New Article: Rethinking the sexual contract. The case of Thomas Hobbes

Lorenzo Rustighi (2018): Rethinking the sexual contract: The case of Thomas Hobbes, in: Philosophy & Social Criticism


Feminist scholars have long debated on a key contradiction in the political theory of Thomas Hobbes: While he sees women as free and equal to men in the state of nature, he postulates their subjection to male rule in the civil state without any apparent explanation. Focusing on Hobbes’s construction of the mother–child relationship, this article suggests that the subjugation of the mother to the father epitomizes the neutralization of the ancient principle of ‘governance’, which he replaces with a novel concept of ‘power’ as formally authorized command. This scrutiny leads to three main conclusions: (1) a radicalization of Pateman’s concept of ‘sexual contract'; (2) the acknowledgement that patriarchy is inseparable from the logic of political authority constructed by Hobbes; and (3) the claim that criticism of patriarchal rule requires an overall problematization of the mainstream conception of political participation we have inherited from modern political science.

New Book: Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law by Kody W. Cooper (University of Notre Dame Press)

Kody W. Cooper (2018): Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law (University of Notre Dame Press)


Has Hobbesian moral and political theory been fundamentally misinterpreted by most of his readers? Since the criticism of John Bramhall, Hobbes has generally been regarded as advancing a moral and political theory that is antithetical to classical natural law theory. Kody Cooper challenges this traditional interpretation of Hobbes in Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law. Hobbes affirms two essential theses of classical natural law theory: the capacity of practical reason to grasp intelligible goods or reasons for action and the legally binding character of the practical requirements essential to the pursuit of human flourishing. Hobbes’s novel contribution lies principally in his formulation of a thin theory of the good. This book seeks to prove that Hobbes has more in common with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of natural law philosophy than has been recognized. According to Cooper, Hobbes affirms a realistic philosophy as well as biblical revelation as the ground of his philosophical-theological anthropology and his moral and civil science. In addition, Cooper contends that Hobbes’s thought, although transformative in important ways, also has important structural continuities with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of practical reason, theology, social ontology, and law. What emerges from this study is a nuanced assessment of Hobbes’s place in the natural law tradition as a formulator of natural law liberalism. This book will appeal to political theorists and philosophers and be of particular interest to Hobbes scholars and natural law theorists.

Table of contents

  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • The foundations of Hobbes’s natural law philosophy
  • Hobbesian moral and civil science : rereading the doctrine of severability
  • Hobbes and the good of life
  • The legal character of the laws of nature
  • The essence of Leviathan : the person of the commonwealth and the common good
  • Hobbes’s natural law account of civil law
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Index

New Book: Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes by Timothy Raylor (Oxford University Press)

Timothy Raylor (2018): Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes (Oxford University Press) (forthcoming)


Thomas Hobbes claimed to have founded the discipline of civil philosophy (political science). The claim did not go uncontested and in recent years the relationship of philosophical reasoning to rhetorical persuasion in Hobbes’s work has become a significant area of discussion, as scholars attempt to align his disparaging remarks about rhetoric with his dazzling practice of it in works like Leviathan. The dominant view is that, having rejected an early commitment to humanism and with it rhetoric when he adopted the ‘scientific’ approach to philosophy in the late 1630s, Hobbes later came to re-embrace it as an essential aid to or part of philosophy. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes proposes that Hobbes was, from first to last, dubious about the place of rhetoric in civil society, and came to see it as a pernicious presence within philosophy – a position from which he did not retreat. It offers a fresh and expanded picture of Hobbes’s humanism by examining his years as a country house tutor; his teaching and his translation of Thucydides, the influence on him of Bacon, and the range of his early natural historical and philosophical interests. In demonstrating the distinctively Aristotelian character of his understanding of rhetoric, the book also revisits the new approach to philosophy Hobbes adopted at the end of the 1630s, clarifying the nature and scope of his concern about the contamination of philosophy and political life by the procedures of rhetorical argumentation.

Table of contents

1: Noble Tutor
2: Civil History and Style in Thucydides
3: Poetry and Natural History in the Peak
4: Aristotle’s Rhetoric in the Schoolroom
5: Logic, Rhetoric, and Philosophy
6: Discovery, Proof, and Style
7: Rhetoric and Leviathan
Appendix: The Authorship of The Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique
List of Manuscripts

Strong references to Hobbes by Paul Sagar

Paul Sagar (2018): “The Opinion of Mankind. Sociability and the Theory of the State from Hobbes to Smith”, Princeton University Press


How David Hume and Adam Smith forged a new way of thinking about the modern state

What is the modern state? Conspicuously undertheorized in recent political theory, this question persistently animated the best minds of the Enlightenment. Recovering David Hume and Adam Smith’s long-underappreciated contributions to the history of political thought, The Opinion of Mankind considers how, following Thomas Hobbes’s epochal intervention in the mid-seventeenth century, subsequent thinkers grappled with explaining how the state came into being, what it fundamentally might be, and how it could claim rightful authority over those subject to its power.

Hobbes has cast a long shadow over Western political thought, particularly regarding the theory of the state. This book shows how Hume and Smith, the two leading lights of the Scottish Enlightenment, forged an alternative way of thinking about the organization of modern politics. They did this in part by going back to the foundations: rejecting Hobbes’s vision of human nature and his arguments about our capacity to form stable societies over time. In turn, this was harnessed to a deep reconceptualization of how to think philosophically about politics in a secular world. The result was an emphasis on the “opinion of mankind,” the necessary psychological basis of all political organization.

Table of contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Sociability
  • Chapter 2: History and the Family
  • Chapter 3: The State without Sovereignty
  • Chapter 4: Rousseau’s Return to Hobbes
  • Chapter 5: Adam Smith’s Political Theory of Opinion
  • Chapter 6: Alternatives and Applications
  • Index

New Article: Hobbes’s Religious Rhetoric and False Forms of Obligation

Nicolas Higgins (2018): Undermining Obligation to God: Hobbes’s Religious Rhetoric and False Forms of Obligation, in: Political Theology


This paper examines Hobbes’s use of religious rhetoric, specifically his definitions of the terms grace, faith, and future words in his explanation of the nature and origins of obligation. Through categorization and analysis of Hobbes’s different forms of obligation, paying special attention to the religious rhetoric of the false forms, it becomes evident that Hobbes’s view of obligation is designed not only to establish a political order, but to undermine man’s obligation to God, and as such, remove the possibility of competing obligation in the life of the citizen, and thereby reduce the cause of civil wars.

New Article: Hobbes’s changing ecclesiology

Andrew Kenneth Day (2018): Hobbes’s changing ecclesiology, in: The Historical Journal, pp. 1-21


Readers of Hobbes have sought to account for differences between the arguments of his most influential texts. In De cive Hobbes (tepidly) endorsed apostolic structures of spiritual authority, while in Leviathan he at last unleashed his vehement anticlericalism. I argue that these disparities do not reflect an identifiable change in Hobbes’s ideas or principles over time. Rather, the political context in which Hobbes composed his treatises drastically altered over the course of his writing career, and the Hobbesian theoretical significance of those contextual developments best accounts for some ecclesiological inconsistencies across his oeuvre. There was, throughout the brief and tumultuous period after the regicide during which Hobbes composed Leviathan, no sovereign power in England to whom he should defer, and consequently he acquired certain liberties that subjects in a civitas forgo. Those included the renewal of his right to wage a ‘war of pens’ against High Anglican episcopal power.

New Article: Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes

Alan Ryan (2018): Escaping the War of All against All: Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, in: Social Research: An International Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 3 (Fall 2018), pp. 639-649


Is Leviathan persuasive? One might think that the existence of the United States is sufficient refutation of Hobbes’s insistence that there can be only one source of law in a coherent political system; if federalism is one problem, the separation of powers is another. Hobbes was deeply hostile to judges who thought that their expertise in the Common Law gave them an authority equal or superior to the sovereign’s. On the other hand, one might think that the lumbering and lobbyist-ridden American system suggests that Hobbes was on to something even if we could not demonstrate it with the certainty of geometry. Above all, perhaps, his skepticism about rights and his prioritizing freedom from fear above all other freedoms still pose some awkward questions for us some 370 years later.

New Article: Hobbes sur la représentation et la souveraineté

Robin Douglass (2018): Hobbes sur la représentation et la souveraineté, in: Les Défis de la représentation Langages, pratiques et figuration du gouvernement, édité par Manuela Albertone e Dario Castiglione, pp. 91-114


Cette étude retrace les changements dans la manière dont Thomas Hobbes a théorisé la relation entre l’État et le souverain des Elements of Law au Leviathan, afin de montrer ce que le concept de représentation a apporté aux versions précédentes de sa théorie. Nous réévaluons également le statut de Hobbes comme père de la compréhension de la représentation politique par le biais d’une remise en question des arguments principaux qui ont été avancés pour justifier l’idée qu’il demeure encore pertinent aujourd’hui.

Article: Leviathan and the Politics of Metaphor

Rebecca Ploof (2018): The Automaton, the Actor and the Sea Serpent: Leviathan and the Politics of Metaphor, in: History of Political Thought, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp. 634-661


Challenging interpretations of Leviathan that read its metaphors for sovereignty either as non-theoretical persuasive devices, like Skinner, or sites for the text’s theoretical deconstruction, like Derrida, I argue that metaphor is conceptually integral to and productive of Hobbes’s theory of sovereignty. Seeking to produce a political scientific account of this concept, Hobbes relies on a metaphorical understanding of language in which words are compared to mathematical signs and their logical manipulation is compared to quantitative analysis. Within such a theory of language, metaphor itself is defined as paradox, or the simultaneity of equivalence and nonequivalence. Hobbes’s formulation of sovereignty is metaphorical, I demonstrate, not only insofar as it is dependent on a metaphorical conceptualization of language, but also insofar as it is paradoxical: constructing Hobbesian sovereignty demands a healthy dose of pride in humanity’s creative ingenuity, yet sustaining it demands modest acknowledgement of human limitation. Hobbes theorizes sovereignty through a series of metaphors that in their imagistic content, and most importantly figurative form, articulate such contradiction. Where the metaphors of automaton and actor affirm the powers of human agency, the metaphorical sea serpent leviathan underscores human frailty by way of divine animality.