New Chapter on Trust in Hobbes’s Political Philosophy

Schröder, Peter (2017): Trust in Early Modern International Political Thought (1598-1713). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Chapter 3.2 on Hobbes)

Can there ever be trust between states? This study explores the concept of trust across different and sometimes antagonistic genres of international political thought during the seventeenth century. The natural law and reason of state traditions worked on different assumptions, but they mutually influenced each other. How have these traditions influenced the different concepts and discussions of trust- building? Bringing together international political thought and international law, Schröder analyses to what extent trust can be seen as one of the foundational concepts in the theorising of interstate relations in this decisive period. Despite the ongoing search for conditions of trust between states, we are still faced with the same structural problems. This study is therefore of interest not only to specialists and students of the early modern period, but also to everyone thinking about ways of overcoming conflicts which are aggravated by a lack of mutual trust.

This is the structure of the book:

Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Alberico Gentili (1552–1608): new ways of posing the problem of war and interstate relations; 1.1. Confessional strife and the question of trustworthiness among European states; 1.2 A new concept of the enemy and war: trust among equals; 1.3. Pirates and other enemies hors la loi: the untrustworthy foes; 2. Plans for universal peace in Europe: the limits of a balance of power; 2.1. Sully (1559–1641) and the Grand Dessein; 2.2. Crucé (1590–1648) and the Nouveau Cynée; 3. Jus naturae et gentium: the limits of a juridical order; 3.1. Hugo Grotius (1583–1645); 3.2. Thomas Hobbes (1588–1673); 3.3. Samuel Pufendorf (1632–94); 4. The struggle for hegemony and the erosion of trust; 4.1. Leibniz (1646–1716) and his guerre des plumes against Louis XIV’s claims to hegemony; 4.2. ‘Triomphe de la Foi: religion and interstate relations after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; 4.3. The Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s (1658–1743) project for peace and his challenge to early modern statecraft; 5. The doux commerce and interstate relations: trust and mistrust in the emerging economic discourse; Conclusion. The thing which was not; Bibliography.

New Article: “The Light of Reason”: Reading the Leviathan with “The Werckmeister Harmonies”

 Michael J. Shapiro: “The Light of Reason”: Reading the Leviathan with “The Werckmeister Harmonies”, Political Theory, 45 (2017), pp. 385-415.
Abstract: In this essay I stage an encounter between Hobbes’s Leviathan and two versions of the “The Werckmeister Harmonies” (a chapter in Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s novel The Melancholy of Resistance [1998] and a film version of the story by the director Bela Tarr [2000]). The story contains a number of Hobbes icons, for example, an enormous stuffed whale and a “Prince,” both of which arrive with a circus that comes to a Hungarian town and precipitates fear and chaos. I argue that the story thinks (differently within the two genres) both with and against Hobbes, enabled by Hobbes’s aesthetic style (which I elaborate) while at the same time challenging the historical prescience of his political philosophy. Sorting the diverse ontologies of the story’s main characters helps us better appreciate Hobbes as a writer and distance ourselves from Hobbes’s solution to political disorder.


New article: Of Wonder: Thomas Hobbes’s Political Appropriation of Thaumazein

Kye Anderson Barker: “Of Wonder: Thomas Hobbes’s Political Appropriation of Thaumazein”, Political Theory, 45 (2017), pp. 362-384.

Abtract: This essay presents a reading of the use of wonder in the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. In this essay, I argue that not only did Hobbes incorporate the ancient conception of wonder into his design for the emotional apparatus of the modern sovereign state, but that when he did so he also transformed it and other concepts. Previous scholars have paid close attention to Hobbes’s confrontation with ancient philosophy, but there has been no sustained study of Hobbes’s use of wonder, which was a concern of his over the entire course of his authorship. More broadly, this study opens up a place for the study of wonder in contemporary political theory as part of the broader reassessment of emotion.

Italian Hobbes Scholarship: New Book on Hobbes and Galileo

Gregorio Baldin (2017): Hobbes e Galileo. Metodo, materia e scienza del moto. Firenze: Olschki.

Abstract: This study analyses the profound influence that Galileo had on Hobbes’s philosophy, also through the mediation of Mersenne. The author highlights the many aspects of Hobbesian ‘Galileism': not only methodological and epistemological ones, but also conceptual and lexical analogies in the field of physics, to arrive at a comparison between the two authors on the subject of the structure of matter, revealing a common mechanistic conception of the universe.

German Hobbes Scholarship: New book on Hobbes

Lau, Thomas / Reinhardt, Volker / Voigt, Rüdiger (eds.): Der sterbliche Gott. Thomas Hobbes’ Lehre von der Allmacht des Leviathan im Spiegel der Zeit. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2017.

Abstract: Thomas Hobbes’ reference to a ‘mortal god’ in Leviathan has been the subject of heated discussions for centuries. In contrast to the ‘immortal God’, Leviathan, an artificial person, is mortal in Hobbes’ eyes because he can theoretically revert to civil war at any time. If we consider Hobbes’ doctrine a reflection of his era, then by extension several epochs seem to be of particular interest in this respect. These epochs form part of this book’s structural approach.

With contributions by:
Arno Bammé, Oliver Hidalgo, Thomas Lau, Volker Neumann, Peter Nitschke, Eva Odzuck, Henning Ottmann, Andreas Pecar, Volker Reinhardt, Peter Schröder, Ulrich Thiele und Rüdiger Voigt.

Table of contents







New articles on “Hobbes: Power, Image and Sovereignty”

The latest Dossier of Las Torres de Lucca (vo. 5, no. 9, 2016: July-December) is devoted to “Hobbes: Power, Image and Sovereignty”. It includes the following articles:

Hobbes’ Anti-liberal Individualism, James Martel

Subliminal Government: Secret Lessons from Hobbes’s Theory of Images, Representations and Politics, Johan Tralau, Javier Vázquez Prieto (trans.).

Needed but Unwanted. Thomas Hobbes’s Warnings on the Dangers of Multitude, Populism and Democracy, Mikko Jakonen

The Antilogy in the Iuspositivism and the Iusnaturalism in Thomas Hobbes, Patricia Nakayama

Misgivings About Absolute Power: Hobbes and the Concept of Honor, Jerónimo Rilla

New article: Leviathan and medieval universitas: Hobbes’s debt to canon law

Luka RibarevićLeviathan and medieval universitas: Hobbes’s debt to canon law, History of Political Thought, 38 (2017), pp. 92-109.

Abstract: According to communis opinio, Hobbes in Leviathan presented the first thoroughly modern theory of political order. Combining ideas of individualism, political representation and sovereignty, Hobbes constructed his revolutionary notion of the state. However, the ancestry of the conceptual apparatus implied in Hobbes’s definition of the state as legal person produced through a process of political representation can be traced back deep into the pre-modern era. It has been remarked that the Roman law was one of the key sources of Hobbes’s science of politics. The main thesis of this article is that Hobbes relied not so much on the Roman law of imperial codifications as on its medieval ecclesiastical adaptation in the form of Canon Law.

Article: Forgiveness and reconciliation in Hobbes’s natural law theory

Maximilian Jaede: ‘Forgiveness and reconciliation in Hobbes’s natural law theory’, in History of European Ideaspublished online: 23 Feb 2017 (DOI: 10.1080/01916599.2017.1287831)

Abstract: Thomas Hobbes’s laws of nature dictate the making and keeping of the social contract. In addition, Hobbes’s natural law theory considers traditional moral virtues, such as mercy and gratitude, as being conducive to peace. Some Hobbes scholars have argued that these other natural laws call for ‘forgiveness’ and facilitate ‘reconciliation’. However, as this essay shows, Hobbes does not use these terms to mean the reparation of broken relationships between victims and perpetrators. Rather, Hobbesian reconciliation refers to efforts to propitiate enemies in order to win their favour, while forgiveness is a synonym for pardon, in the sense of punishment-forbearance. It is argued that neither of these requires true remorse and reparation of the wrong done. By contrasting Hobbes’s conception of anger with that of Aristotle, the article provides an explanation for why Hobbes maintains that the rage of enemies could be appeased by instrumental calculations of expected benefits, thus ignoring more deep-seated resentments caused by moral wrongs.

Chapter: ‘Thomas Hobbes Against the Aristotelian Account of the Virtues and His Renaissance Source Lorenzo Valla’

Gianni Paganini: ‘Thomas Hobbes Against the Aristotelian Account of the Virtues and His Renaissance Source Lorenzo Valla’, in Cecilia Muratori and Gianni Paganini, eds.,  Early Modern Philosophers and the Renaissance Legacy, Springer, 2016, pp. 221-37.

Abstract: This chapter concentrates on the “ethicist” interpretation of Hobbes’s theory of morals, considering whether and how a more historical and contextual approach could confirm or disconfirm this sort of reading of Hobbes. In this connection, it will be shown that knowledge of Hobbes’s Renaissance sources, first of all Valla, can help us to avoid not only historical but also philosophical misunderstandings, such as dismissing Hobbes’s objections to the Aristotelian theory of virtues. For his scientific approach to ethics that excludes the doctrine of mesótes, for his stressing the value of pleasure and self-preservation, for his criticism of the classic and Renaissance concept of “glory”, Hobbes reveals himself to have been influenced much more by Valla’s similar topics than by Aristotle’s approach, as Leo Strauss in the past and more recently Boonin-Vail and Ewin thought.


Article: Hobbes on Mind: Practical Deliberation, Reasoning, and Language

Arash Abizadeh: ‘Hobbes on Mind: Practical Deliberation, Reasoning, and Language’, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 55 (2017), pp. 1-34.

Abstract: Readers of Hobbes usually take his account of practical deliberation to be a passive process that does not respond to agents’ judgments about what normative reasons they have. This is ostensibly because deliberation is purely conative and/ or excludes reasoning, or because Hobbesian reasoning is itself a process in which reasoners merely experience a succession of mental states. I argue that, for Hobbes, deliberation (the basis for voluntary action) is not purely conative and among humans it involves reasoning. Furthermore, while non-linguistic reasoning is passive, specifically linguistic reasoning is an active process in which reasoners affirm propositions from which they reason. The historical significance of Hobbes’s account of agency lies in his attempt, by appealing to the artificial tool of language, to weld a materialist determinism to a cognitive account of practical deliberation that can involve reasoning and be reason-responsive.