New Article: Gassendi and Hobbes in Dialogue on Psychology, Ethics, and Politics

Paganini, Gianni (2020): Early Modern Epicureanism. Gassendi and Hobbes in Dialogue on Psychology, Ethics, and Politics, in: Oxford Handbook of Epicurus and Epicureanism, ed. by Phillip Mitsis, OUP, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199744213.013.26

Two fundamental notions of Epicureanism took new life in modern political thought: that of the social contract, the agreed and consensual basis of law and authority, and that of the “state of nature” that precedes it. There is no question that among all ancient traditions the Garden was one of very few to base law and politics on the contract and consent of the contracting parties. Yet, by contrast with the Sophists, who emphasized the conventional aspects so far as to be open to the charge of pure relativism, Epicureans looked for a “weak” but “natural” foundation of the social contract deducing it from an idea or mental anticipation (prolēpsis) of justice based on utility. This approach was revived in the seventeenth-century Neo-Epicureanism of Pierre Gassendi who also reworked Epicurus’s and Lucretius’s outdated psychology, transforming it into a more modern “mechanistic” theory of mind. During the greater part of the 1640s Hobbes and Gassendi both lived in Paris and were in close personal contact. The same period was for both thinkers decisive for the construction of their works: the Syntagma philosophicum for Gassendi, De civeDe motuloco et tempore, and Leviathan for Hobbes. This chapter explores the complex interplay between them, especially with regards to psychology, the foundations of ethics, legal theory, and political philosophy, stressing the important role that ancient Epicureanism and seventeenth-century Neo-Epicureanism played in the birth of a modern theory of individual rights.

New article on the nature and person of the state

Johan Olsthoorn (2020): Leviathan Inc.: Hobbes on the nature and person of the state, in: History of European Ideas, June 16, pp. 1-16;

This article aspires to make two original contributions to the vast literature on Hobbes’s account of the nature and person of the commonwealth: (1) I provide the first systematic analysis of his changing conception of ‘person’; and (2) use it to show that those who claim that the Hobbesian commonwealth is created by personation by fiction misconstrue his theory of the state. Whereas Elements/De Cive advance a metaphysics-based distinction between individuals (‘natural persons’) and corporations (‘civil persons’), from Leviathan onwards Hobbes contrasts individuals acting in their own name (‘natural persons’) with representatives (‘artificial persons’). These changes notwithstanding, Hobbes retains the same corporate conception of the state throughout. On the prevailing ‘fictionalist’ interpretation, the sovereign brings the commonwealth into existence by representing it. I argue, rather, that as an incorporation of natural persons, the commonwealth becomes one person through the authorized (i.e. non-fictitious) representation of each constituent member singly by one common representative (‘the sovereign’).

New article: Glory and the Evolution of Hobbes’s Disagreement Theory of War

Arash Abizadeh (2020): Glory and the Evolution of Hobbes’s Disagreement Theory of War: From Elements to Leviathan, in: History of Political Thought, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 265-298

The centrality of glory, contempt and revengefulness to Leviathan’s account of war is highlighted by three contextual features: Hobbes’s displacement of the traditional conception of glory as intrinsically intersubjective and comparative; his incorporation of the Aristotelian view that revengefulness is provoked by expressions of mere contempt; and the evolution of his account between 1640 and 1651. An archeology of Leviathan’s famous Chapter Thirteen confirms that Hobbes’s thesis throughout his career was that disagreement is the universal cause of war because prickly, glory-seeking humans view its expression as a sign of contempt: although Leviathan abandons Hobbes’s previous argument that war is primarily rooted in vainglorious individuals pursuing domination, Leviathan’s ‘glory’ argument for war is a descendent of the older ‘comparison’, not ‘vanity’, argument.

New article: ‘Il concetto di status naturae tra Hobbes e Kant’, by Gianluca Sadun Bordoni

Gianluca Sadun Bordoni, ‘Il concetto di status naturae tra Hobbes e Kant’, Studi Kantiani 32 (2019), pp. 25-46.

Abstract : The Concept of status naturae between Hobbes and Kant ∙ The confrontation with Hobbes is present in Kant’s entire moral thought, as the concept of ‘state of nature’ shows. Although undervalued in Kantian literature, this concept is the constant starting point of Kant’s juridical and political analysis. Kant even thinks that the state of nature in international relations can always affect the internal juridical state, more than Hobbes was prone to admit. But Kant also radicalizes the perspective, by introducing, in addition to the ‘juridical’ state of nature, the concept of an ‘ethical’ state of nature, that – differently from Hobbes – cannot be overcome by political means, not even by man’s moral forces.

New book: Hobbes’s On the Citizen: A Critical Guide, edited by Douglass & Olsthoorn

Robin Douglass & Johan Olsthoorn (eds.), Hobbes’s On the Citizen: A Critical Guide (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

This is the first book-length study in English of Thomas Hobbes’s On the Citizen. It aims to show that On the Citizen is a valuable and distinctive philosophical work in its own right, and not merely a stepping-stone toward the more famous Leviathan. The volume comprises twelve original essays, written by leading Hobbes scholars, which explore the most important themes of the text: Hobbes’s accounts of human nature, moral motivation, and political obligation; his theories of property, sovereignty, and the state; and, finally, his ideas on the relation between secular and ecclesiastical authority, and the politics behind his religious ideas. Taken together, the essays bring to light many distinctive aspects of Hobbes’s thought that are often concealed by the prevailing focus on Leviathan, making for a richer and more nuanced picture of his moral, legal, and political philosophy.


‘Introduction’, Robin Douglass and Johan Olsthoorn
1. ‘Excavating On the Citizen’, Deborah Baumgold and Ryan Harding
2. ‘Hobbes and Aristotle on the foundation of political science’, Nicholas Gooding and Kinch Hoekstra
3. ‘All the mind’s pleasure: glory, self-admiration, and moral motivation in On the Citizen and Leviathan’, S. A. Lloyd
4. ‘The right of nature and political disobedience: Hobbes’s puzzling thought experiment’, Susanne Sreedhar
5. ‘Motivation, reason, and the good in On the Citizen’, Michael LeBuffe
6. ‘Property and despotic sovereignty’, Laurens van Apeldoorn
7. ‘Sovereignty and dominium: the foundations of Hobbesian statehood’, Daniel Lee
8. ‘Corporate persons without authorization’, Michael J. Green
9. ‘Hobbes on love and fear of God’, Thomas Holden
10. ‘’A rhapsody of heresies’: the scriptural politics of On the Citizen’, Alison McQueen
11. ‘On the Citizen and church-state relations’, Johann Sommerville
12. ‘Sovereign-making and biblical covenants in On the Citizen’, A. P. Martinich

New article: ‘From soul to mind in Hobbes’s The Elements of Law’, by Alexandra Chadwick

Alexandra Chadwick, ‘From soul to mind in Hobbes’s The Elements of Law, History of European Ideas, online first.

Abstract: This paper examines the significance and originality of Hobbes’s use of ‘mind’, rather than ‘soul’, in his writings on human nature. To this end, his terminology in the discussion of the ‘faculties of the mind’ in The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic (1640) is considered in the context of English-language accounts of the ‘faculties of the soul’ in three widely-read works from the first half of the seventeenth century: Thomas Wright’s The Passions of the Minde in Generall (1604), Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), and Edward Reynolds’s A Treatise of the Passions and Faculties of the Soule of Man (1640). For Hobbes’s contemporaries, man’s soul conveyed God-like powers to human beings; for Hobbes this is a dangerous idea. Accordingly, he establishes a sharp divide between ‘soul’ and ‘mind’, understanding the two terms to be concerned with two very different things: one with soteriology, the other with mental abilities. Like his contemporaries, Hobbes thought that understanding the faculties reveals the way to live a good life. But unlike them, his moral and political philosophy relies on citizens accepting that they are not like God, rather than looking to restore the ‘divine’ within themselves.

New article: ‘Hobbes’s Practical Politics’, by Adrian Blau

Adrian Blau, ‘Hobbes’s Practical Politics: Political, Sociological and Economistic Ways of Avoiding a State of Nature’, Hobbes Studies, online first.

Abstract: This paper offers a systematic analysis of Hobbes’s practicalpolitical thought. Hobbes’s abstract philosophy is rightly celebrated, but he also gave much practical advice on how to avoid disorder. Yet he is typically interpreted too narrowly in this respect, especially by those who only read him economistically. Other scholars supplement this economistic focus with sociological or political interpretations, but to my knowledge, no one stresses all three aspects of his thought. This paper thus examines each of Hobbes’s practical proposals for avoiding corruption and a state of nature. Hobbes clearly uses economistic, sociological and political approaches, which involve shaping incentives, desires/preferences, and opportunities, respectively. This intentionally anachronistic framework helps us see further, highlighting Hobbes’s rich and wide-ranging practical proposals for avoiding disorder – a crucial part of his theory.

New article: ‘Hobbes and the Tragedy of Democracy’, by Christopher Holman

Christopher Holman, ‘Hobbes and the Tragedy of Democracy’, History of Political Thought, vol. 40, no. 4 (2019), pp. 649-75.

Abstract: This article reconsiders Thomas Hobbes’s critique of the democratic sovereign form from the standpoint of what it identifies as the latter’s most important ontological conditions: the lack of a transcendent source of fundamental law, and a natural human equality that renders all individuals competent to participate in legislative modes. For Hobbes these two conditions combine to render democracy a tragic regime. Democracy is tragic to the extent that it must be a regime of self-limitation, there existing no ethical standard external to society that may intervene so as to guide our political self-activity, and yet the structure of deliberation in democratic assemblies tends to render such self-limitation impossible. Hence what Hobbes sees as the inherent tendency of democratic activity to descend into excess and madness. This risk is an intrinsic potentiality embedded within democracy’s very conditions, a fact covered up by much post-Hobbesian liberal democratic theory that attempts to normatively ground the democratic form in various universal principles of natural law or right.

New article: ‘The Curious Case of Hobbes’s Amazons’, by Susanne Sreedhar

Susanne Sreedhar, ‘The Curious Case of Hobbes’s Amazons’, Journal of the History of Philosophy, vol. 57, no. 4 (Oct. 2019), pp. 621-46.

Abstract: Hobbes’s philosophy involves a fundamental shift in ideas about the theological, metaphysical, and axiological significance of sex, gender, reproduction, and the family. He fundamentally rejects the idea that dominion is naturally or divinely ordained, using a strategy I call ‘dethroning.’ In this paper, I argue that the Amazon myth, which Hobbes invokes in every version of his political theory, is one such act of rhetorical dethroning in that it attacks naturalized familial and gender hierarchies, denying natural parent/child, as well as husband/wife, relations of rule and subordination. Substantive discussions of Hobbes’s use of the Amazons in the secondary literature are few and consist of contradictory understandings of the example, with some seeing it as a prototype of early feminism and others seeing it as a retrenchment of misogyny and racism. I use my interpretation, one that makes sense of the example by reference to the internal logic of Hobbes’s overall philosophical and political project, in order to examine both sides of this debate.

Latest Issue of Hobbes Studies (October 2019)

Hobbes Studies vol. 32, no. 2 (2019)


Gianni Paganini, ‘Hobbes, the “Natural Seeds” of Religion and French Libertine Discourse’

Stewart Duncan, ‘Hobbes on the Signification of Evaluative Language’

J. Matthew Hope, ‘Natural Justice, Law, and Virtue in Hobbes’s Leviathan

Eleanor Curran, ‘Hobbesian Sovereignty and the Rights of Subjects’

Frank Lovett, ‘Hobbes’s Reply to the Fool and the Prudence of Self-Binding’


R.J.W. Mills, ‘Hobbes on Politics and Religion, edited by Laurens van Apeldoorn and Robin Douglass

Paul Sagar, ‘Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics, written by Arash Abizadeh’