New book: Hobbesian Internationalism, by Silviya Lechner

Silviya Lechner, Hobbesian Internationalism: Anarchy, Authority and the Fate of Political Philosophy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).

This book sets out to re-examine the foundations of Thomas Hobbes’s political philosophy, and to develop a Hobbesian normative theory of international relations. Its central thesis is that two concepts – anarchy and authority – constitute the core of Hobbes’s political philosophy whose aim is to justify the state. The Hobbesian state is a type of authority (juridical, public, coercive, and supreme) which emerges under conditions of anarchy (‘state of nature’). A state-of-nature argument makes a difference because it justifies authority without appeal to moral obligation. The book shows that the closest analogue of a Hobbesian authority in international relations is Kant’s confederation of free states, where states enjoy ‘anarchical’ (equal) freedom. At present, this crucial form of freedom is being threatened by economic processes of globalisation, and by the resurgence of private authority across state borders.

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:

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,

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,


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.