New Chapter on Trust in Hobbes’s Political Philosophy

Schröder, Peter (2017): Trust in Early Modern International Political Thought (1598-1713). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Chapter 3.2 on Hobbes)

Can there ever be trust between states? This study explores the concept of trust across different and sometimes antagonistic genres of international political thought during the seventeenth century. The natural law and reason of state traditions worked on different assumptions, but they mutually influenced each other. How have these traditions influenced the different concepts and discussions of trust- building? Bringing together international political thought and international law, Schröder analyses to what extent trust can be seen as one of the foundational concepts in the theorising of interstate relations in this decisive period. Despite the ongoing search for conditions of trust between states, we are still faced with the same structural problems. This study is therefore of interest not only to specialists and students of the early modern period, but also to everyone thinking about ways of overcoming conflicts which are aggravated by a lack of mutual trust.

This is the structure of the book:

Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Alberico Gentili (1552–1608): new ways of posing the problem of war and interstate relations; 1.1. Confessional strife and the question of trustworthiness among European states; 1.2 A new concept of the enemy and war: trust among equals; 1.3. Pirates and other enemies hors la loi: the untrustworthy foes; 2. Plans for universal peace in Europe: the limits of a balance of power; 2.1. Sully (1559–1641) and the Grand Dessein; 2.2. Crucé (1590–1648) and the Nouveau Cynée; 3. Jus naturae et gentium: the limits of a juridical order; 3.1. Hugo Grotius (1583–1645); 3.2. Thomas Hobbes (1588–1673); 3.3. Samuel Pufendorf (1632–94); 4. The struggle for hegemony and the erosion of trust; 4.1. Leibniz (1646–1716) and his guerre des plumes against Louis XIV’s claims to hegemony; 4.2. ‘Triomphe de la Foi: religion and interstate relations after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; 4.3. The Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s (1658–1743) project for peace and his challenge to early modern statecraft; 5. The doux commerce and interstate relations: trust and mistrust in the emerging economic discourse; Conclusion. The thing which was not; Bibliography.

Political theory resized

New Article: “The Light of Reason”: Reading the Leviathan with “The Werckmeister Harmonies”

 Michael J. Shapiro: “The Light of Reason”: Reading the Leviathan with “The Werckmeister Harmonies”, Political Theory, 45 (2017), pp. 385-415.
Abstract: In this essay I stage an encounter between Hobbes’s Leviathan and two versions of the “The Werckmeister Harmonies” (a chapter in Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s novel The Melancholy of Resistance [1998] and a film version of the story by the director Bela Tarr [2000]). The story contains a number of Hobbes icons, for example, an enormous stuffed whale and a “Prince,” both of which arrive with a circus that comes to a Hungarian town and precipitates fear and chaos. I argue that the story thinks (differently within the two genres) both with and against Hobbes, enabled by Hobbes’s aesthetic style (which I elaborate) while at the same time challenging the historical prescience of his political philosophy. Sorting the diverse ontologies of the story’s main characters helps us better appreciate Hobbes as a writer and distance ourselves from Hobbes’s solution to political disorder.


Political theory resized

New article: Of Wonder: Thomas Hobbes’s Political Appropriation of Thaumazein

Kye Anderson Barker: “Of Wonder: Thomas Hobbes’s Political Appropriation of Thaumazein”, Political Theory, 45 (2017), pp. 362-384.

Abtract: This essay presents a reading of the use of wonder in the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. In this essay, I argue that not only did Hobbes incorporate the ancient conception of wonder into his design for the emotional apparatus of the modern sovereign state, but that when he did so he also transformed it and other concepts. Previous scholars have paid close attention to Hobbes’s confrontation with ancient philosophy, but there has been no sustained study of Hobbes’s use of wonder, which was a concern of his over the entire course of his authorship. More broadly, this study opens up a place for the study of wonder in contemporary political theory as part of the broader reassessment of emotion.


Italian Hobbes Scholarship: New Book on Hobbes and Galileo

Gregorio Baldin (2017): Hobbes e Galileo. Metodo, materia e scienza del moto. Firenze: Olschki.

Abstract: This study analyses the profound influence that Galileo had on Hobbes’s philosophy, also through the mediation of Mersenne. The author highlights the many aspects of Hobbesian ‘Galileism': not only methodological and epistemological ones, but also conceptual and lexical analogies in the field of physics, to arrive at a comparison between the two authors on the subject of the structure of matter, revealing a common mechanistic conception of the universe.

Resized Florence workshop

Workshop at the European University Institute

From April 27-28 2017, 20 scholars, based in several different countries, came together at the European University Institute, just outside Florence.  This was our first workshop south of the Alps, and the first  to include an open call for papers.

Alan Cromartie (Reading) delivered a wonderful and wide-ranging keynote speech on Hobbes’s early intellectual development. The eleven other pre-circulated papers covered a range of subjects, from natural religion to conceptions of multitude and obligation. The workshop stood out for having a few very interesting papers on Hobbes’s metaphysics and philosophy of science.

The full program can be downloaded here.

We are very grateful to the EUI’s Max Weber Programme and Department for History and Civilization for having made possible this conference financially. Thanks also go out to all participants and attendees. The next European Hobbes Society workshop will take place in the very near future: June 8-9 in Edinburgh.


Firenze workshop 2

German Hobbes book

German Hobbes Scholarship: New book on Hobbes

Lau, Thomas / Reinhardt, Volker / Voigt, Rüdiger (eds.): Der sterbliche Gott. Thomas Hobbes’ Lehre von der Allmacht des Leviathan im Spiegel der Zeit. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2017.

Abstract: Thomas Hobbes’ reference to a ‘mortal god’ in Leviathan has been the subject of heated discussions for centuries. In contrast to the ‘immortal God’, Leviathan, an artificial person, is mortal in Hobbes’ eyes because he can theoretically revert to civil war at any time. If we consider Hobbes’ doctrine a reflection of his era, then by extension several epochs seem to be of particular interest in this respect. These epochs form part of this book’s structural approach.

With contributions by:
Arno Bammé, Oliver Hidalgo, Thomas Lau, Volker Neumann, Peter Nitschke, Eva Odzuck, Henning Ottmann, Andreas Pecar, Volker Reinhardt, Peter Schröder, Ulrich Thiele und Rüdiger Voigt.

Table of contents