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.

Book: Secular Powers: Humility in Modern Political Thought

Julie Cooper,  Secular Powers: Humility in Modern Political Thought (University of Chicago Press, 2013)

About this Book: Secularism is usually thought to contain the project of self-deification, in which humans attack God’s authority in order to take his place, freed from all constraints. Julie E. Cooper overturns this conception through an incisive analysis of the early modern justifications for secular politics. While she agrees that secularism is a means of empowerment, she argues that we have misunderstood the sources of secular empowerment and the kinds of strength to which it aspires.

Contemporary understandings of secularism, Cooper contends, have been shaped by a limited understanding of it as a shift from vulnerability to power. But the works of the foundational thinkers of secularism tell a different story. Analyzing the writings of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau at the moment of secularity’s inception, she shows that all three understood that acknowledging one’s limitations was a condition of successful self-rule. And while all three invited humans to collectively build and sustain a political world, their invitations did not amount to self-deification. Cooper establishes that secular politics as originally conceived does not require a choice between power and vulnerability. Rather, it challenges us—today as then—to reconcile them both as essential components of our humanity.

Article: ‘The Absence of Reference in Hobbes’ Philosophy of Language’

Arash Abizadeh: ‘The Absence of Reference in Hobbes’ Philosophy of Language’, Philosophers’ Imprint, 15, 22 (2015)

Abstract: Against the dominant view in contemporary Hobbes scholarship, I argue that Hobbes’ philosophy of language implicitly denies that linguistic expressions (names) refer to anything. I defend this thesis both textually, in light of what Hobbes actually said, and contextually, in light of Hobbes’ desertion of the vocabulary of suppositio, which was prevalent in semantics leading up to Hobbes. Hobbes explained away the apparent fact of linguistic reference via a reductive analysis: the relation between words and things wholly reduces to a composite of the relation of signification between words and conceptions on the one hand, and the relation of representation between conceptions and things on the other. Intentionality, for Hobbes, accrues to conceptions, not words.


Article: ‘Bible interpretation and the Constitution of the Christian Commonwealth in Hobbes’s Leviathan’

Mark Somos: ‘Bible interpretation and the Constitution of the Christian Commonwealth in Hobbes’s Leviathan, Part iii’, Storia del pensiero politico,  2/2015

Abstract: Few aspects of Hobbes’s thought received as much recent attention as his religion; yet there are no comprehensive analyses of Hobbes’s biblical exegesis. To illustrate a possible method and the value of such studies, this article traces Hobbes’s strings of references in Leviathan, Part III. It shows that despite ascribing the authority to finalise, censor, and otherwise control biblical editions to the Sovereign, Hobbes preferred the Geneva to the King James Bible. The article also considers some implications of Hobbes’s Bible interpretations for the constitutional design of his Christian Commonwealth, including representation, the Christian Sovereign, anticlericalism, and the Second Coming.

Article: ‘Hobbes in Kiel, 1938: From Ferdinand Tönnies to Carl Schmitt’ (Tomaž Mastnak)

Tomaž Mastnak: ‘Hobbes in Kiel, 1938: From Ferdinand Tönnies to Carl Schmitt’, History of European Ideas, 41,7 (2015)

Abstract: This article sheds light on intellectual politics under Nazism by looking at a crucial shift in the field of Hobbes studies that was marked in a congress celebrating the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Thomas Hobbes’s birth, organised in Kiel, 1938. Before the congress, the decisive voice in Hobbes studies had for almost fifty years been that of Kiel University professor Ferdinand Tönnies. Tönnies was purged from the university upon the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 and died three years later. At the opening of the Hobbes congress in Kiel, its convener, Cay von Brockdorff, declared that the phase of Hobbes studies shaped by Tönnies was ending and that a new phase, represented by Paul Ritterbusch and Carl Schmitt, had emerged. Against the background of a long tradition of Hobbes studies in Kiel, this article summarises Tönnies’s contribution to Hobbes studies; analyses organisation and proceeedings of the congress, paying special attention to politico-theoretical disagreements between Ritterbusch and Schmitt and to von Brockdorff’s exploitation of their rivalry; and contextualises Schmitt’s interpretation of Hobbes published in the aftermath of the congress.

Article: ‘Ferox or Fortis: Montaigne, Hobbes, and the Perils of Paradiastole’ (Rachelle Gold, Jim Pearce)

Rachelle Gold and Jim Pearce: ‘Ferox or Fortis: Montaigne, Hobbes, and the Perils of Paradiastole’, Philosophy and Rhetoric, 48, 2 (2015)

Abstract: Between the publication of Montaigne’s Essais (1588–1595) and Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) rhetors became increasingly anxious about arguing in utramque partem. Paradiastolic discourse, fundamental to Montaigne’s early essays, is anxiously though expertly deployed in Leviathan. Paradiastole fuses the ability to see and speak about an issue from antithetical perspectives with the ambivalence such power arouses in. Beyond their skepticism, Montaigne and Hobbes share a concern for how phenomena can be interpreted and represented through language. Despite Hobbes’s desire for a method that would ensure constant and determinate linguistic acts that would render rhetoric supererogatory, Leviathan demonstrates his unremarkable affinities with mainline Renaissance humanists alongside his uneasy affinities with the Sophists. Both the humanist and the Sophist used the trope to probe and to persuade, though both were anxious about the reversibility of such rhetorical redescriptions. Paradiastolic discourses, we argue, integrate the cognitive procedures of philosophy with the judicative procedures of rhetoric. The trope operates through exploiting the reciprocity between similar qualities, as exemplified by the influential paradiastolic pairing of ferox and fortis.

Article: ‘Thomas Hobbes and the term “Right Reason” ‘ (Robert A. Greene)

Robert A. Greene: ‘Thomas Hobbes and the Term ‘Right Reason’: Participation to Calculation’, History of European Ideas, 2015.

Abstract: Three times between 1640 and 1651, once at considerable length, Hobbes used and accepted, and then mocked, repudiated and discarded, the ancient/medieval term recta ratio/right reason. These repeated fluctuations in his thinking and rhetorical strategy occurred during the writing of his three major treatises on moral and political theory, one additional note on the term in De Cive, and an unpublished commentary on Thomas White’s De Mundo. They are made obvious by his substitution of recta ratio for reason or natural reason when recycling passages from Elements of the Law for use in De Cive, and by his subsequent reversal of that substitution when revising other passages in De Cive for use in Leviathan. Despite incorporating recta ratio as a structural element in De Cive, he finally reverted in Leviathan to regarding the term as a deceptive verbal construct, non-existent in rerum natura, and ridiculing its users and proponents. Right reason carried connotations linked to it in antiquity and in the Middle Ages, and Hobbes’s reversals in his view and use of it, and his final dismissal of it, provide further evidence and justification for the now familiar modern claim that he was a herald of modernity.

Article: ‘Hobbes Smashes Cromwell and the Rump’ (Monicka Patterson-Tutschka)

Monicka Patterson-Tutschka: ‘Hobbes Smashes Cromwell and the Rump: An Interpretation of Leviathan’Political Theory, vol. 43, no. 5 (2015) 

Abstract: Recent scholarship interprets Leviathan as subtly revealing Thomas Hobbes’s allegiance to Cromwell, the Rump Parliament and (or) the Commonwealth. I, however, argue that Hobbes’s Leviathan intends to smash the religious principles underwriting Cromwell, the Rump and the new regime. I begin by situating Leviathan alongside the popular religious rhetoric favoring Cromwell, the Rump and their allies. I then proceed to reveal how Hobbes’s Leviathan subverts the popular religious opinions justifying their claims to authority. Hobbes’s politically subversive arguments are important because de facto power ultimately rests on the legitimizing public opinions that lead men to consent to obey and to support a particular man or an assembly of men. That is, right makes might, according to Hobbes. By subverting the powerful religious opinions legitimizing Cromwell’s and the Rump’s rise, Hobbes intends Leviathan to disempower Cromwell and the Rump Parliament.

Article: Hobbes on justice, property rights and self-ownership

Johan Olsthoorn: ‘Hobbes on justice, property rights and self-ownership’, History of Political Thought, vol. 36, no 3 (2015).

Abstract: This article explores the conceptual relations Hobbes perceived between justice, law and property rights. I argue that Hobbes developed three distinct arguments for the State-dependency of property over time: the Security Argument, Precision Argument and Creation Argument. On the last and most radical argument, the sovereign creates all property rights ex nihilo through distributive civil laws. Hobbes did not achieve this radically conventionalist position easily: it was not defended consistently until the redefinition of distributive justice as a virtue of arbitrators in Leviathan. The argument is partly advanced as a critique of C.B. Macpherson’s possessive individualist reading of Hobbes.

Article: ‘The Hostile Family and the Purpose of the “Natural Kingdom” in Hobbes’s Political Thought’ (Rita Koganzon)

Rita Koganzon, ‘The Hostile Family and the Purpose of the “Natural Kingdom” in Hobbes’s Political Thought’, The Review of Politics, vol. 77 no. 3 (2015)

Abstract: In his political writings, Hobbes consistently distinguishes between “natural” and “artificial” commonwealths—those that arise from the family, and those created by mutual covenants. Although he insists that “both have the same right of government,” closer examination of Hobbes’s accounts of the family reveals that it is a radically deficient model for the state, and that Hobbes was engaged in a polemic against both republicans and absolutists who claimed that parental power was natural, prior to, and even a model for the power of civil sovereigns. For Hobbes, a state based on parental rule is dangerously unstable, exacerbating the mutual fears of parents and children. The “office of the sovereign representative” defuses this conflict, and within the commonwealth, the family is denaturalized and reconstituted as an educative institution whose purpose is to reinforce the artificial sovereign by schooling both parents and children in the miseries of personal rule.