Article: Democracy and the Body Politic from Aristotle to Hobbes

Sophie Smith: ‘Democracy and the Body Politic from Aristotle to Hobbes’, Political Theory, Published online: September 8, 2016 (doi: 10.1177/0090591716649984)

Abstract: The conventional view of Hobbes’s commonwealth is that it was inspired by contemporary theories of tyranny. This article explores the idea that a paradigm for Hobbes’s state could in fact be found in early modern readings of Aristotle on democracy, as found in Book Three of the Politics. It argues that by the late sixteenth century, these meditations on the democratic body politic had developed claims about unity, mythology, and personation that would become central to Hobbes’s own theory of the commonwealth. Tracing the history of commentary on the relevant passages in Aristotle reveals new perspectives not only on the political theories of both Aristotle and Hobbes but also introduces modern readers to the richness of early modern commentaries on classical political texts. The article ends with some thoughts on why attention to traditions of commentary might be valuable for political theorists today.

New book: Hobbes and the Artifice of Eternity

Christopher Scott McClureHobbes and the Artifice of Eternity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

About this book: Thomas Hobbes argues that the fear of violent death is the most reliable passion on which to found political society. His role in shaping the contemporary view of religion and honor in the West is pivotal, yet his ideas are famously riddled with contradictions. In this breakthrough study, McClure finds evidence that Hobbes’ apparent inconsistencies are intentional, part of a sophisticated rhetorical strategy meant to make man more afraid of death than he naturally is. Hobbes subtly undermined two of the most powerful manifestations of man’s desire for immortality: the religious belief in an afterlife and the secular desire for eternal fame through honor. McClure argues that Hobbes purposefully stirred up controversy, provoking his adversaries into attacking him and unwittingly spreading his message. This study will appeal to scholars of Hobbes, political theorists, historians of early modern political thought and anyone interested in the genesis of modern Western attitudes toward mortality.

Article: The Beast and the Sovereign according to Hobbes

Arnaud Milanese: ‘The Beast and the Sovereign according to Hobbes’, Philosophy Today, 60, 1 (2016).

Abstract: Hobbes obviously thought politics with metaphors relating politics to bestiality and monstrosity: in De Cive, a man is a wolf to a man, and two of his major political books are entitled with the name of a biblical monster, Leviathan and Behemoth. Did Hobbes mean that political problems emerge from a natural violence of men and that the political solution to these problems must be found in sovereign violence? This contribution tries to demonstrate that these references do not outline any natural human ugliness but a double bind of culture and society (which is organized and developed for natural reason but thanks to artificial means). For human reasons, the historical development of human life separates this life from humanity in two ways—politics and history turn humanity into monstrosity and divinity (a man is also a god to a man and Leviathan is also a mortal god), and Behemoth means that historical violence is a cultural product.

Book: Hobbes, La vie inquiète

Luc Foisneau: Hobbes, La vie inquiète, Editions Gallimard, Collection Folio essais, 2016.

In the recently published paperback edition of Hobbes, La vie inquiète, Luc Foisneau provides a wideranging interpretation of Hobbes’s answer to the question how we should live together when we fundamentally disagree about the good life.

In a review of the book in Le Monde (27.4.2016) Roger-Pol Droit writes: ‘En plus de 600 pages, il met en lu­mière les changements – anthro­pologiques, moraux et théologico-politiques – accomplis par Hobbes. Il analyse leurs répercussions, souvent méconnues, sur Mauss, Voegelin, Foucault ou Rawls. Directeur de recherche au CNRS, enseignant à Sciences Po et à Oxford, aujourd’hui à l’EHESS, Luc Foisneau se révèle, avec cette somme, guide expérimenté. Rien de hobbesien ne semble lui être étranger.’

New issue of Hobbes Studies

A special issues of Hobbes Studies is now available, focusing on Optics, Simple Circular Motion and Conatus.


JOHN HENRY: Hobbes, Galileo, and the Physics of Simple Circular Motions

JOSÉ MÉDINA: Hobbes’s Geometrical Optics

DOUGLAS JESSEPH: Hobbes on ‘Conatus’: A Study in the Foundations of Hobbesian Philosophy

FRANCO GIUDICE: Optics in Hobbes’s Natural Philosophy

Chapter: Hobbes and Gassendi between Neo-Epicureanism and Mechanical Models of the Mind

Gianni Paganini: ‘Hobbes e Gassendi tra neo-epicureismo e modelli meccanici della mente’, in Anima-corpo alla luce dell’etica: Antichi e moderni, ed. Eugenio Canone, “Lessico Intellettuale Europeo”, CXXIV, Firenze: Olschki (2015), pp. 281-94. 

Abstract: It was only recently that the relationship between Thomas Hobbes and Pierre Gassendi received proper scholarly attention. Moreover, while Gassendi’s physics and epistemology have always been studied with a keen interest and with a particular focus on the fundamental questions of atomism and empiricism, it was only in recent times that his ethics, politics and Epicurean transformations introduced by his philosophy received the same kind of attention. This contribution examines primarily the figure of Gassendi and the complex interplay with Hobbes that characterized his thought, especially with regard to the founding of mechanistic psychology.

Book: Thomas Hobbes’ körperbasierter Liberalismus

Eva Helene Odzuck: Thomas Hobbes’ körperbasierter Liberalismus: Eine kritische Analyse des Leviathan (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2016)

About this book: The book Thomas Hobbes’ Body-based liberalism – A critical analysis of Leviathan presents a fresh, new reading of the contractualistic argument, as it is presented by Hobbes in the English Leviathan. Contemporary Hobbes scholarship focuses on the rational actor and broadly ignores the role of the body and the passions for Hobbes’ political philosophy. This book aims to address this gap and develops an interpretation which highlights the role of the body: the body determines the content and the theoretical limits of the argument in a decisive manner and is the source of a serious theoretical problem, which the author calls “biopolitical Aporia”. Furthermore, focusing on the body can explain the practical role of Hobbes’s argument. The argument can be regarded as an appeal to the bodily passions, which aims at a practical effect: To achieve the obedience of the subjects. This book shows that Hobbes’ rhetorical strategies are grounded in a distinct and differentiated theory of the passions and thereby is an important contribution to the problem of how to read Hobbes’ texts adequately. It discusses the hypothesis of Leviathan as a counsel book for sovereigns and shows the plausibility and the limits of that interpretative hypothesis. In addition to the dominant interpretations of Hobbes through the lenses of game theory and of theory of rights, the focus on the body shows that Hobbes develops a special sort of “liberalism” which has to be understood as a Body-based liberalism. By showing that this kind of “liberalism” has both grave problems of consistency and uses “liberalism” in an external way as a sort of rhetorical façade, this book is also meant as a contribution to the discussion of the historical roots and contemporary developments of liberal states.

Book: The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes

A. P. Martinich and Kinch Hoekstra (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes (Oxford University Press, 2016)

About this Book: A new collection of 26 original essays on various aspects of Thomas Hobbes’s thought.

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction: A. P. Martinich

I. Logic and Natural Philosophy
2. Logic: Martine Pécharman
3. Hobbes on Language: Propositions, Truth, and Absurdity: Stewart Duncan
4. Hobbes’s Mathematical Thought: Katherine Dunlop
5. Natural Philosophy: Daniel Garber
6. Hobbes on the Foundations of Natural Philosophy: Douglas Jesseph
7. The Most Curious of Sciences: Hobbes’s Optics: Franco Giudice

II. Human nature and Moral Philosophy
8. Hobbes on Liberty, Action, and Free Will: Thomas Pink
9. Reason, Deliberation and the Passions: Adrian Blau
10. The State of Nature: Ioannis D. Evrigenis
11. Hobbes on the Family: Nancy Hirschmann
12. Natural Law: S. A. Lloyd

III. Political Philosophy
13. Political Obligation: own Deigh
14. Authorization and Representation in Leviathan: A. P. Martinich
15. Hobbes (and Austin, and Aquinas) on Law as Command of the Sovereign: Mark Murphy
16. The Sovereign: David Runciman
17. Hobbes and Absolutism: Johann Sommerville
18. Sovereign Jurisdiction, Territorial Rights, and Membership in Hobbes: Arash Abizadeh
19. Hobbes and the Social Control of Unsociability: Quentin Skinner

IV. Religion
20. Hobbes and Religion without Theology: Agostina Lupoli
21. Hobbes and Christianity: Richard Tuck
22. Christianity and Civil Religion in Leviathan: Sarah Mortimer
23. Thomas Hobbes’s Ecclesiastical History: Jeffrey Collins

V. History, Poetry, and Paradox
24. Hobbes’s Thucydides: Kinch Hoekstra
25. Making History: The Politics of Hobbes’s Behemoth: Tomaz Mastnak
26. Hobbes on the Nature and Scope of Poetry: Timothy Raylor
27. Hobbes and Paradox: Jon Parkin

Chapter: ‘Hobbes’s Galilean Project: Its Philosophical and Theological Implications’

Gianni Paganini: Hobbes’s Galilean Project. Its Philosophical and Theological Implications’ in Daniel Garber and Donald Rutherford (eds.), Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Vol. VII (2015), pp. 1-46.

Abstract: This article focuses on De motu, loco et tempore (Anti-White) and shows the strong impact of Galilean science on Hobbes, not only for his scientific thought, but also for the construction of a new ‘first philosophy’ and for the treatment of theological topics. The context of Thomas White’s book (De mundo dialogi), the Aristotelian and Scholastic, especially Suarezian, background, and Cartesian philosophy as presented in the Objections and Replies to the Meditations are carefully explored in connection with Hobbes’s arguments. Finally, the author tries to demonstrate that in De motu Hobbes was not looking for a ‘fideist’ solution, but for some sort of ‘linguistic compromise’, according to his own conception of ‘first philosophy’ as ‘nomenclature.’ This ‘compromise’ was to be surpassed in the subsequent English Leviathan

CRISPP Special Issue: Hobbes and the Law

Special Issue of the Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy: Hobbes and the Law (19.1, 2016)

Edited by Anthony F. Lang Jr. and Gabriella Slomp.

This issue contains the following articles:

Anthony F. Lang Jr. and Gabriella Slomp, ‘Thomas Hobbes: theorist of the law

Abstract: This short article introduces the papers that follow on the topic of Hobbes as a theorist of the law. It provides an overview of Hobbes’ reputation as a theorist of law in both domestic and international theory. The paper summarizes the papers that follow and suggest how they fit into the wider literature on Hobbes, legal theory, and constitutional theory.

Larry May, ‘Hobbes, law and public conscience

Abstract: This paper brings forth the importance of public conscience in Hobbes’s account of politics and law. It connects this idea to the famous Martens Clause that played and continues to play a crucial role in international legal debates. The Martens Clause, part of the preliminary materials of the Hague Conventions, posits that humanity’s ‘public conscience’ should play a role in international legal norms concerning warfare when treaties or conventions do not provide guidance. The paper argues that Hobbes also appeals to public conscience in his construction of the relationship between law and politics. Rather than the private conscience that might challenge the sovereign, the public conscience is that which reflects moral principles such as equity which the paper argues is more important than justice in interpreting the law. The paper thus elucidates an important component of Hobbes’s theory and makes clear its relevance for international affairs.

Tom Sorell, ‘Law and equity in Hobbes

Abstract: Equity is clearly central to Hobbes’s theory of the laws of nature, and it has an important place in his doctrine of the duties and exercise of sovereignty. It is also prominent in his general theory of law, especially as it is articulated in the late Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England. Still, it is not more central to Hobbes’s ethics, politics and legal philosophy than his concept of justice, or even ascentral. On the contrary, his theory of justice is presupposed by his views about equity – in the sense that fidelity to a social contract is a condition of adjudication and definitive interpretation of law. Nor does equity contribute to a genuinely anti-authoritarian strand in Hobbes’s political philosophy. It is not as if, between the lines of that philosophy, Hobbes is a liberal. He does not think that the sovereign should exercise self-restraint because liberty and autonomy are good and sovereign self-restraint creates a space for both. Rather, he thinks that heavy-handed rule saps initiative, wealth and other resources from the people, making them less able to participate in or finance military action or internal state security. In other words, heavy-handed rule can make it harder for the sovereign to discharge the principal duty of sovereignty – ensuring public safety.

Patricia Springborg, ‘Hobbes, civil law, liberty and the Elements of Law

Abstract: When he gave his first political work the title The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, Hobbes signalled an agenda to revise and incorporate continental Roman and Natural Law traditions for use in Great Britain, and from first to last he remained faithful to this agenda, which it took his entire corpus to complete. The success of his project is registered in the impact Hobbes had upon the continental legal system in turn, specific aspects of his theory, as for instance the right to punish, entering the European civil code through Pufendorf, and remaining to this day. This is a topic of considerable importance at a time at which the UK is considering scrapping the European Union, with all the attendant legal ramifications that entails. But strangely, despite some acknowledgement of Hobbes’s contribution to European civil law, and specifically the German civil code, the larger legal context for his thought has not thus far been systematically addressed.

Gabriella Slomp, ‘The inconvenience of the legislator’s two bodies and the role of good counsellors

Abstract: I focus on Hobbes’s distinction between the natural and political persons embodied in one sovereign and show that, driven by their passions, ignorance, or bad judgement, rulers qua natural men may undermine the end they ought to pursue qua political actors, namely the protection of the well-being of the people. In particular, as legislators, they may make laws that are unnecessary, or that the people cannot endure, or that give rise to their impatience and discontent. I argue that in Hobbes’s argument, the notion of good counsel provides a safety net against bad commands being issued by rulers. I claim that the process of consultation of good counsellors is an essential component of Hobbes’s understanding of law-making. I suggest that the Hobbesian notions of counsel and counsellor provide a valuable framework to illuminate aspects of contemporary global law-making.

Maximilian Jaede, ‘Hobbes on the making and unmaking of citizens

Abstract: This article examines Thomas Hobbes’s views on legal citizenship in relation to sovereign prerogative powers and the conditions of rule by law. It is argued that the authority of Hobbesian sovereigns includes the right to decide whether individuals be admitted as subjects of the state, or treated as public enemies. While Hobbes’s specific understanding of the legal status of citizens seems to be inapplicable today, it is suggested that he provides us with a broader perspective on the making and unmaking of citizens, which could be used to evaluate attempts to deprive terrorists of their citizen rights. In Hobbes’s view, the sovereign does not only have a right to formally admit or exclude individuals, but also a duty to constitute them as citizens through civic education. Hence, it is ultimately the government’s responsibility if citizens turn into enemies of the state.

Anthony F. Lang Jr., ‘Thomas Hobbes and a chastened ‘global’ constitution the contested boundaries of the law

Abstract: Hobbes’ account of politics, law, and obligation has long been read, especially by realists in international affairs, as leaving no space for international law or institutions. This article argues that a more nuanced reading of Hobbes’ ideas about law and politics provides support for not only a defense of international law but a defense of a (chastened) global constitution. Hobbes’ constitutionalism does not derive from a separation or balance of powers but on two other elements of constitutionalism: the importance of the individual and the centrality of law. The article proceeds as follows: The first section locates Hobbes theory of law in relation to his theory of authority, drawing on David Dyzenhaus’s emphasis on the rule of law in Hobbes. The second section draws on theorists such as Larry May to find a defense of international law and institutions, what I call international constitutionalism. The third section turns to Richard Flathman’s interpretation of Hobbes as a theorist of liberal self-making, suggesting how his insights can be applied globally. The conclusion brings these thoughts to bear on the relevance of Hobbes for global law and politics.