European Journal of Pol Theory

Article: The two faces of personhood

Fleming, Sean. “The two faces of personhood: Hobbes, corporate agency and the personality of the state” In European Journal of Political Theory, 2017/10/30, doi: 10.1177/1474885117731941
Abstract: There is an important but underappreciated ambiguity in Hobbes’ concept of personhood. In one sense, persons are representatives or actors. In the other sense, persons are representees or characters. An estate agent is a person in the first sense; her client is a person in the second. This ambiguity is crucial for understanding Hobbes’ claim that the state is a person. Most scholars follow the first sense of ‘person’, which suggests that the state is a kind of actor – in modern terms, a ‘corporate agent’. I argue that Hobbes’ state is a person only in the second sense: a character rather than an actor. If there are any primitive corporate agents in Hobbes’ political thought, they are representative assemblies, not states or corporations. Contemporary political theorists and philosophers tend to miss what is unique and valuable about Hobbes’ idea of state personality because they project the idea of corporate agency onto it.


CFP: Second EHS Biennial Conference (Amsterdam, May 14-16, 2018)

The Second Biennial Conference of the European Hobbes Society will be held at the University of Amsterdam from Monday 14th to Wednesday 16th May 2018. The broad theme will be Hobbes’s De Cive, and the conference will include some invited speakers presenting draft chapters for Hobbes’s ‘On the Citizen’: A Critical Guide, which is under contract with Cambridge University Press.

The remaining papers will be selected from a blind-reviewed call for abstracts, and we thus invite abstracts of no more than 300 words (longer abstracts will not be considered) by the end of Sunday 7th January 2018. We welcome abstracts on any aspect of Hobbes’s thought, but preference will be given to topics that engage with De Cive. Abstracts should be emailed to in a Word file by the deadline.

Successful applicants will be informed by the end of January 2018. The conference will follow the usual format of the European Hobbes Society, with all papers pre-circulated in advance to allow for optimal discussion and feedback during the conference itself. With this in mind, successful applicants will need to have a full draft of their paper (no longer than 9,000 words, including all references) ready to circulate by Monday 7th May 2018. There is no registration fee for the conference, but, unfortunately, we are unable to cover travel or accommodation expenses of successful applicants.

Attendance at the conference is free and open to all European Hobbes Society members, but the number of places is limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. All participants are strongly encouraged to have a look at the pre-circulated papers in advance of the conference. Places will of course be reserved for everyone presenting papers, but if you would like to attend in a non-presenting capacity then please email to reserve your place. Those not presenting are welcome to serve as respondents to one of the papers.

The conference is generously supported by the Amsterdam Centre for Political Thought (ACPT) and the Challenges to Democratic Representation Research Group at the University of Amsterdam.

For further information or queries please contact the conference convenors:

Johan Olsthoorn (Amsterdam/Leuven):

Eva Odzuck (Erlangen-Nürnberg):

Robin Douglass (King’s College London)


New issue of Hobbes Studies

A new issue of Hobbes Studies is now available, containing the following articles:

Eva Helene Odzuck, ‘I Professed to Write Not All to All’

Alissa MacMillan, ‘Conditioned to Believe: Hobbes on Religion, Education, and Social Context’

Douglas C. Wadle, ‘The Problem of the Unity of the Representative Assembly in Hobbes’s Leviathan’

S.A. Lloyd, ‘Duty Without Obligation’

Jacob Tootalian, ‘That Giant Monster Call’d a Multitude’

Peter Auger, ‘The Books of Tho. Hobbes’.

Trust cropped

Two chapters on “Trust” in Hobbes’s Political Philosophy

Kontler, László and Somos, Mark, eds. Trust and Happiness in the History of European Political Thought. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

The notions of happiness and trust as cements of the social fabric and political legitimacy have a long history in Western political thought. However, despite the great contemporary relevance of both subjects, and burgeoning literatures in the social sciences around them, historians and historians of thought have, with some exceptions, unduly neglected them. In Trust and Happiness in the History of European Political Thought, editors László Kontler and Mark Somos bring together twenty scholars from different generations and academic traditions to redress this lacuna by contextualising historically the discussion of these two notions from ancient Greece to Soviet Russia. Confronting this legacy and deep reservoir of thought will serve as a tool of optimising the terms of current debates.

Contains a chapter by Peter Schröder on Fidem Observandam Esse – Trust and Fear in Hobbes and Locke and a chapter by Eva Odzuck on The Concept of Trust in Hobbes’s Political Philosophy

Pol Theory

New article: Hobbes and Slavery

Daniel Luban,  ‘Hobbes and Slavery’, Political Theory, first published online: October 6 2017 (DOI: 10.1177/0090591717731070).

Abstract: Although Thomas Hobbes’s critics have often accused him of espousing a form of extreme subjection that differs only in name from outright slavery, Hobbes’s own striking views about slavery have attracted little notice. For Hobbes repeatedly insists that slaves, uniquely among the populace, maintain an unlimited right of resistance by force. But how seriously should we take this doctrine, particularly in the context of the rapidly expanding Atlantic slave trade of Hobbes’s time? While there are several reasons to doubt whether Hobbes’s arguments here should be taken at face value, the most serious stems from the highly restricted definition that he gives to the term “slave,” one that would seem to make his acceptance of slave resistance entirely hollow in practice. Yet a closer examination of Hobbes’s theory indicates that his understanding of slavery is less narrow than it might initially appear—and thus that his argument carries a genuine political bite.