Chapter: Martinich’s critique of Leo Strauss on Hobbes

A.P. Martinich: ‘Leo Strauss’s Olympian Intrepretation: Right, Self-Preservation, and Law in the Political Philosophy of Hobbes’, in Winfried Schroeder, ed., Reading Between the Lines – Leo Strauss and the History of Early Modern Philosophy, Berlin/Boston, De Gruyter, 2015, pp. 77-97.

Summary: Martinich challenges Leo Strauss’s reading of Hobbes in his 1936 book The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Martinich rejects Strauss’s reading of Hobbesian rights in the state of nature, of Hobbes’s account of human nature, of the nature of reason, of the causes of war, and the basis of law. Martinich concludes that “Strauss’s view is fundamentally mistaken about the foundational concepts of Hobbes’s political philosophy”. Martinich suggests that this may reflect Strauss’s desire to confirm his nascent theory about differences between ancient and modern political philosophy. Implicitly invoking Hobbes’s mountain metaphor from Behemoth, Martinich writes that “[s]eeing philosophical texts from a great height, [Strauss] thought he saw a large pattern; but the pattern required adjusting some details in order to fit and taking little or no account of others.”

Chapter: Reading Hobbes’s De motu against the background of Strauss’ interpretation

Gianni Paganini: ‘Art of Writing or Art of Rewriting? Reading Hobbes’s De motu against the background of Strauss’ interpretation’, in Winfried Schroeder (ed.), Reading Between the Lines – Leo Strauss and the History of Early Modern Philosophy, Berlin/Boston, De Gruyter, 2015, p. 99-128

Abstract: As an opening work for Hobbes’s “first philosophy”, De motu, loco et tempore (Anti-White) occupies a very special position in Hobbes’s corpus. Being obliged to follow his interlocutor, Thomas White on his ground, Hobbes could not escape the big theoretical issues raised by White’s scholastic theology. He could not simplify or shorten the philosophical agenda, as he did later in De Corpore, excluding the field of theology from the competence of philosophy. However, the presence of this work in current Hobbes scholarship is very scant. Since it was written originally in Latin and barely addressed political issues, Anglo-Saxon scholars usually have avoided much engaging with it. Yet De motu was a decisive turning point in Hobbes’s intellectual history, both for the foundation of a new scientific ontology and for the bold attack it launched on the pretensions of philosophical theology.

Commentary: Why a New German Edition of Behemoth was Necessary

A new German translation of Behemoth

This year Meiner Verlag fur Philosophie published Peter Schröder‘s new translation and edition of Behemoth. Dr. Schröder explains why this new edition was necessary, and outlines some of the main arguments of his new introduction to the text:

There are obvious practical reasons why a new German translation of Behemoth was desirable. The fact that the existing translation has been out of print for quite some time is the most evident one. My new translation makes this important text available in German again. Even if German students are rightly asked to engage with the original text, a reading in translation of their native language facilitates access to the often undervalued sophistication of the arguments in this text. This new translation also offered the possibility to address some shortcomings and even factual errors of the previous translation, done in 1927 by Julius Lips and reproduced more or less unaltered in Herfried Münkler’s 1990 edition. The explanatory notes of this new edition are considerably expanded and key concepts in English are directly inserted in the text, which should lead to a better understanding of what Hobbes was trying to do. Given that Paul Seaward’s edition of Behemoth in the Clarendon edition was published recently, this was also the opportunity to provide references to this edition on each page of the German translation. This allows German readers to navigate easily between the German translation and the English original now available in Seaward’s edition.

Apart from these specific needs of German students of philosophy, politics, law and the history of political thought, this edition also provided a welcome opportunity to highlight the importance of Behemoth within the oeuvre of Hobbes’s political thought. In my introductory essay “Behemoth or the Long Parliament im Kontext von Hobbes’ politischer Philosophie” (p. VII-LIII), Behemoth is interpreted as a specific contribution to Hobbes’s political philosophy. Despite the obvious link, already suggested by their titles, there is a closer argumentative connection between Leviathan and Behemoth than has been previously recognised. My introduction traces developments from the Elements via De Cive and Leviathan to Behemoth. I argue that Hobbes was increasingly aware that state authority or sovereignty depended not only on de facto power, but also – and perhaps even more crucially – on the ability to direct public opinion. As has been argued before, Behemoth can be seen as an attempt to influence public opinion and to describe the necessary conditions for how this can be achieved. Two main aspects can be discerned in this respect: the importance of confessional strife and the role universities play in public education. Behemoth was also one of Hobbes’s attempts to ward off the increasingly hostile attacks against him by the Anglicans, who had regained considerable political influence after the restoration. Hobbes tried hard to coin, and influence the use of, concepts through which contemporary discussions of political power and its execution were framed. This was a promising strategy in a serious ideological and political battle. Despite Hobbes’s attempts to portray himself as an objective arbiter of the ideological conflicts of the Civil War, such a position was impossible. One way to understand his goals in Behemoth, therefore, is that it was yet another, albeit failed, attempt to present his theory as above the fray of ordinary politics.

Special Issue of Philosophical Inquires: Bacon and Hobbes

Special Issue of Philosophical Inquires: Revue des Philosophes Anglophones:  ‘Bacon et Hobbes : le sens d’un silence’ (June 2015)

The issue contains the following articles:

Jean TerrelHobbes et Bacon : une relation décisive

Arnaud MilaneseSur le passage de Bacon à Hobbes : un système et ses tensions

Chantal Jaquet,  Des mots aux choses : le problème du langage chez Bacon et Hobbes

Eric MarquerAnalyse du langage et science politique selon Bacon et Hobbes

Myriam-Isabelle DucrocqLe silence, le secret, la transparence: de l’art du gouvernement à la science civile chez Francis Bacon et Thomas Hobbes

Jauffrey BerthierPrudence juridique et prudence politique chez Bacon et Hobbes





New issue of Hobbes Studies

A new issue of Hobbes Studies is now available, including the following articles:

Noel Malcolm, ‘Hobbes and sexual desire

Abstract: Hobbes has long been associated with the sexual ‘libertinism’ of the Restoration period. The connections that are commonly made are crude, misrepresenting his philosophy; moreover, the attitude to sexual matters expressed in many of his published works was quite puritanical. Yet there are elements of his thought that could be taken to support a libertine agenda: hostility to Augustinian teaching on lust and chastity; the idea that marriage laws are merely human; a recognition of self-regarding elements in sexual psychology; and the idea that desires in themselves are not sins. On this last point, however, Hobbes’s distinction between desires and intentions to act, combined with his account of the role of imagination in desire, does make it possible to attribute to him a distinctly non-libertine theory of how sexual behaviour is modified in civil society.

Joanne Paul, ‘Counsel, Command and Crisis’

Abstract: Although the distinction between counsel and command in Hobbes’s works, especially Leviathan, has been often acknowledged, it has been little studied. This article provides background and analysis of this critical distinction by placing it in conversation with the works of Henry Parker and in the context of the English Civil War, especially as regards the discussion of prudence, interests and crisis. In so doing, three conclusions can be drawn. First, it becomes clear that for both Parker and Hobbes, counsel serves as a foundation to their arguments about the placement and function of sovereignty. Second, in grounding their arguments about sovereignty in the discourse of counsel, both authors – intentionally or unintentionally – undermine the previously critical discourse of counsel. Finally, we see that especially Hobbes’s engagement with and overthrow of the discourse of counsel profoundly alters of the terms and focus of modern political debate, moving from a ‘monarchy of counsel’ to a discussion of political sovereignty.

Gregory J. Robson, ‘Two Psychological Defenses of Hobbes’s Claim Against the “Fool”’

Abstract: A striking feature of Thomas Hobbes’s account of political obligation is his discussion of the Fool, who thinks it reasonable to adopt a policy of selective, self-interested covenant breaking. Surprisingly, scholars have paid little attention to the potential of a psychological defense of Hobbes’s controversial claim that the Fool behaves irrationally. In this paper, I first describe Hobbes’s account of the Fool and argue that the kind of Fool most worth considering is the covert, long-term Fool. Then I advance and critically assess two psychological arguments according to which the Fool’s policy of self-interested covenant breaking is prudentially irrational. The first argument holds that, taken together, the deep guilt from early-stage covenant breaking, the cumulative guilt from continued covenant breaking, and the high statistical risk of detection during high-volume covenant breaking (which increases greatly when one is desensitized to guilt) render the Fool’s policy irrational. The second argument holds that the Fool’s policy is irrational because it puts him at risk of adopting a psychologically intolerable view of his fellow covenanters and, specifically, the extent to which they can be trusted.

Andrew T. Forcehimes, ‘Leviathans Restrained: International Politics for Artificial Persons’

Abstract:  This essay challenges the analogy argument. The analogy argument aims to show that the international domain satisfies the conditions of a Hobbesian state of nature: There fails to be a super-sovereign to keep all in awe, and hence, like persons in the state of nature, sovereigns are in a war every sovereign against every sovereign. By turning to Hobbes’ account of authorization, however, we see that subjects are under no obligation to obey a sovereign’s commands when doing so would contradict the very end that motivated the authorization of the sovereign in the first place. There is thus an important disanalogy between natural and artificial persons, and this accordingly produces different reactions to the state of nature.

This issue also contains reviews by Nicholas Gooding of Images of Anarchy: The Rhetoric and Science in Hobbes’s State of Nature by Ioannis D. Evrigenis, and by Juhana Lemetti of the Clarendon edition of Leviathan, edited by Noel Malcolm.


Book: Rousseau and Hobbes: Nature, Free Will and the Passions

Robin Douglass, Rousseau and Hobbes: Nature, Free Will and the Passions (Oxford University Press, 2015)

About this Book: Robin Douglass presents the first comprehensive study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s engagement with Thomas Hobbes. He reconstructs the intellectual context of this engagement to reveal the deeply polemical character of Rousseau’s critique of Hobbes and to show how Rousseau sought to expose that much modern natural law and doux commerce theory was, despite its protestations to the contrary, indebted to a Hobbesian account of human nature and the origins of society. Throughout the book Douglass explores the reasons why Rousseau both followed and departed from Hobbes in different places, while resisting the temptation to present him as either a straightforwardly Hobbesian or anti-Hobbesian thinker. On the one hand, Douglass reveals the extent to which Rousseau was occupied with problems of a fundamentally Hobbesian nature and the importance, to both thinkers, of appealing to the citizens’ passions in order to secure political unity. On the other hand, Douglass argues that certain ideas at the heart of Rousseau’s philosophy—free will and the natural goodness of man—were set out to distance him from positions associated with Hobbes. Douglass advances an original interpretation of Rousseau’s political philosophy, emerging from this encounter with Hobbesian ideas, which focuses on the interrelated themes of nature, free will, and the passions. Douglass distances his interpretation from those who have read Rousseau as a proto-Kantian and instead argues that his vision of a well-ordered republic was based on cultivating man’s naturally good passions to render the life of the virtuous citizen in accordance with nature.

Article: ‘Hobbes on the Scientific Study of the Human Mind’

Laurens van Apeldoorn: ‘Hobbes on the Scientific Study of the Human Mind’, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 97,3 (2015)

Abstract: This paper considers Hobbes’ scientific study of the human mind and the method that structures it. I argue that Hobbes approaches the mind – as he approaches the inanimate natural world – in accordance with the method of “physics” as set out in the fourth and last part of De Corpore. I discuss this method and show how and why it applies to the study of the human mind, in particular in his most famous exposition of the topic in Leviathan. This understanding of Hobbes’ method allows us to reconsider and reject a number of criticisms of his work: first, that Hobbes’ scientific study of the human mind is inconsistent because it also relies on introspection; second, that his approach fails because it is not, and cannot be, fully deductive, as a result of which the introduction of psychological concepts is unwarranted; and, finally, that his scientific study of the mind is superfluous because he never sufficiently shows it is important for his moral and political philosophy to understand the mind in accordance with the method of physics.

Article: ‘Leo Strauss and Hobbes’ Theory of Passions’

Carlo Altini: ‘Leo Strauss and Hobbes’ Theory of Passions’, Storia del pensiero politico, 1/2015

Abstract: The comparison that Leo Strauss develops with Hobbes’s thought represents the heart of his questioning on modernity: whereas Machiavelli is the founder of modern political philosophy, Hobbes is the founder of modern ideal of civilization described in terms of cohabitation of humankind grounded on rational criteria. The real core of Hobbes’s interpretation of Strauss is the anthropological and moral dimension. Against Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes marks the start of the modern tradition of moral right considered as different from the classical idea of moral law. Nevertheless, Hobbesian natural right is not only different from the natural law of Classical Greece, but also from the naturalistic principles of mechanism. For Strauss, indeed, the Hobbesian view of natural right expresses a subjective and legitimate claim, independent of any obligation or law in a form that in any case cannot be reduced to a set of natural appetites. Therefore, Hobbes’s political philosophy does not rest on the application of the method of new Galilean science to politics, but on his particular moral vision, based on his theory of passions.