New book contrasting Hobbes with Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Marx

James, David (2021): Practical Necessity, Freedom, and History. From Hobbes to Marx, OUP

Description
By means of careful analysis of relevant writings by Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, David James argues that the concept of practical necessity is key to understanding the nature and extent of human freedom. Practical necessity means being, or believing oneself to be, constrained to perform certain actions in the absence (whether real or imagined) of other, more attractive options, or by the high costs involved in pursuing other options. Agents become subject to practical necessity as a result of economic, social, and historical forces over which they have, or appear to have, no effective control, and the extent to which they are subject to it varies according to the amount of economic and social power that one agent possesses relative to other agents. The concept of practical necessity is also shown to take into account how the beliefs and attitudes of social agents are in large part determined by social and historical processes in which they are caught up, and that the type of motivation that we attribute to agents must recognize this. Practical Necessity, Freedom, and History: From Hobbes to Marx shows how Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, in contrast to Hobbes, explain the emergence of the conditions of a free society in terms of a historical process that is initially governed by practical necessity. The role that this form of necessity plays in explaining history necessity invites the following question: to what extent are historical agents genuinely subject to both practical and historical necessity?

History_of_Political_Thought

New Article asking: How natural is Hobbes’s Natural Person?

Rilla, José (2020): How natural is Hobbes’s Natural Person?, in: History of Political Thought, Vol. 41, No. 4, 559-585

Abstract
This paper deals with Hobbes’s category of ‘natural person’. Although this notion could be interpreted in purely natural terms, namely as referring to the human body and its specific accidents (sensation, passions, speech and reason), it will become clear that its main trait is artificiality. To be more precise, we will show that a natural person is analogous to an actor performing on a stage. Since elaborating a character that acts in accordance with the expectations of an audience involves several tools of artifice, the title of the paper acquires greater significance and calls for a recasting: is Hobbes’s natural person natural at all? With the purpose of giving a definite answer we will demonstrate that its genuinely natural feature is the human body, understood not as a physio-biological object, but as the ultimate responsibility locus of the person’s performance. In other words, natural persons are natural insomuch as their bodies may be held accountable for their misdeeds.

Polity Cover_resized

New article on Hobbes and the Modern Business Corporation

Claassen, R.J.G. (2020): Hobbes Meets the Modern Business Corporation, in: Polity, https://doi.org/10.1086/712231

Abstract

Political theory today has expanded its scope to debate business corporations, conceiving of them as political actors, not (just) private actors in the market place. This article shows the continuing relevance of Thomas Hobbes’s work for this debate. Hobbes is commonly treated as a defender of the so-called concession theory, which traces the legitimacy of corporations to their being chartered by sovereign state authorities for public purposes. This theory is widely judged to be anachronistic for contemporary business corporations, because these can now be freely formed, on the basis of private initiative. However, a close reading of the crucial passages in Hobbes’s work reveals a more subtle view, which rejects this private/public dualism. Hobbes’s reflections on the companies of merchants of his day provide room for business corporations’ pursuit of private purposes, while keeping them embedded in a public framework of authority. Moreover, by criticizing the monopoly status of these companies, he opens up a way to integrate market failure arguments from modern economics into concession theory. The “neo-Hobbesian concession theory” emerging from this analysis shows how concession theory can accommodate private initiative and economic analysis, and thus be a relevant position in the debate about the modern business corporation.

Hobbes Studies Cover

Latest issue of Hobbes Studies

Hobbes Studies, Volume 33, Issue 2 (Nov 2020)

Articles

Book Reviews

  • John Marshall: Collins, Jeffrey. In the Shadow of Leviathan: John Locke and the Politics of Conscience 177
  • Vladimir Milisavljević: Courtland, Shane D., ed. Hobbesian Applied Ethics and Public Policy 182
  • Enzo Rossi McQueen, Alison. Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times 188
  • David Johnston: Raylor, Timothy. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes 192
  • Jeffrey Collins: Fukuoka, Atsuko. The Sovereign and the Prophets: Spinoza on Grotian and Hobbesian Biblical Argumentation 196

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly Cover

Time to rethink Hobbes on the Passions

Bobier, Christopher (2020): Rethinking Thomas Hobbes on the Passions, in: Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, https://doi.org/10.1111/papq.12322

Abstract

There is widespread scholarly disagreement whether Hobbesian passions are or involve a type of cognition (i.e., imagination). This largely overlooked disagreement has implications for our understanding of Hobbesian deliberation. If passions are intrinsically cognitive, then, because Hobbesian deliberation is a series of alternating passions, deliberation would appear to be intrinsically cognitive as well. In this paper, I bring to light this overlooked disagreement and argue for a non‐cognitive reading of Hobbesian passions, according to which, a passion is an appetite or aversion caused by, but distinct from, an imagination of a future good or harm.

New book on Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

Field, Sandra Leonie (2020): Potentia. Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics, OUP.

We live in an age of growing dissatisfaction with the standard operations of representative democracy. The solution, according to a long radical democratic tradition, is the unmediated power of the people. Mass plebiscites and mass protest movements are celebrated as the quintessential expression of popular power, and this power promises to transcend ordinary institutional politics. But the outcomes of mass political phenomena can be just as disappointing as the ordinary politics they sought to overcome, breeding skepticism about democratic politics in all its forms.

Potentia argues that the very meaning of popular power needs to be rethought. It offers a detailed study of the political philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and Benedict de Spinoza, focusing on their concept of power as potentia, concrete power, rather than power as potestas, authorized power. Specifically, the book’s argument turns on a new interpretation of potentia as a capacity that is dynamically constituted in a web of actual human relations. This means that a group’s potentia reflects any hostility or hierarchy present in the relations between its members. There is nothing spontaneously egalitarian or good about human collective existence; a group’s power deserves to be called popular only if it avoids oligarchy and instead durably establishes its members’ equality. Where radical democrats interpret Hobbes’ “sleeping sovereign” or Spinoza’s “multitude” as the classic formulations of unmediated popular power, Sandra Leonie Field argues that for both Hobbes and Spinoza, conscious institutional design is required in order for true popular power to be achieved. Between Hobbes’ commitment to repressing private power and Spinoza’s exploration of civic strengthening, Field draws on early modern understandings of popular power to provide a new lens for thinking about the risks and promise of democracy.