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

Robin Douglass, Rousseau 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 and doux 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. On the one hand, Douglass reveals the extent to which Rousseau was occupied with problems of a fundamentally Hobbesian nature and the importance, to both thinkers, of appealing to the citizens’ passions in order to secure political unity. On the other hand, Douglass argues that certain ideas at the heart of Rousseau’s philosophy—free will and the natural goodness of man—were set out to distance him from positions associated with Hobbes. Douglass advances an original interpretation of Rousseau’s political philosophy, emerging from this encounter with Hobbesian ideas, which focuses on the interrelated themes of nature, free will, and the passions. Douglass distances his interpretation from those who have read Rousseau as a proto-Kantian and instead argues that his vision of a well-ordered republic was based on cultivating man’s naturally good passions to render the life of the virtuous citizen in accordance with nature.

Article: Hobbes’s State of Nature: A Modern Bayesian Game-Theoretic Analysis

Hun Chung: ‘Hobbes’s State of Nature: A Modern Bayesian Game-Theoretic Analysis’ Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 1, 3 (2015)

Abstract: Hobbes’s own justification for the existence of governments relies on the assumption that without a government our lives in the state of nature would result in a state of war of every man against every man. Many contemporary scholars have tried to explain why universal war is unavoidable in Hobbes’s state of nature by utilizing modern game theory. However, most game-theoretic models that have been presented so far do not accurately capture what Hobbes deems to be the primary cause of conflict in the state of nature—namely, uncertainty, rather than people’s egoistic psychology. Therefore, I claim that any game-theoretic model that does not incorporate uncertainty into the picture is the wrong model. In this paper, I use Bayesian game theory to show how universal conflict can break out in the state of nature—even when the majority of the population would strictly prefer to cooperate and seek peace with other people—due to uncertainty about what type of person the other player is. Along the way, I show that the valuation of one’s own life is one of the central mechanisms that drives Hobbes’s pessimistic conclusion.

Book: Submission and Subjection in Leviathan

Michael Byron: Submission and Subjection in Leviathan: Good Subjects in the Hobbesian Commonwealth, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

Abstract: In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes famously characterizes the state of nature as a predicament in which life is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’ The only means of escape from that dire condition is to found the commonwealth, with its notorious sovereign. Hobbes invests the sovereign with virtually absolute power over the poor subjects of the commonwealth, and that vast and unlimited sovereign has drawn the reader’s eye for 350 years. Yet Hobbes has a great deal to say about subjects in a commonwealth as well, and he articulates a normative conception of a good subject. This book develops a novel interpretation of the role of submission in Leviathan, and it introduces the concept of subjection to explain the expectations Hobbes has for good subjects.

Article: ‘Hobbes on the Scientific Study of the Human Mind’

Laurens van Apeldoorn: ‘Hobbes on the Scientific Study of the Human Mind’, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 97,3 (2015)

Abstract: This paper considers Hobbes’ scientific study of the human mind and the method that structures it. I argue that Hobbes approaches the mind – as he approaches the inanimate natural world – in accordance with the method of “physics” as set out in the fourth and last part of De Corpore. I discuss this method and show how and why it applies to the study of the human mind, in particular in his most famous exposition of the topic in Leviathan. This understanding of Hobbes’ method allows us to reconsider and reject a number of criticisms of his work: first, that Hobbes’ scientific study of the human mind is inconsistent because it also relies on introspection; second, that his approach fails because it is not, and cannot be, fully deductive, as a result of which the introduction of psychological concepts is unwarranted; and, finally, that his scientific study of the mind is superfluous because he never sufficiently shows it is important for his moral and political philosophy to understand the mind in accordance with the method of physics.

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.