New article: ‘Can power be self‐legitimating? Political realism in Hobbes, Weber, and Williams’, by Cozzaglio & Greene

Ilaria Cozzaglio & Amanda R. Greene, ‘Can power be self‐legitimating? Political realism in Hobbes, Weber, and Williams’, European Journal of Philosophy, online first.

Abstract: Political realists seek to provide an alternative to accounts of political legitimacy that are based on moral standards. In this endeavor, they face the challenge of how to interpret the maxim that power cannot be self‐legitimating. In this paper, we argue that work by Bernard Williams sheds light on the possible answers to this challenge. While Williams aligns himself with the realist tradition, his account of legitimacy contains an implicit critique of political realism. This is evident, we show, in his rejections of the views of Thomas Hobbes and Max Weber. Williams is not satisfied with Hobbes because he conflates legitimacy and political order, eliminating space for criticizing power. Weber’s view, however, offers a non‐moralist standard of legitimacy that has critical purchase. This critical purchase emerges from the demands made on rulers to uphold the values that underlie their legitimation, combined with the ethic of responsibility. The resulting grounds for criticism are thus consistent with the maxim that power cannot be self‐legitimating—the very maxim that Williams puts at the heart of his realism. By showing that Williams’s partial rejection of Hobbes and Weber cannot be sustained only on realist grounds, our analysis clarifies the limits of political realism.

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.

New article stressing intolerance in Hobbes

Boleslaw Z. Kabala (2019): The return of the intolerant Hobbes, in: History of European Ideas, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2019.1628581

Abstract
Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan presented a paradigm of the social contract that has proven foundational in Western political thought. A proper understanding of the philosopher’s thought is thus of paramount importance. I argue that today’s case for a religiously tolerant Hobbes has missed an important part of the historical record. I first consider an obscure but important document, the second edition of the Humble Proposals. It demonstrates that leading members of a seventeenth century Christian denomination, the Independents, considered a state-enforced confession of faith. Independents are generally seen as tolerant, and one of the arguments for Hobbesian toleration is that Hobbes endorsed them. But the second edition of the Humble Proposals aligns with the possibility in Hobbes that the civil sovereign will impose part III of Leviathan on the Universities and treat its contents as a legally required confession of faith – one that may be necessary for security, and the avoidance of civil war. Hobbes’s endorsement of Independency alone cannot be used to argue that his work leads to religious toleration. The evidence I present reinforces an earlier assessment and alongside other evidence points to the return of the intolerant Hobbes.

New article on the eternity of the law of nature in Hobbes

Robert A. Greene (2019): Thomas Hobbes: the eternal law, the eternal word, and the eternity of the law of nature, in: History of European Ideas,
DOI:
10.1080/01916599.2019.1622329

Abstract
The predication of the eternal law served as premise and and foundation for the existence of the law of nature in the classical/medieval intellectual inheritance of Thomas Hobbes and his contemporaries. Unlike them, he makes no mention of the eternal law in his early writings, The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, and On the Citizen. His triple use of the expression eternal law of God in Leviathan is ambiguous and misleading. Instead , he is one of the first writers in English to assert the eternity of the law of nature. He does that by invoking a biblical-based expression, verbum aeternum. In On the Citizen, and its exegetical, theological identification with Christ, to establish that claim. In Leviathan he repeats his declaration that the law of nature is eternal nine times, spread across more than five Chapters and twelve hundred pages. Four of them are equivalently excised from the Latin Leviathan and the others remain brief assertions, unanalyzed and undefended, rendering their effect incidental and perfunctory. He also abandons the expression verbum aeternum (as well as eternal word, which he never uses).

New article: Materialism and Right Reason in Hobbes’s Treatises

A. Bardin (2019): Materialism and Right Reason in Hobbes’s Treatises: A troubled foundation for Civil Science, in: History of Political Thought,
Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 85-110.

After abandoning the approach taken in The Elements of Law, Hobbes used De Cive to establish his new civil science on a materialist basis, thus challenging the dualist foundations of Descartes’s mechanical philosophy. This shift is analysed here with close reference to the discontinuity in Hobbes’s use of the concepts of ‘laws of nature’ and ‘right reason’. The article argues that, the descriptive nature of mechanics notwithstanding, De Cive’s foundational aim left civil science with the normative task of producing its own material conditions of possibility until, in Leviathan, Hobbes went as far as reconsidering Plato’s philosophical commitment to political pedagogy.

New article on Hobbes, Lucretius, and the Political Psychology of Peace

D. J. Kapust (2019): Hobbes, Lucretius, and the Political Psychology of Peace, in: History of Political Thought, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 246-269.

This paper explores Hobbes’s relationship to Lucretius. Building on scholarship dealing with Hobbes’s knowledge and use of Lucretius, I show that in Leviathan Hobbes decisively rejected central features of Lucretius’ argument. Hobbes’s rejection of these features, in turn, highlights the distinctiveness of key features of his argument about the passions and language, the distinctively authoritarian version of his contract theory, and his ultimate rejection of Lucretius’ Epicurean project.

New article on the person and office of the sovereign in Hobbes’ Leviathan

Laurens van Apeldoorn (2019): On the person and office of the sovereign in Hobbes’ Leviathan, in: British Journal for the History of Philosophy,
https://doi.org/10.1080/09608788.2019.1613632

Abstract

I contextualize and interpret the distinction in Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651) between the capacities of the sovereign and show its importance for contemporary debates on the nature of Hobbesian sovereignty. Hobbes distinguishes between actions the sovereign does on personal title (as a natural person), and actions he undertakes in a political capacity (as artificial person and in the office of representative of the state). I argue that, like royalists defending King Charles I before and during the English civil war, he maintains that the highest magistrate is sovereign in both his natural and political capacities because the capacities are inseparable, though district. This position goes back to the treatment of Calvin’s Case by Francis Bacon and Edward Coke and has further precedents in medieval English constitutional thought. An important reason for Hobbes to include this doctrine in Leviathan, I suggest, is to provide a response to parliamentarians who employed the sovereign’s multiple capacities to justify armed resistance against the king. I show the relevance of this contextualization by intervening in two recent debates, regarding the possibility of constitutionalist limitations on the actions of the Hobbesian sovereign and regarding whether sovereignty is held by the commonwealth or by the person of the sovereign.

Online Colloquium (1): Introduction to Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes


This online colloquium has been established to discuss Timothy Raylor’s recent book, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes. We begin with an introduction to the text by Professor Raylor himself, which will be followed by weekly responses from Ted H. Miller (Alabama), Patricia Springborg (Humboldt, Berlin) and Alan Cromartie (Reading), and finally a reply by Timothy Raylor. Many thanks to Oxford University Press for supporting this colloquium.

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Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes began life as a cluster of doubts about some of our standard assumptions regarding Hobbes’s understanding and practice of rhetoric. Among such assumptions are: that the early Hobbes was a thoroughgoing humanist and, a fortiori, an unapologetic teacher and practitioner of the art of rhetoric who saw it as a valuable aspect of civic life; that Hobbes began, in the later 1630s, to develop concerns about rhetoric as self-serving and therefore dangerous; that, in embracing the so-called ‘scientific’ or ‘geometrical’ method around 1640 Hobbes rejected humanism, banishing rhetoric from his new civil science; and that, a decade later, in Leviathan, Hobbes effected a rapprochement with rhetoric, which he now, finally, came to see as an indispensable part of civil science.

There were, it seemed to me, problems with the chronology of the supposed stages of the development of Hobbes’s thinking about rhetoric. The turn away from rhetoric seemed to be detected in works that were also treated as products of Hobbes’s ‘high’ humanist period (such as the Briefe of Aristotle’s Rhetoric); while the rapprochement with rhetoric seemed to be detected in works that are considerably earlier than Leviathan (the 1646 preface to De cive, for example), thus severely curtailing the scope of the supposedly ‘scientific’ period. And it seemed questionable to me whether Hobbes’s concerns about rhetoric could be neatly accommodated to different stages. Hobbes seems to have been consistently concerned about the impact of orators on civil society in works of all periods—from the 1628 translation of Thucydides, through Leviathan, to late works like Behemoth and the Historia ecclesiastica. And up through his very latest major works—his translations of Homer—Hobbes’s humanist commitments remained unshaken.

It also seemed to me that in attempting to grasp the character of Hobbes’s conception of rhetoric we had failed to give due weight to the fact that in teaching rhetoric to the third earl of Devonshire, Hobbes used for his text not some staple of the humanist curriculum like the pseudo-Ciceronian Ad Herennium or Quintilian’s Institutes, nor even a modern textbook like that of Cyprian Soarez—but, unusually for the age, Aristotle’s Rhetoric: a work he later extolled to his friend John Aubrey as ‘rare’. Aristotle, it seemed to me, was the key to a proper understanding of Hobbes’s thinking about rhetoric.

Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes works through the implications of that insight. Where Cicero saw rhetoric as an essential complement to philosophy and found in the orator the ideal of active citizenship, a vital member of a healthy civitas, Aristotle’s attitude toward rhetoric as the ability to see the available means of persuasion involved no large claims for its philosophical value or political importance, and consisted with the concerns he frequently registered about the dangers presented by its subversion of rational processes by appeals to the character of the speaker and the passions of the audience. Although Aristotle was, for humanists, traditionally accommodated to a Ciceronian understanding of rhetoric, recent approaches by scholars such as Theodore Goulston—whose bilingual edition Hobbes appears to have used—set about the task of clearing away later accretions, freeing Aristotle’s account of rhetoric from its high-minded Roman framing.

Acknowledging Hobbes’s understanding of rhetoric as, from the first, Aristotelian rather than Ciceronian allows us to recognize a consistency in the concerns over rhetoric Hobbes registered at various points in his career without having to posit a dizzying series of voltes faces to explain them. Rhetoric is a tool, both powerful and dangerous; it needs to be kept apart from philosophy, which is—or ought to be—concerned with truth, not with persuasion. The problem, as Hobbes came to see it at the end of the 1630s, was that rhetoric had not been kept apart from philosophy.

Hobbes’s adoption of the ‘scientific’ method was founded, I argue, not on any general discontent over the power or character of rhetoric. It involved no general dismissal or rejection of the art. Hobbes continued to deploy, in dedicatory epistles and addresses to readers, the age-old techniques of capturing attention and securing goodwill. Nor was it founded on any sudden confidence in the persuasive power of reason: reason could yield truth; but truth did not necessarily persuade.

Hobbes’s new method was based on no discontent with rhetoric, but, rather, on the recognition that there was something fundamentally wrong with philosophy, which had been pursued not logically, by perfect and immutable reasoning, but rhetorically, by way of approximate proofs and persuasive instances, by means of likelihoods and probabilities. Philosophy, Hobbes insisted in Anti-White, I.3, has nothing to do with rhetoric. And from that position, I argue, he never retreated.

What, then, of Leviathan, and Hobbes’s supposed rapprochement therein with rhetoric? It is of course true that Leviathan exhibits some of the most brilliant flourishes of Hobbes’s English style; but this, in my view, does not involve a rapprochement between rhetoric and philosophy. The rhetorical texture of Leviathan is in part attributable to the mere contradiction of theory by practice. But the differences between Leviathan and Hobbes’s earlier works of civil philosophy have been overestimated. Hobbes’s exposition of his political philosophy in Leviathan differs less markedly from The Elements of Law and De cive than has recently been suggested. And the most distinctively ‘rhetorical’ parts of Leviathan are those sections of the work (part three and, especially, part four) which are new to Leviathan and which are not, strictly speaking, philosophical but controversial. Indeed, the generic and stylistic shift from the bare exposition of political philosophy in the early sections of Leviathan to the anti-clerical polemic of part four is so dramatic that the work’s most recent editor, Noel Malcolm, suggests that Hobbes’s intentions must have changed radically during the process of composition, after an Anglican attempt to undermine his position at court. In so arguing Malcolm echoes earlier commentators who have questioned the coherence of the work: J.G.A. Pocock, for instance, suggests that Leviathan is not one but two books.

Not only in respect to its textual practice does Leviathan subvert the notion of a late rapprochement with rhetoric; it does so also on the level of theory. It is in Leviathan that Hobbes offers his most sustained analysis of the contamination of philosophy by rhetoric. In Leviathan, for instance, Hobbes shows how political philosophers hostile to monarchy have deployed the term ‘tyranny’ to denote a distinct species of monarchy, while in fact denoting only monarchy itself, with the addition of their personal dislike. In an extended discussion, Hobbes exposes the way in which the orators and pseudo-philosophers who made up the early church deployed rhetoric to consolidate their spiritual authority and expand their temporal power. Indeed, in Hobbes’s analysis, it was by way of rhetorical figuration—particularly through metaphor, synecdoche, and metonymy—that they did so. The term ‘episcopus’ (‘bishop’), for instance, originally denoted merely a humble overseer of sheep; it was illicitly extended by metaphor to signify a ruler of people—even being stretched to denote monarchical authority over them. Among other examples of such figurative extension are the concepts of ‘hell’, ‘the kingdom of God’, and the papal ‘fulmen excommunicationis’.

But this emphasis on the dangers of figuration should not lead us to the conclusion that the main problem with rhetoric was, for Hobbes, the capacity of figurative language to hoodwink readers and auditors. This is a feature of elocutio, or style, on which I believe we have been too narrowly focused; it was a central feature of the Roman approach to rhetoric to which we are still largely indebted.

Although style is indeed a problem, our focus on it has, I argue, obscured the importance for Hobbes of the prior problem of inventio, or discovery: specifically, that method of argumentation which proceeds by finding the available means of persuasion. The fundamental problem with this approach is that it is a means of literary composition, not a method of logical demonstration: its proofs are merely plausible, not universal and necessary. This distinction, Hobbes believes, is what earlier philosophers have failed to observe. And Hobbes, I think, never backs away from this position.

Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes, argues for a new understanding of Hobbes’s thinking about the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric. That relationship does not, I argue, undergo a series of fundamental changes in Hobbes’s thinking. From first to last Hobbes is concerned about the political dangers of oratory. At the end of the 1630s, after (and, I suggest, in part because of) working intensely on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, he set about freeing philosophy from the procedures of rhetorical reasoning and setting it on a firm footing. In so doing he drew a line between rhetoric and philosophy that he never, in theory at least, erased.

But although its central argument addresses the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric in Hobbes’s thinking, this is not the sole focus of the book. My reconsideration of Hobbes’s attitude to rhetoric led me to a more general reconsideration of his early humanism, the character of which was, I came to see, less literary, less civic or Ciceronian, than has usually been supposed. Hobbes’s translation of Thucydides, for instance, emphasizes not the virtue of eloquent men acting in the interests of the civitas, but the corruption of the state by demagogues—a panel illustrating which point Hobbes incorporated within his engraved title. That panel furnishes the dustwrapper image for Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes.

The humanism of Hobbes’s Thucydides is not brightly Ciceronian; it is darker and colder, in keeping with the Tacitean outlook detected in the Cavendish household by Noel Malcolm and Richard Tuck. Hobbes’s introductory account of Thucydides’ manner and method reveals opposition to Ciceronian canons of style and indebtedness to the ‘politic’ history that Bacon had drawn from Thucydides, with its quest to uncover the secret springs and hidden causes of political action.

Bacon was a significant influence on the Cavendish household, and in Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes I trace his impact on the essays and discourses of the Horae subsecivae (works sometimes recently assigned to Hobbes, but for which I adduce additional evidence in favour of William Cavendish’s authorship), and on Hobbes’s Latin poem on the ‘wonders’ of the Peak. While that poem has generally been treated as a contribution to humanist letters (as indeed it is), I suggest that in its focus on the rational investigation of natural phenomena both regular (e.g. the sources of rivers) and irregular (e.g. the ebbing and flowing well) and its investigation of the procedures of mechanical arts (e.g. the techniques of Derbyshire lead mining) the poem is informed by the concerns of Renaissance Aristotelianism and by those of Baconian natural history. My reading of these works of the 1620s and 1630s leads to some recalibration of our understanding of Hobbes’s humanism as more engaged with the philosophical and natural philosophical concerns of his maturity than has previously been recognized.

In sum, while it is the goal of Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes to offer a fresh understanding of the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric in Hobbes’s thinking, it aims also to furnish a more nuanced account of Hobbes’s early philosophical interests, and a new understanding of the emergence of Hobbes’s mature philosophical stance. How far it succeeds in these goals is, of course, not for the author, but for his readers, to determine.

Professor Timothy Raylor (Carleton College)