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.

Book: Hobbes on Legal Authority and Political Obligation (Luciano Venezia)

Luciano Venezia, Hobbes on Legal Authority and Political Obligation (Palgrave Macmillan, September 2015)

About this book: According to the standard interpretation, Hobbes argues that subjects have binding political obligations because the sanctions for non-compliance provided by the law give them sufficient reason to obey. This view comprises an account of law and a theory of political obligation. The standard interpretation considers that for Hobbes the characteristic feature of law lies in its causal capacity to compel subjects to obey by the use of physical force or the threat to use physical force. In turn, this reading states that subjects are bound to obey the law because so acting best promotes their rational self-interest.

Hobbes on Legal Authority and Political Obligation challenges this reading, and develops an alternative interpretation of Hobbes’s theory of political obligation. According to the account developed in the book, the directives issued by the sovereign introduce authoritative requirements, so that the subjects are morally obligated to obey them.

Noel Malcolm’s edition of Leviathan: a review of the reviews

Reviews reviewed:

Deborah Baumgold, English Historical Review vol. 128 issue 535, 2013

Adrian Blau, Journal of Early Modern Studies vol. 2 no. 2, 2013

Jeffrey Collins, Modern Intellectual History vol. 12 no. 1, 2015

Rachel Foxley, The Review of English Studies vol. 65 issue 271, 2014

John Gray, The New Statesman, September 2012

Kinch Hoekstra, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 76 no. 2, 2015

Sarah Mortimer and David Scott, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 76 no. 2, 2015

William Poole, The Library, vol. 14. no. 4, 2013

David Runciman, Times Literary Supplement, February 2013

Patricia Springborg, British Journal for the History of Philosophy vol. 22 no. 2, 2014

Blair Worden, Literary Review, December 2012

with responses to some of the reviews by Noel Malcolm, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 76 no. 2, 2015

 

Noel Malcolm’s magnificent edition of Leviathan features a one-volume introduction and two volumes of Leviathan, with the 1651 English and 1668 Latin versions printed side-by-side. All reviewers agree that this edition is a superb achievement. David Runciman praises ‘Malcolm’s extraordinary scholarly range and precision’ – scholarship ‘of the highest level’, writes Rachel Foxley, leading Deborah Baumgold to coin a new adjective: ‘Malcolmian’.  This edition is an ‘immense improvement on the nineteenth-century Molesworth collections’, she adds. Blair Worden describes Malcolm’s edition as ‘a glory … that sets quite new standards of editorial scholarship’. John Gray calls it ‘an astonishing achievement of the highest scholarship’. Patricia Springborg ‘cannot imagine that this edition will ever be technically surpassed’, although she does suggest that the 2003 Schuhmann and Rogers edition of Leviathan has more merits than Malcolm implies.

What sets Malcolm’s edition apart is the ‘meticulous detective work’ described by Jeffrey Collins. Malcolm is Read more

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

Robin DouglassRousseau 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 anddoux 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.