to assign his context monopolistic privileges. It impedes his capacity to see other possibilities. If I find your driving objectionable, I might choose to criticize the way you maneuver the vehicle, your choice of destination, or your conduct towards other drivers. Hobbes did not like where many were driving in the political realm. Within the confines of Raylor’s perspective, his primary concern was to criticize the driving manual he presupposed they used. Where all political differences are, necessarily, doctrinal/philosophical differences this will have purchase. Hobbes’s contexts were not so very flat. He sought solutions in university reforms, but he thought many of those problems had spread beyond the universities. Had his foremost purpose been the defeat of Ciceronians we would have expected a more direct assault on Tully himself. Too much of what Raylor finds is inferred. My own view is that Hobbes wished to defend sovereigns from a variety of threats. He often sought pedagogical weapons in this struggle, but he traced many initial causes of his challenge to human ambition. Ambition caused problems in and out of school.

Raylor’s context for Hobbes is deep and sometimes helpful, but it is also sometimes unhelpfully narrow. It becomes so narrow that it jeopardizes his larger claims. It fails to capture some of Hobbes’s better-known boasts about his interventions into logic and philosophy. It also lacks the breadth to render a convincing picture of a political philosopher. Hobbes attacked pedagogues for the political and social consequences he attached to their teaching. Raylor’s tendency is to turn these pedagogical conflicts into ends in themselves.

For many, Hobbes’s break with humanism is signaled by his embrace of mathematics. For anyone (like Raylor and I) who maintain the persistence of Hobbes’s humanism, this must to be taken head-on. He does not do so. Hobbes had, in fact, continued a debate between Jesuit defenders of mathematics in the schools, and then did them one better. Not only were mathematicians capable of reaching certitude about natural philosophy’s most fundamental subjects,[4] but in Hobbes mathematics inverts the old hierarchy. He would see mathematics ranked prior and superior to the natural science, which must learn within its own limits to imitate mathematical methods.[5]

Hobbes participated in a larger trend. Enthusiasm for mathematics, especially practical mathematics, was growing outside of the schools. It was shared and observed by lettered men of his own and neighboring generations. Ancient humanist guidepost, Quintilian,[6] recommended mathematics, as did other pedagogues with influence in Britain, including Vives.[7] The fruits of mathematical learning were on display: at court, in noble (notably, Cavendish) households, in the taste for paintings that demonstrated a high mastery of perspective, in architecture, map-making, and among those claiming mastery of military and naval techniques. Workshops courted social climbers with shiny mathematical instruments.[8]

Raylor has nothing to say about the mathematician’s gains among the logicians, and brushes aside evidence of Hobbes’s connection with Britain’s mathematical culture. He relies, in part, on the authority of Mordechai Feingold.[9] Like the scholars Hobbes condemns, he asks too much of his authority. Feingold concluded there was no comprehensive mandate for mathematics education in the universities before 1640, but this was a part of Feingold’s project to rescue Oxford and Cambridge from the notion that they had no interest in mathematics. Hobbes helped propagate such claims.

In Chapter Three Raylor go to some lengths to connect Hobbes’s account of the Devil’s Arse (in De Miribilibus Pecci) with Baconian natural philosophy. He would, however, have us believe that we should not credit the notion of a mathematical humanism or its relevance to Hobbes if we cannot first establish that mathematics was at the core of university humanist pedagogy. Given Hobbes’s own views on the universities, this is a strange standard of evidence. The false premise erects an unnecessary barrier to discovering the connections between Hobbes and the mathematical culture in which he was immersed from the time of his earliest works. A similarly unnecessary barrier would stop us from looking towards the court, and to the households of noblemen for such connections. Do we have to believe, for example, that Charles I’s court had to be a “a centre of mathematical and scientific research” before we can entertain the possibility that one of the court’s mathematics tutors, Thomas Hobbes, was mindful of its interests?

In sum, this book contributes to correcting the mistaken partitioning of Hobbes’s career. Raylor uses the dialectical contexts to show the continuity of Hobbes’s humanism, but also makes Hobbes an unnecessary captive of those contexts.

Professor Ted. H. Miller (University of Alabama)



[1]  Ted. H. Miller, Mortal Gods: Science, Politics, and the Humanist Ambitions of Thomas Hobbes (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011), 7, 8–33, 55–70, 115–35, 161–99.

[2]  Walter Ong, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 92–130, 237, and Chapter 6 passim.

[3]  Quentin Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 257–67.

[4]  Paulo Mancosu, ‘Aristotelian Logic and Euclidean Mathematics: Seventeenth-Century Developments of the Quaestio de Certitudine Mathematicarum’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 23 (1992): 241–65; idem., Philosophy of Mathematics and Mathematical Practice in the Seventeenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

[5]  Miller, Mortal Gods, 81–114.

[6]  Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, trans. H. E. Butler. 4 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1920), bks. I, 10, 35, 7.

[7]  Juan Luis Vives, De Tradendis Disiplinis, trans. Foster Watson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913), 201–2, 204.

[8]  The literature in the history of practical mathematics is reviewed in Miller, Mortal Gods.

[9]  Mordechai, The Mathematician’s Apprenticeship: Science, Universities and Society in England 1560-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).

Online Colloquium (1): Introduction to Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes


This online colloquium has been established to discuss Timothy Raylor’s recent book, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes. We begin with an introduction to the text by Professor Raylor himself, which will be followed by weekly responses from Ted H. Miller (Alabama), Patricia Springborg (Humboldt, Berlin) and Alan Cromartie (Reading), and finally a reply by Timothy Raylor. Many thanks to Oxford University Press for supporting this colloquium.

***

Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes began life as a cluster of doubts about some of our standard assumptions regarding Hobbes’s understanding and practice of rhetoric. Among such assumptions are: that the early Hobbes was a thoroughgoing humanist and, a fortiori, an unapologetic teacher and practitioner of the art of rhetoric who saw it as a valuable aspect of civic life; that Hobbes began, in the later 1630s, to develop concerns about rhetoric as self-serving and therefore dangerous; that, in embracing the so-called ‘scientific’ or ‘geometrical’ method around 1640 Hobbes rejected humanism, banishing rhetoric from his new civil science; and that, a decade later, in Leviathan, Hobbes effected a rapprochement with rhetoric, which he now, finally, came to see as an indispensable part of civil science.

There were, it seemed to me, problems with the chronology of the supposed stages of the development of Hobbes’s thinking about rhetoric. The turn away from rhetoric seemed to be detected in works that were also treated as products of Hobbes’s ‘high’ humanist period (such as the Briefe of Aristotle’s Rhetoric); while the rapprochement with rhetoric seemed to be detected in works that are considerably earlier than Leviathan (the 1646 preface to De cive, for example), thus severely curtailing the scope of the supposedly ‘scientific’ period. And it seemed questionable to me whether Hobbes’s concerns about rhetoric could be neatly accommodated to different stages. Hobbes seems to have been consistently concerned about the impact of orators on civil society in works of all periods—from the 1628 translation of Thucydides, through Leviathan, to late works like Behemoth and the Historia ecclesiastica. And up through his very latest major works—his translations of Homer—Hobbes’s humanist commitments remained unshaken.

It also seemed to me that in attempting to grasp the character of Hobbes’s conception of rhetoric we had failed to give due weight to the fact that in teaching rhetoric to the third earl of Devonshire, Hobbes used for his text not some staple of the humanist curriculum like the pseudo-Ciceronian Ad Herennium or Quintilian’s Institutes, nor even a modern textbook like that of Cyprian Soarez—but, unusually for the age, Aristotle’s Rhetoric: a work he later extolled to his friend John Aubrey as ‘rare’. Aristotle, it seemed to me, was the key to a proper understanding of Hobbes’s thinking about rhetoric.

Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes works through the implications of that insight. Where Cicero saw rhetoric as an essential complement to philosophy and found in the orator the ideal of active citizenship, a vital member of a healthy civitas, Aristotle’s attitude toward rhetoric as the ability to see the available means of persuasion involved no large claims for its philosophical value or political importance, and consisted with the concerns he frequently registered about the dangers presented by its subversion of rational processes by appeals to the character of the speaker and the passions of the audience. Although Aristotle was, for humanists, traditionally accommodated to a Ciceronian understanding of rhetoric, recent approaches by scholars such as Theodore Goulston—whose bilingual edition Hobbes appears to have used—set about the task of clearing away later accretions, freeing Aristotle’s account of rhetoric from its high-minded Roman framing.

Acknowledging Hobbes’s understanding of rhetoric as, from the first, Aristotelian rather than Ciceronian allows us to recognize a consistency in the concerns over rhetoric Hobbes registered at various points in his career without having to posit a dizzying series of voltes faces to explain them. Rhetoric is a tool, both powerful and dangerous; it needs to be kept apart from philosophy, which is—or ought to be—concerned with truth, not with persuasion. The problem, as Hobbes came to see it at the end of the 1630s, was that rhetoric had not been kept apart from philosophy.

Hobbes’s adoption of the ‘scientific’ method was founded, I argue, not on any general discontent over the power or character of rhetoric. It involved no general dismissal or rejection of the art. Hobbes continued to deploy, in dedicatory epistles and addresses to readers, the age-old techniques of capturing attention and securing goodwill. Nor was it founded on any sudden confidence in the persuasive power of reason: reason could yield truth; but truth did not necessarily persuade.

Hobbes’s new method was based on no discontent with rhetoric, but, rather, on the recognition that there was something fundamentally wrong with philosophy, which had been pursued not logically, by perfect and immutable reasoning, but rhetorically, by way of approximate proofs and persuasive instances, by means of likelihoods and probabilities. Philosophy, Hobbes insisted in Anti-White, I.3, has nothing to do with rhetoric. And from that position, I argue, he never retreated.

What, then, of Leviathan, and Hobbes’s supposed rapprochement therein with rhetoric? It is of course true that Leviathan exhibits some of the most brilliant flourishes of Hobbes’s English style; but this, in my view, does not involve a rapprochement between rhetoric and philosophy. The rhetorical texture of Leviathan is in part attributable to the mere contradiction of theory by practice. But the differences between Leviathan and Hobbes’s earlier works of civil philosophy have been overestimated. Hobbes’s exposition of his political philosophy in Leviathan differs less markedly from The Elements of Law and De cive than has recently been suggested. And the most distinctively ‘rhetorical’ parts of Leviathan are those sections of the work (part three and, especially, part four) which are new to Leviathan and which are not, strictly speaking, philosophical but controversial. Indeed, the generic and stylistic shift from the bare exposition of political philosophy in the early sections of Leviathan to the anti-clerical polemic of part four is so dramatic that the work’s most recent editor, Noel Malcolm, suggests that Hobbes’s intentions must have changed radically during the process of composition, after an Anglican attempt to undermine his position at court. In so arguing Malcolm echoes earlier commentators who have questioned the coherence of the work: J.G.A. Pocock, for instance, suggests that Leviathan is not one but two books.

Not only in respect to its textual practice does Leviathan subvert the notion of a late rapprochement with rhetoric; it does so also on the level of theory. It is in Leviathan that Hobbes offers his most sustained analysis of the contamination of philosophy by rhetoric. In Leviathan, for instance, Hobbes shows how political philosophers hostile to monarchy have deployed the term ‘tyranny’ to denote a distinct species of monarchy, while in fact denoting only monarchy itself, with the addition of their personal dislike. In an extended discussion, Hobbes exposes the way in which the orators and pseudo-philosophers who made up the early church deployed rhetoric to consolidate their spiritual authority and expand their temporal power. Indeed, in Hobbes’s analysis, it was by way of rhetorical figuration—particularly through metaphor, synecdoche, and metonymy—that they did so. The term ‘episcopus’ (‘bishop’), for instance, originally denoted merely a humble overseer of sheep; it was illicitly extended by metaphor to signify a ruler of people—even being stretched to denote monarchical authority over them. Among other examples of such figurative extension are the concepts of ‘hell’, ‘the kingdom of God’, and the papal ‘fulmen excommunicationis’.

But this emphasis on the dangers of figuration should not lead us to the conclusion that the main problem with rhetoric was, for Hobbes, the capacity of figurative language to hoodwink readers and auditors. This is a feature of elocutio, or style, on which I believe we have been too narrowly focused; it was a central feature of the Roman approach to rhetoric to which we are still largely indebted.

Although style is indeed a problem, our focus on it has, I argue, obscured the importance for Hobbes of the prior problem of inventio, or discovery: specifically, that method of argumentation which proceeds by finding the available means of persuasion. The fundamental problem with this approach is that it is a means of literary composition, not a method of logical demonstration: its proofs are merely plausible, not universal and necessary. This distinction, Hobbes believes, is what earlier philosophers have failed to observe. And Hobbes, I think, never backs away from this position.

Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, argues for a new understanding of Hobbes’s thinking about the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric. That relationship does not, I argue, undergo a series of fundamental changes in Hobbes’s thinking. From first to last Hobbes is concerned about the political dangers of oratory. At the end of the 1630s, after (and, I suggest, in part because of) working intensely on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, he set about freeing philosophy from the procedures of rhetorical reasoning and setting it on a firm footing. In so doing he drew a line between rhetoric and philosophy that he never, in theory at least, erased.

But although its central argument addresses the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric in Hobbes’s thinking, this is not the sole focus of the book. My reconsideration of Hobbes’s attitude to rhetoric led me to a more general reconsideration of his early humanism, the character of which was, I came to see, less literary, less civic or Ciceronian, than has usually been supposed. Hobbes’s translation of Thucydides, for instance, emphasizes not the virtue of eloquent men acting in the interests of the civitas, but the corruption of the state by demagogues—a panel illustrating which point Hobbes incorporated within his engraved title. That panel furnishes the dustwrapper image for Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes.

The humanism of Hobbes’s Thucydides is not brightly Ciceronian; it is darker and colder, in keeping with the Tacitean outlook detected in the Cavendish household by Noel Malcolm and Richard Tuck. Hobbes’s introductory account of Thucydides’ manner and method reveals opposition to Ciceronian canons of style and indebtedness to the ‘politic’ history that Bacon had drawn from Thucydides, with its quest to uncover the secret springs and hidden causes of political action.

Bacon was a significant influence on the Cavendish household, and in Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes I trace his impact on the essays and discourses of the Horae subsecivae (works sometimes recently assigned to Hobbes, but for which I adduce additional evidence in favour of William Cavendish’s authorship), and on Hobbes’s Latin poem on the ‘wonders’ of the Peak. While that poem has generally been treated as a contribution to humanist letters (as indeed it is), I suggest that in its focus on the rational investigation of natural phenomena both regular (e.g. the sources of rivers) and irregular (e.g. the ebbing and flowing well) and its investigation of the procedures of mechanical arts (e.g. the techniques of Derbyshire lead mining) the poem is informed by the concerns of Renaissance Aristotelianism and by those of Baconian natural history. My reading of these works of the 1620s and 1630s leads to some recalibration of our understanding of Hobbes’s humanism as more engaged with the philosophical and natural philosophical concerns of his maturity than has previously been recognized.

In sum, while it is the goal of Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes to offer a fresh understanding of the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric in Hobbes’s thinking, it aims also to furnish a more nuanced account of Hobbes’s early philosophical interests, and a new understanding of the emergence of Hobbes’s mature philosophical stance. How far it succeeds in these goals is, of course, not for the author, but for his readers, to determine.

Professor Timothy Raylor (Carleton College)

Call for registration: Half-day EHS workshop, Amsterdam, 25/02/19

On Monday 25 February 2019 the European Hobbes Society will organize a half-day workshop at the University of Amsterdam with Prof. Arash Abizadeh (McGill). Prof. Abizadeh is one of the world’s most prominent Hobbes scholars today. Earlier this year, Cambridge University Press published his monograph Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics — a rich and original study of Hobbes’s moral philosophy.

All are welcome; registration is required but free of charge. (johan.olsthoorn@kuleuven.be)

Univ. of Amsterdam
University Library (Vondelzaal)
Singel 425

Provisional program

Monday 25th February 2019

12:30-13:00 Welcome, with coffee and pastries
13:00-13:50 Susanne Sreedhar (Boston University) – ‘Hobbes on Sexual Morality’
13:50-14:40 Alexandra Chadwick (Groningen) – ‘How Hobbesian is Hume on Human Nature?’

14:40-15:00 Coffee break

15:00-15:50 Takuya Okada (Oxford) – ‘Hobbes on Toleration’
15:50-16:20 Johan Olsthoorn (Amsterdam) – ‘Book proposal: Hobbes on Justice’

16:20-16:40 Coffee break

16:40-17:30 Arash Abizadeh (McGill) – ‘Glory and the Evolution of Hobbes’s Theory of War’
17:30 Drinks, followed by dinner

An Open Letter to the Hobbes Profession (UPDATED with responses)

An Open Letter to the Hobbes Profession, by S.A. Lloyd (USC) and A.P. Martinich (Austin, Texas)

Dear Colleagues,

Noel Malcolm’s recent scholarly three volume Clarendon edition of Hobbes’s Leviathan is without question an immensely valuable resource for Hobbes studies. We scholars appreciate having the English and Latin texts face to face, along with Malcolm’s annotations. What should be in question is whether requiring all scholars to refer to it facilitates, or instead burdens, our own work, and the efforts of many of us to stimulate broader interest in Hobbes studies.

Some university libraries in the developed world have bought a single edition to be shared amongst the faculty and students; but most college and university libraries have no edition at all. The volume cannot serve as a common reference point because so few enjoy access to it. Professors cannot teach using it because students cannot access it easily, nor can they afford to buy it for themselves. Functionally, no one in the developing world could follow along with our arguments were we to have to make our references to the Clarendon volume. We do not know whether the Clarendon Press imposes limitations on the use of the electronic version of the book; but many publishers limit the number of users who can use it at one time, and also restrict the number of pages that can be printed by an individual. Further, only students at some elite universities have access to digital libraries, and it is in any case unreasonable to require readers to navigate through Hobbes’s 600 page text electronically.

The Clarendon edition is also physically burdensome. Those with the privilege to afford purchase of the $100 paperback edition can attest to its unwieldy volume and weight. The hardback available to some on loan from their elite university library weighs in at 7 pounds, too heavy to carry to class or the coffeehouse. All that weight and bulk in either edition is unnecessary, because most people do not need, even if they were able, simultaneously to survey the Latin.

A system of reference to Leviathan by chapter and paragraph number, and/or 1651 page number, would enable the largest audience for Hobbes studies, regardless of social or economic status. All the good and widely used editions, including those of MacPherson, Tuck, Curley, Gaskin, Martinich, and now Malcolm, provide 1651 page numbers. These page numbers are so widely included that requiring them as the standard reference convention is most reasonable. Many of the editions just mentioned also have paragraph numbers. It is a defect of Malcom’s edition that it does not include paragraph numbers, one that we hope will be corrected in subsequent editions. Paragraph numbers could be used either as an alternative method or as a supplement to 1651 page numbers.

In the interests both of fairness to scholars, and of expanding accessibility to Hobbes for a larger public, we urge scholars to refer to Leviathan with numbers to chapters and paragraphs and/or pages as they occur in an edition of 1651. We urge editors not to require their contributors to include page references to the Clarendon edition.

S.A Lloyd and A.P. Martinich

 

Response by Daniel Garber (Princeton)

Dear Colleagues,

This morning we all received a thoughtful note from Profs. Lloyd and Martinich, two distinguished scholars, suggesting that we not attempt to make references to the new OUP Leviathan, edited by Noel Malcolm, standard in our publications on Hobbes. I respectfully disagree.

The crux of their argument is this. While they agree that it is an excellent edition, the main objection is to its cost, and consequently the difficulty of scholars either to afford to purchase it or find it at libraries that can afford to purchase it. They list the price at US$375. That is true for the hard-back edition. But the paperback is available for US$125 for the three volumes (including the introductory volume), and US$99 for the two text volumes. That is quite a reasonable price for an academic book. (In comparison, the single volume of the Oxford Handbook of Hobbes is available only in hardback at US$150.) I think that it is not unreasonable to expect serious scholars to invest US$99 in what is a central research tool for their work. I would also point out that the OUP edition is also available online in an electronic edition, part of a package to which many research libraries subscribe.

Profs. Lloyd and Martinich suggest using page numbers, chapter numbers, and paragraph numbers in the 1651 text instead of the OUP page numbers. This is not an unreasonable suggestion. But it does presume that one is making reference to the English version alone. One of the great innovations of the new Malcolm edition is precisely that it makes possible easy comparisons between the English and the Latin text, which should encourage scholars to pay more attention to the changes Hobbes introduced into his later edition. That for me is an important reason why we should encourage our students and colleagues to make use of Malcolm’s magnificent new edition. It is the rare circumstance in which a new tool could actually change the direction of scholarship.

Sincerely yours, Daniel Garber

 

Response by Patricia Springborg (HU Berlin)

I fully agree with the Lloyd Martinich Open Letter, and for the Cambridge Companion to Hobbes’s Leviathan we standardized references to Leviathan by chapter/para/1651 pp./and Curley pp. exactly as you suggest, the format I continue to use.

The beauty of it is that anyone using any standard edition can easily find the reference. CUP went along with it and did not suggest we use their Tuck edition, which is a good edition but does not have para nos and does not cross-reference the Latin edition, the advantage of Curley’s.

For publishers to insist on a specific edition is a break with convention and Lloyd and Martinich have made an excellent case that it is not warranted. I think they have done us a great service and would be surprised if the publishers are not persuaded!

Happy holidays and may 2019 be a good one!

Patricia Springborg

 

Response by Justin Champion (Royal Holloway College, University of London)

I write in reply to the recent joint open letter by Lloyd/Martinch, raising concerns in regard of the accessibility, functionality and paratextual presentation of Noel Malcolm’s three volume Clarendon scholarly edition of Hobbes’s Leviathan. The authors note that the edition, ‘is without question an immensely valuable resource for Hobbes studies’, and delivers considerable scholarly benefits, such as face to face versions of the English and Latin texts. These benefits are complemented by the capacious learning of Malcolm’s annotations and textual collation. Despite this positive appreciation, the letter raises a question about whether this combination of textual commentary, contextual erudition, and assessment of the scribal evidence and bibliographical variations, are advantageous to those who wish to explore the ideas of Hobbes and their reception. This question is phrased in a curious manner: implying that there is some sort of requirement or imperative laid as a burden upon all scholars, without indicating from whence this obligation derives. The corollary of their questions suggests that the edition imposes ‘burdens, our own work, and the efforts of many of us to stimulate broader interest in Hobbes studies’. The underlying implication seems to be that the existence of the edition, a monument to decades of archival research and considered historical enquiry, by its very virtuosity demands a strenuous effort on the part of the reader. To suggest that this is a negative aspect of Malcolm’s Leviathan could be regarded as short-sighted, if not churlish. Complaining that an edition is too learned, too replete with contextual explanation, or too detailed in textual annotation, seems to me to be a rejection of the imperatives of scholarly enquiry. Why bother with such learning at all? Why not simply download one of the various open access digital editions? Indeed why not employ the various summaries and extracted editions (which often exclude entire chapters from Books III and IV)?

I imagine the answer to these suggestions would be to lay claim to examining a text which was as close as possible to that authorised by Hobbes himself, or at least one which would have been recognisable by his contemporaries.  The problem highlighted by Lloyd/Martinch’s complaints may lie in the different modern usages of Hobbes’ text: the political philosopher may not be interested in textual variant, rhetorical sources, and contextual reception. Those aspects are precisely the dimensions which a robust history of ideas seeks to restore to the historical record. Reading texts from the past is a necessarily complex and multi-facetted business: concerns relating to scribal circulation, the complicated business of the making the material book, and the hinterland of contextual language and literary discourse, are the very materials historians of ideas seek. Complaints that the edition is too heavy to be used conveniently in coffee-shops or the lecture room, seem to be based on one model of how the student community might need to ‘use’ the edition: the letter draws a distinction between the potential use of the work in the ‘developed’ and ‘developing world’. It is not clear what this economic distinction means. If intended to imply constraint of access due to limited financial abilities, then the distinction is overly simple. Within even the most developed nation states there exists a variety of academic and school facilities, some of which will have the resources to gain access to the edition, others not. If the letter had gone on to develop an argument about the printing industry’s stranglehold on the global economics of scholarly publication, in order to develop a wider case for open access, it might have created more grounds for agreement. Neither of the letter’s authors appear to have published in open access format, nor do they indicate that they have any wider commitment to such projects.

The authors have claimed that ‘Some university libraries in the developed world have bought a single edition to be shared amongst the faculty and students; but most college and university libraries have no edition at all’. This is not sustained by even the most elementary search of the online World Catalogue, which indicates there are some 3158 copies in circulation in university and local public libraries across the globe – from New Zealand to Honduras, Chile, Hawaii, Philippines, and in regional public libraries in Surrey, Westminster, Middlesex, Wiltshire, Kent and Sussex. A more expert search of the various global catalogues might also provide evidence for the purchase of the Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, version too. It is Lloyd’s and Martinich’s contention that, ‘The volume cannot serve as a common reference point because so few enjoy access to it. Professors cannot teach using it because students cannot access it easily, nor can they afford to buy it for themselves’. These claims are not substantiated with any evidence of non-use. Certainly in the universities of London, Edinburgh, Reading, York and Warwick, there is online access to the volumes, and a further 22 universities have copies of the printed edition, (see COPAC search: https://copac.jisc.ac.uk/search?&author=noel+malcolm&title=leviathan). Indeed the digital facilities of the online edition allows undergraduates and postgraduates to examine the texts, vocabulary and rhetoric of Leviathan in an engaged and innovative way. Far from confining or constraining an audience’s ability to explore Hobbes’ text the edition enables deeper enquiry for a wider readership.

The claims of Lloyd/Martinich regarding the usability of the volume, either in digital or print form, are equally flawed. Asserting that no one in the ‘developing world could follow along with our arguments were we to have to make our references to the Clarendon volume’, is illogical since that edition has original page numbers embedded so is in common use in most more popular editions (by Tuck and others); a more likely restraint on being able to follow the arguments of Lloyd/Martinich would be that their publications are in journal articles behind paywalls, or monographs beyond the purse of many private scholars, and indeed many university libraries. The claim that the digital edition available through Oxford scholarly editions online is limited to ‘only students at some elite universities’ requires substantiation: it seems from searches in the UK that many university libraries have access to the digital edition, and also operate access schemes for non-academic users. The claim that it is ‘unreasonable to require readers to navigate through Hobbes’s 600 page text electronically’, can only be based on lack of experience using the online digital platform, which indeed allows a swift and accurate means for searching for word, phrase or even annotated references. In fact it is easier to navigate the print volumes with the assistance of the digital edition. Navigation of a text is of course a different business than close reading of a passage, or tracing the repeated citation of biblical verses. The Malcolm edition facilitates both extensive and intensive reading patterns. The harvesting of relevant extracts for re-use in text collations also offers a swift method for providing students and researchers with valuable material which would require cumbersome typing ordinarily.

The ‘Letter’ also asserts that the Clarendon edition is physically burdensome, unwieldy in ‘volume and weight’. The heft of the edition, it is claimed ‘is unnecessary’: mainly, in a comment of staggering condescension, because of the parallel Latin text, which ‘most people do not need, even if they were able, simultaneously to survey the Latin’. The authors presumably include themselves in this category of ‘most people’, or may need to acknowledge that to some the English/Latin pages offer a just measure of stimulation and opportunity. The authors then proceed to compare the pagination of Malcolm’s edition with the other existing editions, noting that all of them offer reference to the 1651 edition as standard (and thereby all may be cross-referenced with each other). Yet even in this moment of acknowledgement, Malcolm is chastised for failing to include paragraph numbers, and encouraged to correct such an omission in subsequent editions. The issue of accessibility to the Latin edition, issued in 1668 and revising and adding to the earlier iteration, in appendices and textual expansion is a critical benefit of Malcolm’s edition. That Hobbes was prepared to restate his arguments, sometimes in bolder ways, after the restoration of the Church of England to full disciplinary authority suggests an important context for understanding the political theology he defended. Without Malcolm’s profound editorial work, this task of exploring the reception and restatement of Hobbes’ ideas in a climate of hostile and powerful churchmen would be a difficult project. With the edition, it is possible to explore and establish the synergies with his other Restoration publications. Hobbes returned to themes and passages from Leviathan in Behemoth, the translations of Homer, and works on law (all expertly edited by Seaward, Nelson and Cromartie/Skinner), too. The Latin text and translation also enables a better informed study of the posthumous publication of Hobbes’ Latin verse, Historia Ecclesiastica (1688), where the themes of the appendices are captured in poetic form, and the shared Latinate vocabulary of earlier works is evident.

The authors conclude with a proposal, invoking notions of fairness and accessibility ‘for a larger public’, although there is an imprecision about what ‘public’ this includes beyond the scholarly, university and wider academic community. They ‘urge scholars to refer to Leviathan with numbers to chapters and paragraphs and/or pages as they occur in an edition of 1651. We urge editors not to require their contributors to include page references to the Clarendon edition’. The use of the word ‘urge’ is an odd one implying some measure of urgency, or impending threat? One of the Oxford English Dictionary definitions suggests the word means, ‘to advocate or advise earnestly (some course of action, etc.); to press with importunity, claim or demand pressingly’. The request is unclear: do the authors ask (1) that editors simply do not stipulate the use of any particular edition; or is their position (2) that only an edition which includes paragraph numbers be used? The first request seems unexceptionable, since the editions used in research papers are commonly chosen by the authors rather than the journal requirements. That scholarly choice is most commonly exercised by an assessment of which edition is ‘best’: that is, by using an edition which has the most scholarly rigour and most helpful editorial apparatus. It is a moot point whether any serious scholar, capable of accessing the ‘best’ edition, would eschew it for a less comprehensive version. Most research active undergraduates, postgraduates and academics will have access to a facsimile of the various seventeenth century editions through the digital archive on Early English Books Online. In using that facility they will navigate by chapter and page number, not by paragraph. Malcolm’s edition captures that primary textual architecture, and supplements it with the precision of a scaffolding of line numbers too.

The use of paragraph numbers has recently developed, most commonly, where authors refer to un-paginated digital texts (see APA style guidance: https://www.apastyle.org/learn/faqs/cite-website-material). The MLA guide suggests stronger advice: that is ‘using chapter or paragraph numbers when no page numbers are available, but only if the chapter or paragraphs are explicitly included in the original text’. The emboldened phrase suggests that adding paragraph numbers to Hobbes’ text is an unwarranted modern innovation, which, plausibly, might alter the way the text is read and digested. I am unaware of any discussion of when, and why, paragraph numbers were intruded into modern editions of Leviathan. Warrender, when outlining the Clarendon Hobbes’ works project, which he reiterated in his edition of De Cive, suggested that both the English and Latin Leviathan would be ‘supplied with paragraph numbers though again Hobbes’s original format has been preserved’.[1] The motivation for this was that it offered the reader ‘assistance in matching the English and Latin texts’, which he hoped, ‘improves also the readability of the work’. While Warrender suggested that Hobbes’ omission of paragraph numbers in Leviathan had made a ‘great stumbling block to the system of reference we have adopted’, the Malcolm edition addresses the core problem by having facing pages for the English and Latin versions, thus obviating the need for the intrusion of paragraph numbers. Warrender also noted that in Leviathan, ‘Hobbes’s own paragraphing was highly individualistic’, suggesting perhaps that those textual divisions displayed some authorial characteristics, best preserved in a comprehensive modern edition.

Hobbes did not eschew paragraph numeration altogether, and had used it in the many Latin and English editions of his works in the 1640s and 1650s, such as de Cive (which were reproduced by the translator of the English version, Philosophicall rudiments concerning government and society, 1651), the Elements of philosophy the first section, concerning body written in Latine by Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; and now translated into English; to which are added Six lessons (1656), and the Elementorum philosophiae sectio secunda De homine (1658). In these, each chapter was followed by an itemised list of the subjects contained in each chapter. That this was not the case in Leviathan, might suggest that Hobbes intended the work to be absorbed, and shared amongst readers, in a different manner to other contemporaneous texts. Of course it may have been the result of decisions taken in the print-shop, although it seems unlikely that Hobbes would have accepted such a key dimension of the presentation of his ideas without demure. Since paragraph numbers are absent in the seventeenth century editions of Leviathan, without some more considered justification they best be left out of a referencing system for modern readers. As Quentin Skinner’s work has been at pains to establish, the rhetorical structures of Hobbes’ text are significant components to an understanding of his intentions and their reception: crumbling the text into paragraphs may occlude this dimension of the author’s ambitions. Hobbes, himself, complained of those Bible critics who crumbled scripture into dust, to cast into the eyes of other men [Leviathan II, xliii, p. 331/p. 954].

Those interested in exploring the complex world of Hobbes’ mind and its interaction with its time and other minds, should be grateful that they have such a companion as Malcolm’s edition of Leviathan. While it may take some effort to become fully accomplished at exploiting its manifold possibilities, surely that is the business of being a scholar, even in the digital age?

Justin Champion

[1] The starting point would be Howard Warrender’s, ‘Thomas Hobbes: the collected works and a note on a new critical edition.’, Rivista Critica Di Storia Della Filosofia, vol. 33, no. 2 (1978), pp. 242–246, which outlined (p.244) a ‘general system of reference wherein Hobbes’s works are cited by short title, chapter and paragraph’. See also Howard Warrender (ed.), The Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes, Vol. 2: De Cive: The Latin Version (Oxford, 1983), ‘The apparatus’, p.54, at footnote 3.

 

Response by Noel Malcolm (All Souls College, University of Oxford) 

[NB: this response was received after the further reply of 10th January by Martinich and Lloyd in the comments below]

I should like to have an opportunity to respond to the ‘Open Letter’ published on this website by Professors S. A. Lloyd and A. P. Martinich, concerning my edition of Leviathan.

First, let me emphasize that I fully agree with the essential point they are making: it is indeed useful to have a universal reference system for Leviathan. They comment that there are two possible methods: using the 1651 page-numbers, or using the paragraph-numbers which have been added in some modern editions. Of these two, I think the former is hugely preferable. As they say, these 1651 page-numbers are present in almost all modern editions; they list six, and some earlier 20th-century editions could be added to that list. I really do not think it makes sense to use paragraph-numbers. Of the six editions they list, they say that ‘many’ have them; but in fact only three do, and the ones that do not include the Tuck edition, which is very widely used by students, and very commonly referred to in the existing secondary literature. (I cannot agree, by the way, that it is a ‘defect’ of my edition that it does not give them; my edition is a critical edition of the original text, which did not have these paragraph-numbers, and such numbers are not imposed in any other Clarendon Hobbes Edition volumes.)

But their letter goes some way beyond making that simple and, I think, uncontroversial point. They write: ‘We urge editors not to require their contributors to include page references to the Clarendon edition.’ I hope it will not seem self-centred of me if I say that I find this a little troubling. If I have done my work correctly, the Clarendon edition is a more authoritative and scholarly presentation of the text than any previous edition. It is certainly the only critical edition, in the proper sense of that term, to have been published so far. I am struggling to think of any comparable case of a major philosophical or political text where editors would be urged not to ask writers to refer to the best available edition – and where, indeed, a general call would go out to all specialists in the field, telling them to do the urging.

The apparent implication of Lloyd and Martinich’s letter – even if it was not the intended one – is that the English Leviathan is just a generic text, which will be the same, and mean the same, regardless of which version of it one looks at. But this is not the case. In some places I have made emendations to the 1651 text, or promoted to the text material present in the manuscript or the second edition; these form material differences between my text and the text appearing in other editions. Some editors, including Martinich, have modernized such things as punctuation; however scrupulously this is done, it is possible that a nuance of meaning can be changed thereby. The reason why I spent years of my life working away at small textual details was that it is always possible for these things to matter to a particular interpretation of the meaning.

Of course, I recognize that the whole focus of the letter from Lloyd and Martinich is on pedagogy, and I respect the importance of that. But scholars write also for other scholars, perhaps sometimes pursuing significances in the text that would be lost in the relatively broad-brush treatment of the lecture-hall or the classroom.

I leave aside here the possibility that in some ways pedagogy too may benefit from my edition – for example, in the case of a graduate seminar spending a whole term studying the text, where easy recourse to the Latin (or to my translation apparatus from the Latin, for those who do not know that language) may be of real value – since Professor Dan Garber has already made that point, for which I am very grateful.

To return to the central problem raised in the Open Letter: surely there is a simple solution to it? Here as in other cases, scholars should follow the rule that they use, and cite, the most reliable and scholarly edition; but in this case they should also give 1651 page-numbers. I think this would best be done as double references each time; however, some might prefer to state in an initial note that this is the edition they are citing, and then give only the 1651 page-numbers, except when they are citing from my editorial materials (e.g. my translations of passages added or changed in the Latin).

Finally, I’d just like to make a few comments on the practicalities, where I think that the letter from Lloyd and Martinich is a little imprecise. They say that ‘only students at some elite universities’ have access to the electronic edition; while the OUP is unwilling, for commercial reasons, to give detailed figures, it assures me that the take-up of Oxford Scholarly Editions Online is widespread, extending well beyond a sub-set of ‘elite universities’, and that the module in which this edition occurs is one of their best-selling ones, both in the USA and Canada, and in the UK and the rest of the world.

They also write that ‘We do not know whether the Clarendon Press imposes limitations on the use of the electronic version of the book; but many publishers limit the number of users who can use it at one time, and also restrict the number of pages that can be printed by an individual.’ The answer, which I am sure the OUP would happily have given them had it been asked, is that a) the number of users who have access at one time depends on what level of access each institution purchases, which can range from a small number of unique users at any one time through to unlimited access, and b) users of Oxford Scholarly Editions Online are free to print as much as they wish of the texts for their own personal use (as opposed to dissemination to others, which is subject to standard copyright restrictions).

Lloyd and Martinich also complain of the size and weight of the edition, saying that the hardback edition weighs 7 pounds. The two paperback volumes of the text come to a total of 4 pounds, 12 ounces. The OUP specifically arranged for these two volumes to be purchasable on their own, without volume 1 (the Introduction); their price is $99 in the US, or £60 in the UK. Although this may indeed be more than students would have to pay for editions of many other texts, it might still seem a worthwhile investment for someone signing up for a class or seminar that was going to spend a whole term studying this text.

For those whose budgets are limited, there will in due course be another option. I have agreed with the OUP to produce a paperback edition, in the Oxford World’s Classics series (replacing the one by Gaskin); it will reproduce the text of the Clarendon Edition of the English, with some, but not all, of the accompanying editorial apparatus, and it will omit the Latin text. It will of course also include the 1651 page-numbers. I hope that this will be useful to students, and to general readers. But I also hope that when Hobbes scholars publish books or articles, they will still think it best to refer to the Clarendon Edition, where the full apparatus is present.

I do not know whether Professors Lloyd and Martinich have had their Open Letter published on other websites or mailing lists. If so, and if they think the points I make here are at all helpful, I should be very grateful if they could forward this response to those venues and ask for it to be published there too.

Online Colloquium (5): Reply to Critics by Abizadeh

This online colloquium has been established to discuss Arash Abizadeh’s recent book, Hobbes and Two Faces of Ethics. We began with an introduction to the text by Professor Abizadeh, followed by responses from Sandra Field, Michael LeBuffe, and Daniel Eggers. We conclude this week with a reply by Arash Abizadeh. Many thanks to Cambridge University Press for supporting this colloquium.

 

What a pleasure to have one’s work scrutinized so seriously and intelligently. My sincere thanks to Sandra Field, Michael LeBuffe, and Daniel Eggers for their critiques, and to Robin Douglass for bringing us together.

***

Hobbes in his political works claimed that the first and “fundamental” law of nature prescribes seeking peace; the rest prescribe the means to peace. The question is what, according to Hobbes, makes natural laws normative: Why do individuals have a reason to (be disposed to) do as they prescribe? I claim that what grounds the normativity of natural law for Hobbes is a foundationally normative principle prescribing that one desire and pursue one’s own ongoing good or felicity. The laws of nature are normative because they prescribe what conduces to one’s ongoing good—even in the face of imprudent or self-destructive desires, whose realization would be noxious to one’s felicity. These laws are intrinsically prudential normative precepts.

LeBuffe has qualms about this prudentialist interpretation, because “whatever Hobbes takes to be a principle,” we should expect him to state it “explicitly.” I agree with LeBuffe: it would be “contrary to his [Hobbes’s] account of science” to rely on “a fundamental principle that he does not mention.” (‘Principle’ denotes the starting point for a chain of reasoning.) But I do not agree with LeBuffe’s claim that Hobbes failed to indicate this foundational normative principle. Hobbes did so rather clearly by incorporating it into the very definition of natural law, which in the English Leviathan he defined as “a Precept … by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life … and to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may be best preserved” (L 14.3). Natural laws by definition consist in precepts that proscribe what conduces to self-destruction and prescribe the means to self-preservation. They are normative because self-preservation is normative. This is typical Hobbes: stating a particular science’s “principle” or starting point—here, the prescription to (be disposed to) pursue one’s own preservation—by incorporating it into the definition of a fundamental concept of that science. Hobbes stated his foundational normative principle precisely where LeBuffe says he should have: at the beginning of chapter 14 of Leviathan in his definition of a law of nature.

One might of course object that what Hobbes incorporated into his definition was a precept to pursue, not one’s good in general, but self-preservation. Yet Hobbes explicitly and frequently indicated that he meant by self-preservation not just bare survival, but the preservation of a life worth living, i.e., the preservation of “a life, as not to be weary of it,” not just “a bare Preservation, but also all other Contentments of life” (L 14.8; 17.1). This is why in the Latin Leviathan Hobbes could reformulate natural law’s definition in terms of a proscription against what tends to harm one’s good (“quod ad damnum suum sibi tendere”). Hence it is a mistake to say, as LeBuffe does, that “Abizadeh claims that for Hobbes the first normative principle which grounds natural law is “desire and pursue your own good,” rather than the explicit definitions and fundamental precepts of Leviathan 14” (my emphasis). I take ‘desire and pursue your own good’ to be, not a rival, but a gloss on the foundational principle incorporated into Hobbes’s definition, viz. desire and pursue your own preservation.

True, the “fundamental” law of nature as Hobbes stated it in his political works prescribes seeking peace (rather than self-preservation itself). But Hobbes treated the laws of nature themselves not as “principles” or the foundational starting point of reasoning, but as precepts “found out by Reason” (L 14.3, my emphasis)—on the basis of the foundational principle incorporated into their definition. Indeed, for Hobbes, as for Aquinas, the foundational “principle” of a particular science may itself be grounded in and derivative of some other principle outside the scope of that science. (Philosophia prima, the science lying at the foundation of all other sciences, is an exception.) Seeking peace is the first precept of Hobbes’s “moral” laws of nature, by which he meant those precepts that prescribe the social means to self-preservation. But although in his political works Hobbes was only concerned with precepts regulating social interaction, he also acknowledged, as relevant to ethics more broadly construed, other natural laws (such as temperance) concerning the non-social means to self-preservation. Both the social precepts of reason Hobbes treated in his political works, and the non-social precepts he mentioned but left aside, are grounded in a common normative foundation: self-preservation in the broad, Hobbesian sense of one’s own ongoing good.

LeBuffe is also worried about my claim that, although Hobbes took the laws of nature he specified to be epistemically accessible to every rational creature, he thought some may nevertheless fail to know them, i.e., some may not be aware of those precepts or, if aware, may not take them to be normative (“precepts of reason”). LeBuffe suggests that, according to Hobbes, although we may “easily misinterpret” the laws of nature, we nevertheless “all do know” them as precepts of reason. Presumably this means, for example, that although all rational creatures know that they ought to perform their covenants—i.e., although everyone takes the third law of nature to be normative—some misinterpret what this means, perhaps because they misapply the law in failing to understand the particular circumstances in which an undertaking counts as a valid covenant.

Hobbes certainly did envision that some who in principle know the laws of nature misinterpret them in practice. For example, Hobbes asserted that one reason why some “are prone to violate the Lawes” is because they are misled by “false Teachers” who “mis-interpret the Law of Nature” (L 27.11). Yet Hobbes asserted that people might also violate the laws of nature not because they misinterpret the laws they know, but because they fail to know them in the first place. This can happen in two ways: either because they are simply ignorant of the law (without believing anything false), or because they have positively false beliefs about which precepts are normative. The former consists in “some defect of the Understanding,” which “is Ignorance”; the latter consists in “Erroneous Opinion” stemming from “some errour in Reasoning.” When Hobbes asserted here that “Ignorance of the Law of Nature Excuseth no man; because every man that hath attained to the use of Reason, is supposed to know,” he was speaking about people who violate the laws of nature because (contrary to LeBuffe’s suggestion) they are ignorant of it. The colonial subtext of the example he immediately used to illustrate inexcusable ignorance—of “a man come here from the Indies” who would “perswade men here to receive a new Religion or teach them any thing that tendeth to disobedience of the Lawes of this Country” (L 27.4)—makes his view crystal clear.

There are “three wayes,” according to Hobbes, in which one may come to have positively false beliefs about natural law. One way I already mentioned: some are simply taken in by false interpretations (as LeBuffe suggests). The other two, however, consist not in misinterpreting known laws, but in failing to know the laws, in virtue of false beliefs about which precepts are normative. First, one may draw “Erroneous Inferences from True Principles.” Second, one may begin one’s reasoning “by Presumption of false Principles,” for example by taking as one’s initial premise “That Justice is but a vain word” or “That whatsoever a man can get by his own Industry, and hazard, is his own” (L 27.10-12). Hobbes’s most famous example of a person who in virtue of “specious reasoning” fails to know the law of nature is, of course, the Foole who claims “there is no such thing as Justice.” The Foole does not deny that violating one’s covenant “may be called Injustice,” but “he questioneth, whether Injustice … may not sometimes stand with that Reason, which dictateth to every man his own good,” i.e., he denies that Hobbes’s third natural law is normative (L 15.4). (Note the premise Hobbes shared with the Foole, and which LeBuffe says Hobbes never stated explicitly: reason “dictateth to every man his own good.”)

LeBuffe cites one passage that might at first glance seem to run counter to Hobbes’s numerous discussions of people who are unaware of, or indeed have positively false views about, which precepts are normative: “all men agree on this, that Peace is Good, and therefore also the way, or means of Peace” or “the rest of the Laws of Nature” (L 15.40). We should already be sceptical of LeBuffe’s interpretation of this passage, however: it is gainsaid by the Foole and, more generally, the fact that people sometimes reason erroneously. The problem is that LeBuffe has severed his quotation from the scope restriction Hobbes had imposed on “all men” immediately before. The fuller passage reads: “so long as a man is in the condition of meer Nature, (which is a condition of War,) as private Appetite is the measure of Good, and Evill: And consequently all men agree on this, that Peace is Good…” (my emphasis). Hobbes was talking about people living in a state of war (“so long as…”). The Latin predecessor in De Cive contains the same restriction: “All men easily acknowledge this state [of war], as long as they are in it, to be evill, and consequently [per consequens] that Peace is good” (DCv 3.31). Once in society, however, many people lose sight of the evils of war and hence fail to recognize the normativity of peace and its means: for “by nature,” human beings are “destitute of those prospective glasses (namely Morall and Civill Science,) to see a farre off the miseries that hang over them” in the state of nature (L 18.20). It is the job of Hobbesian science to provide these prospective glasses so we can know the normativity of peace and its means via philosophical reasoning—whatever our empirical circumstances.

Let me go further: the point of the paragraph from which LeBuffe’s quotation is extracted is that even in the state of nature not everyone immediately recognizes that peace is good. People at some point (for example, after catastrophe) will become united in agreeing that peace and its means are overriding goods. Hobbes was saying in this paragraph that in the state of nature people initially call ‘good’ whatever happens to be the object of their variable appetites (so that even “the same man, in divers times, differs from himselfe; and one time praiseth, that is, calleth Good, what another time he dispraiseth”), but that, subsequently, they all come to agree that peace is good. True, Hobbes wrote “consequently,” not subsequently, but we should not be fooled by twenty-first century usage. If today ‘consequently’ is used exclusively as a quasi-conjunctive (like ‘therefore’), in the seventeenth century, consistently with its Latin etymology, the term also meant subsequently or consecutively, i.e., following in time or order (see OED first entry). When Hobbes wrote that “consequently all men agree on this, that Peace is Good,” he didn’t mean that everyone always already knows this truth; he meant that in the state of nature people will come to agree on it (and nothing else).

***

My argument here of course relies on a distinction between the capacity to know laws of nature and actually knowing them. This is the distinction Field calls into question. On her reading, since Hobbes was a materialist determinist who denied free will, a putative capacity one is never caused to exercise is no capacity at all: for Hobbes the capacity to do something is a function not merely of one’s “inner properties,” but of the entire web of causes that determines how one acts. If one is not caused to reason properly, then, on this view, there is no sense in which one could be said to have had the capacity to do so. Field thinks, moreover, this pulls the rug out from under normativity and normative practices—such as holding others attribution-responsible (e.g. criticizing them for violations) and, especially, holding them accountable-responsible.

I have reservations about both claims. First, all the textual evidence I called on to show that Hobbes thought some rational creatures fail to know the laws of nature despite the capacity to do so also serves as evidence that Hobbes did distinguish a capacity from its actual exercise. There is, moreover, a straightforward way in which determinists can make this distinction: one has the capacity to do something if, given the right external circumstances, one would do it—even if, under the actual external circumstances, one does not do it. This is the sense in which a rational agent has the capacity to reason and a stone does not: there are no circumstances in which a stone would reason. The distinction relies on the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic properties, on the one hand, and hypothetical and actual external circumstances, on the other. (This is, I take it, what Hobbes was up to in his distinction between absolute and conditional impossibility and potentia in AW 37.5-6).

So Field’s real point must be, not that the distinction cannot be made, but that it is not normatively relevant (of no “salience,” as she puts it). This is just her second point: that a determinist is not entitled to deploy notions of normative responsibility and blame. That’s an old intuition, one Field shares with scholastics such as Bramhall. Field may or may not be philosophically correct about this, but hers’ was not Hobbes’s view, and I do think Hobbes’s view (whether true or false) is compelling enough to merit attention. I suspect that what might drive Field’s disagreement with Hobbes here is being in the grip of a conception of normative blame from which Hobbes meant to release us (what she calls “deep moral responsibility”). The question is: What is involved, for Hobbes, in normatively blaming someone in the reactive, accountability sense? It does not involve attributing to agents the ability to have done otherwise under their actual, causally determined circumstances; nor does it involve attributing to them any retrospectively determined theological status, such as being in a state of deserving punishment. This was Bramhall’s, not Hobbes’s, conception. Hobbes’s view is prospective. Normatively to blame someone in the accountability sense is to demand of them that they henceforth acknowledge a normative demand and to seek to vindicate the demand by condemning and sanctioning violations by demanding excuses, justification, or apology, or exacting compensation. But the point of the practice is not to give agents what they deserve in some theological sense, or to rectify an imbalance in the cosmic order. The point is to prevent violations in the future. Rational creatures are the appropriate object of such blame because they have the capacity to respond under the right circumstances, and practices of holding responsible are an attempt to furnish some of those (causal) circumstances. I take it that this is what Hobbes was trying to argue against Bramhall in Liberty and Necessity.

***

Eggers raises two sets of concerns. The first centres on  my division of Hobbes’s ethics into reasons of the good and reasons of the right, corresponding to two distinct concepts of normative obligation: a (traditional) eudaimonistic concept, which specifies what is conducive to one’s felicity; and a (new) juridical concept, which specifies what one owes to others, i.e., that to which others have the normative standing to hold one accountable. The laws of nature “oblige” rational creatures in the first, eudaimonistic or prudential sense; contracts give rise to obligations in the second, juridical sense. (As Eggers notes, D. D. Raphael has also distinguished between two senses of obligation in Hobbes: natural and artificial. But his notion of artificial obligation does not correspond to what I call juridical obligation. Raphael’s notion is of a purely “logical” obligation—a precept of rationality; he provides no account of why logical requirements would be normative for agents; and he does not explain why others would have the standing to hold one accountable to them, i.e., the sense in which logical obligations are owed to others.)

Eggers tries putting pressure on the division between eudaimonistic and juridical obligation by asking, “what entitles us to pay such disregard to Hobbes’s own repeated application of the term” (‘oblige’) to characterize the normative force of natural law? I confess to being puzzled by this charge of disregard, since much of the book regards Hobbes’s use of ‘obligation’ to characterize the normative force of natural law. I suspect Eggers might think we disagree here because he has slightly misunderstood my position: I did not intend to claim (as he puts it) that “only the obligation arising from agreements is ‘true’ obligation” or that “obligation towards the laws of nature is not ‘really’ obligation.” I agree with Eggers: eudaimonistic obligation is a kind of obligation in Hobbes’s usage. It is a “true” kind of obligation precisely in the sense that it is normative. (In fact, I argue that this was what ‘obligation’ exclusively meant prior to the early modern period.) My point was that Hobbes used ‘obligation’ in two distinct senses: one in the “proper” sense, i.e., which accords literally with his official, juridical definition (at L 14.7); and another in a “deviant” sense, i.e., which departs from his explicit definition. Part of the misunderstanding might stem from Eggers perceiving more similarities between my view and Bernd Ludwig’s than is warranted (which I cannot judge: my linguistic skills are not good enough to read German without a translation to hand). But on reflection, I also think the misunderstanding may partly stem from my use of ‘proper’ in Hobbes’s now obsolete sense to mean literal: a term’s “proper signification” for Hobbes is its literal meaning (in contrast to its extended, metaphorical meaning), i.e., strictly in accordance with his own explicit definition. This is the sense in which juridical (but not eudainmonistic) obligation is obligation proper. And although Hobbes’s non-literal use of ‘obligation’ departs from his official definition, I don’t think it is “in contradiction” with it: the two meanings are different, not contradictory; nor do natural obligations “contradict” conventionally acquired ones. They simply have a different kind of normative force.

I take it our true disagreement lies in this last claim: that natural (eudaimonistic) and conventionally acquired (juridical) obligations for Hobbes have a different kind of normative force. Eggers argues that Hobbes’s distinctions between broad and narrow peccatum, counsel and command, and the non-literal and proper senses of law are no evidence for this claim. The reason is that, as Eggers puts it, the “normative authority” of juridical obligations “ultimately derives from prudential considerations.” Eggers does not provide an argument for this assertion, and it faces an unanswered challenge. Hobbes’s juridical notion of obligation reduces to two components: (1) a normative reason one has to φ plus (2) the normative standing others have to hold one accountable for φ-ing. The first part might be explicable in terms of prudential considerations in favour of one’s φ-ing. But the second part is not: the fact that it would be good for me if others were to have the normative standing to hold me accountable does not amount to their having this standing. (I argue in the book that the normative standing to hold accountable is not reducible, for Hobbes, to the non-normative fact of holding accountable.) Eggers’s suggestion that adopting the second-personal standpoint “might only be needed for determining the content and scope of our directed obligations, without these obligations therefore acquiring a non-prudential normative status” therefore fails to explain the normative standing to hold accountable (and, relatedly, Hobbes’s distinction between punishment proper and “hostility”).

Nor do I think Eggers’ assertion reflects Hobbes’s view. Hobbes was clear that the prudential reasons one agent has cannot by themselves provide to other people the normative standing to hold the agent accountable. Thus, Hobbes repeatedly claimed that natural laws themselves provide “no place for Accusation” (L 14.30; 27.3; cf. 30.30). Another important piece of textual evidence that Eggers passes over concerns the relation between natural right and natural law. Hobbes characterized the full right of nature, in the “pure” state of nature, as implying the absence of any obligation. Yet he also characterized rational creatures, even in the pure state of nature, as already obliged by natural law. The only explanation for how one could be free of all obligation while simultaneously obliged is that there are two different kinds of obligation at stake: natural right corresponds to absence of obligation in the juridical sense, while natural law imposes obligation in the eudaimonistic sense. Failing to distinguish the two dimensions of normativity implausibly saddles Hobbes with an obvious contradiction at the heart of his ethics—and this, with respect to his two most central ethical concepts.

Egger’s second set of criticisms again concerns the second dimension of normativity I read in Hobbes. If Field argues that normative obligations and responsibility are in tension with Hobbes’s determinism in general, Eggers argues that juridical obligations and accountability-responsibility are in tension with Hobbes’s deterministic egoist-hedonist psychology in particular. His first argument to this effect is that juridical obligation may conceptually require that one outwardly conform to it for the “right” motivational reason, viz., simply because one is obligated. On Eggers’ suggestion, for example, if one were motivated to conform to a juridical obligation simply because of prudential considerations—such as fear of punishment—then one would fail to fulfil the obligation. But if, given Hobbes’s psychological egoism, Hobbesian individuals are always wholly motivated by prudential considerations of self-interest, then they could never, even in principle, fulfil their juridical obligations—which, Eggers suggests, violates “ought implies can.”

The thought that fulfilling juridical obligations requires being motivated by justice itself is, however, wholly alien to Hobbes’s conception of juridical obligation and accountability. To be sure, this is not because no people are ever motivated to conform to their juridical obligations from recognizing the obligation’s normative force. Hobbes was a psychological egoist and hedonist, but (as I argue in the book) not a strong one. He held that all action is prompted by desire and that we desire things only if we represent them as pleasant to ourselves, but he did not think that only considerations of self-interest can motivate people (or that the object of all desire is pleasure). He acknowledged, for example, benevolence or “Desire of good to another” (L 6.22). Hobbes also acknowledged the desire to conform to one’s obligations: there exist “Righteous” or virtuous individuals whose “Manners” or “disposition” of character are aptly called “Just” precisely because they are motivationally disposed to fulfil their obligations because they are averse to violating covenants. Such individuals possess “a certain Noblenesse or Gallantnesse of courage, (rarely found,) by which a man scorns to be beholding for the contentment of his life, to fraud, or breach of promise. This Justice of the Manners, is that which is meant, where Justice is called a Vertue” (L 15.10-12). This is the sense in which, as David Boonin has argued, Hobbes was a virtue theorist: virtuous individuals are motivationally disposed to act for the “right” reasons, i.e., because they recognize the justice of an action.

Yet for Hobbes, questions of desire or motivation in foro interno, dispositions of character, and virtue fall exclusively under the auspices of the first, attribution-responsibility dimension of normativity governed by natural law. Others may have the standing to criticize one for an unjust or vicious character—it is an imprudent character to have—but there is no question of others having the normative standing to hold one accountable for unjust dispositions or motivations. There are no grounds, for example, for punishing (or demanding an apology or compensation from) those who outwardly conform to the laws but are motivated to do so solely because they fear punishment. Hobbes was resolutely opposed to allowing inquisitorial practices to infect accountability relations: he considered it a grave “Errour” to “extend the power of the Law, which is the Rule of Actions onely, to the very Thoughts, and Consciences of men, by Examination, and Inquisition of what they Hold, notwithstanding the Conformity of their Speech and Actions” (L 46.39). There is no basis for punishing a non-virtuous individual who performs just actions out of “feare” or “because his Will is not framed by the Justice, but by the apparent benefit of what he is to do” (L 15.10). This is the point of Hobbes’s distinction between just men and just actions in paragraphs 10-12 of chapter 15: the justice of “Manners” or character is a eudaimonistic obligation prescribed by natural law as conducive to felicity; but juridical obligations owed to others concern solely the “Justice of Actions.” So not only can Hobbesian individuals be motivated by justice, not being motivated by justice does not itself imply a violation of their juridical obligation. Juridical obligations do not require any particular mental states. We may, of course, decide to cut off relations with people of a vicious character—or, as Hobbes warned the Foole, we may refuse to enter into society with them in the first place—but we should be doing so, on Hobbes’s view, for prudential reasons. Resentment or revengefulness is out of place.

(It is true that, as I note in the book, Hobbes deemed it appropriate to punish unjust actions differentially on the basis of the person’s imputed mental states. For example, the punishment for murder may be different than for homicide because the former involves malicious intent. But there is no sense in which the justice of an action—i.e., fulfilling one’s juridical obligations—requires specific motivations.)

Eggers’ second argument about the incompatibility of Hobbesian psychology and juridical obligation suffers the same fate. Here is the argument as I understand it: First, if we hold people accountable for their actions, but all action derives, as Hobbes believed, from the will, then “within the Hobbesian framework, we can only hold someone accountable for his will.” Second, if “all that can ever motivate Hobbesian individuals are considerations of self-interest, then this means that in holding someone accountable for violating his contractual obligations, we ultimately blame him for not acquiring the appropriate self-interested motivation, that is, for not behaving prudently.” But then it looks as if one is reduced to holding individuals accountable for actions because they were imprudent, i.e., because of a violation of eudaimonistic obligation—which appears to collapse the distinction between the two dimensions of normativity.

There are three problems with this argument. First, as we have seen, Hobbes did not think that only considerations of self-interest can motivate people. Second, even though all action is for Hobbes caused by the will (desire), it does not follow that in holding people accountable for their actions we thereby “ultimately” hold them accountable for their will or desires. Again, as we have seen, on Hobbes’s view we sanction people for their actions, not for the will that caused the action—nor, indeed, for the opinion that caused the will, nor for the food they ate that caused the appetite that became their will, nor for the rain that nourished the food they ate, etc. The normative force of blame and accountability does not always retrace whatever paths had been forged by empirical relations of causation. Third, there is a difference between holding people accountable for actions that are imprudent and holding them accountable for actions because they are imprudent. For Hobbes, because violations of juridical obligation are also imprudent, when people are held accountable they are held accountable for actions that turn out also to be imprudent. Nonetheless, one has the standing to hold them accountable for violations on the basis, not of the actions’ imprudence, but of their being violations of juridical obligation.

Arash Abizadeh (McGill University)

Online Colloquium (4): Eggers on Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics

This online colloquium has been established to discuss Arash Abizadeh’s recent book, Hobbes and Two Faces of Ethics. We began with an introduction to the text by Professor Abizadeh, followed by responses from Sandra Field and Michael LeBuffe. We now have a response from Daniel Eggers (Köln), and will conclude with a reply by Arash Abizadeh next week. Many thanks to Cambridge University Press for supporting this colloquium.

 

One of the main ideas running through Abizadeh’s impressive book, Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics, is the idea that Hobbes’s doctrine of the laws of nature and his theory of contractual agreements are largely independent of one another and that agreements give rise to strict moral obligations that can neither be reduced to nor be derived from the purely prudential obligation towards the laws of nature.

To be sure, neither of these two claims is new. They have previously been defended, for instance, by D. D. Raphael and by Bernd Ludwig whose book Die Wiederentdeckung des Epikureischen Naturrechtes provides their most systematic and comprehensive defence. Yet, Abizadeh clearly goes beyond these earlier discussions and arguably improves upon them.

Firstly, Abizadeh does not forward the evolutionary reading defended by Ludwig according to which the independence of the two elements of Hobbes’s overall system is only achieved in Leviathan.

Secondly, and again unlike Ludwig, Abizadeh does not go as far as to claim that the laws of nature are not obligatory at all—and therefore does not have a similar problem with the fact that Hobbes explicitly and repeatedly describes the laws of nature in these terms, both in the earlier works and Leviathan.

Thirdly, Abizadeh locates the relevant claims within the context of some broader conceptual distinctions informed by modern metaethics. According to Abizadeh, Hobbes distinguishes between two different spheres of normativity: normativity in the ‘attributability sense’ and normativity in the ‘accountability sense’. While the former only requires that one can legitimately be criticized for one’s behaviour, as is already the case when one behaves imprudently, the second sense presupposes an interpersonal practice of assuming a second-person standpoint and holding one another accountable. Corresponding to this latter distinction is a distinction between two different types of normative reasons: eudaimonistic reasons of the good on the one hand and genuinely moral reasons of the right on the other.

Fourthly, Abizadeh introduces additional evidence for this supposed ‘chasm’ in Hobbes’s theory. Though some of his key evidence is already drawn upon by Raphael or Ludwig (such as Hobbes’s ‘official definition’ of obligation (L 14.65), his claim that there is “no obligation on any man, which ariseth not from some Act of his own” (L 21.11) and Leviathan’s table of the sciences in which “ETHIQUES” and “The Science of JUST and UNJUST” appear as separate enterprises), Abizadeh also appeals to Hobbes’s distinction between a narrow and a broad sense of ‘sin’ (peccatum), his opposition of counsel and command and his claim that the laws of nature fail to qualify as proper laws.

Fifthly, Abizadeh ultimately infers from his analysis a specific claim about Hobbes’s place in the history of moral and political philosophy. According to Abizadeh, Hobbes revolutionizes ethical theory by transforming the traditional notions of obligation and natural law, and their mutual relation. As a result, Hobbes’s theory is viewed by him as marking a watershed in the history of both normative ethics and metaethics.

There can be no doubt, then, about the originality of Abizadeh’s way of articulating and defending the two ideas under consideration. This is not to say, however, that his discussion does not give rise to some of the same worries that are raised by Raphael’s and Ludwig’s interpretations.

For one thing, though Abizadeh may not go as far as claiming that the laws of nature impose no kind of obligation whatsoever, he does emphasize that only the obligation arising from agreements is ‘true’ obligation, and the question is: what entitles us to pay such disregard to Hobbes’s own repeated application of the term? The strongest support seems to be provided by the passage from the chapter ‘The Liberty of Subjects’ already referred to above. Yet, if we read this passage in the way Abizadeh suggests, then Hobbes’s claim is simply incompatible with his own use of the term and many of his relevant statements. However, if we read it in a way compatible with this use—for example, by taking the statement to refer, more narrowly, to ‘The Obligation of Subjects’—they provide no support for denying that the obligation towards the laws of nature is proper obligation, too.

Similar considerations apply to Hobbes’s ‘official definition’ of obligation. That the passage has a definitory nature is hard to deny. However, the concession that large parts of Hobbes’s discussion of obligation are in contradiction with his own ‘official definition’ of the term is by no means a tempting one. Moreover, there are other examples where definitory statements provided by Hobbes do not have the comprehensive application they intuitively seem to have, as with Hobbes’s definition of liberty as the absence of external impediments which is inapplicable to the liberty constituting the right of nature. Rather than taking Hobbes’s statement to mean that the obligation towards the laws of nature is not ‘really’ obligation, therefore, we should perhaps better take it to mean that it is importantly different from the one arising from contractual agreements.

It is important to emphasize that this view does not yet commit us to the interpretive claim Abizadeh ultimately defends. According to Abizadeh, the obligations are not only different, they are of an entirely different kind. What distinguishes them is that they do not have the same normative status: while the obligation towards the laws of nature is purely prudential, the obligation generated by agreements is entirely independent of the negative consequences that might redound to the agent.

Yet, in my opinion, the textual evidence cited by Abizadeh does not sufficiently support this specific claim. For example, the fact that obligations arising from agreements are directed obligations, i.e. obligations in virtue of which I specifically owe something to someone, is fully compatible with the idea that their normative authority ultimately derives from prudential considerations. Likewise, Hobbes’s distinction between the broad and narrow senses of peccatum and his distinction between counsel and command are entirely neutral with regard to the question of what grounds our obligation towards contractual agreements. The same applies to the related claim that the laws of nature are not properly laws. The laws of nature are not properly laws because they do not have a law-giver (unless we conceive of them as expressions of God’s will). However, the question of whether the laws of nature express the will of someone with the authority to make laws and command certain behavior is neither here nor there with regard to the question of whether the normative status of the obligation towards these laws differs from the normative status of contractual obligations.

This leaves Abizadeh’s more explicit arguments on why the obligation towards contractual agreements is neither reducible to nor derivable from the prudential obligation towards the laws of nature, which are provided in chapter 6.2. In discussing the first point, Abizadeh rejects S. A. Lloyd’s ‘reciprocity interpretation’ of the laws of nature. With regard to the issue under consideration, however, this rejection does not have any real import since the question thereby being answered is not whether the obligations towards contractual agreements might not really be prudential, but the opposite question of whether the obligation towards the laws of nature might not really be non-prudential. Similarly, the way in which Abizadeh tackles the second issue, namely by distinguishing between the prudential reasons we have for assuming the second-person standpoint and the properties in virtue of which we have the normative power to take on contractual obligations, does not suffice to show that there must be such a thing as strictly moral, non-prudential obligation in Hobbes. For all Abizadeh tells us, the interpersonal practice of assuming a second-person standpoint, from which our directed obligations are said to emerge, might only be needed for determining the content and scope of our directed obligations, without these obligations therefore acquiring a non-prudential normative status.

In my view, then, the positive evidence provided in support of Abizadeh’s reading falls short of supporting his crucial claim—even if it may show quite impressively how keen Hobbes was on discussing the normative realm created by contractual agreements in its own right. Moreover, any interpretation of Hobbes that wants to drive a wedge between the two types of obligation needs to come up with a plausible explanation for the existence of the third law of nature and for the fact that Hobbes repeatedly discusses contractual agreements from a prudential perspective, as in his famous ‘reply to the Foole’. According to Abizadeh, what explains the link between prudence and contractual obligation is that Hobbesian individuals can only ever be motivated to fulfill their strict moral obligations in virtue of prudential considerations and that the self-interest of an agent serves as a general constraint on the obligations we can possibly attract by means of contractual agreements.

In my view, this attempt of reconciling the two spheres of normativity creates further problems, if not for Abizadeh, then for Hobbes. One question is whether the above account is compatible with the principle ‘ought implies can’ to which Hobbes obviously subscribes (see also Abizadeh’s discussion of the conditions of moral responsibility in chapter 4.1). Abizadeh’s treatment suggests that the principle is respected if there is some way for individuals to act in accordance with their contractual obligations or some way for them to be motivated to act in the relevant manner. However, one might think that the principle actually requires something stronger, namely that we can fulfill our strict moral obligations as strict moral obligations and be motivated by the fact that we are obliged in this specific sense.

Furthermore, it is not clear that Abizadeh’s solution sits well with the idea of accountability in terms of which he explicates strict moral obligation. According to Hobbes, it is impossible for us not to act on our will (unless, of course, we are hindered by some external factor). This suggests that, within the Hobbesian framework, we can only hold someone accountable for his will, that is, for that which the individual was overridingly motivated to do. If we hold someone accountable for not fulfilling his contractual obligations, then, we really hold him accountable for not being sufficiently motivated to fulfill these obligations. Yet, if all that can ever motivate Hobbesian individuals are considerations of self-interest, then this means that in holding someone accountable for violating his contractual obligations, we ultimately blame him for not acquiring the appropriate self-interested motivation, that is, for not behaving prudently. However, this suggests that the position Abizadeh ascribes to Hobbes, namely a combination of a modern accountability conception of contractual obligation and a “egoist-hedonist psychology” (229), is internally unstable. In fact, something similar seems to follow from the concession that our self-interest provides a general constraint for our strict moral obligations since the resulting view suggests that, after all, the fundamental normative value of Hobbes’s theory is self-interest and that we are only ever obliged by our own good, that is, prudentially.

The least we may say of Abizadeh’s analysis, therefore, is that he tends to treat Hobbes overly charitably and keeps quiet about some serious problems that are attached to the supposed enterprise of separating reasons of the right from reasons of the good—problems that fully come to the fore in the works of later moral philosophers, most famously in the works of Immanuel Kant.

Daniel Eggers (Universität zu Köln)