This article reads Hobbes’s social contract through a monster genre lens, revealing the presence of an ancient narrative structure that deploys powerful symbolic forces. It argues that Hobbes creatively utilizes the monster genre’s mythic spatiality, linear trajectory, and subject positions—monster, victim, and hero—to compellingly present a fundamental problem plaguing humanity (wolfishness), as well as his political-theoretical solution (Leviathan). In this political monster tale, Leviathan, a heroic sovereign, conquers the wolf-man of the nightmarish state of nature, thereby making civil society possible. However, Hobbes potentially undercuts the success of his own political theory by framing his fellow citizens as monstrous wolf-men, and by associating his sovereign with a figure that, read mythically and symbolically, appears to be a complex hybrid that devours its subjects.
Thomas Hobbes tends to be read through the lens of the nation-state. Recently, historians of urban politics have shown that borough politics were essential elements of the British politics, culminating in the civil wars. The purpose of this article is to contextualize the developments in Hobbes’s political theory within that urban history. Against the widespread interpretation that Hobbes’s theory of the state in Leviathan responds only to the ideology of national popular sovereignty, I argue that it also amounts to an assault on the practices of urban republican politics. To make my case, I triangulate the theory of the state in Leviathan using European ideological, local historical and textual coordinates. This perspective affords new insights into Hobbes’s understanding of democracy, republicanism, popular sovereignty and the state.
Hunt, Luke William (2020): Hobbesian causation and personal identity in the history of criminology , in: Intellectual History Review, DOI: 10.1080/17496977.2020.1738761
Hobbes is known for bridging natural and political philosophy, but less attention has been given to how this distinguishes the Hobbesian conception of the self from individualist strands of liberalism. First, Hobbes’s determinism suggests a conception of the self in which externalities determine the will and what the self is at every moment. Second, there is no stable conception of the self because externalities keep it in a constant state of flux. The metaphysical underpinnings of his project downplay the notion of a purely individualistic conception of the self, pointing to a positivist theory of criminology relying upon external forces. This theory is especially prescient with respect to twentieth-century variants of positivism that focus upon how social organization affects personality. In a sense, then, modern criminological theory is indebted to Hobbes’s focus upon the connections between externalities and the self; a focus that illuminates new ways of viewing responsibility and accountability.
Paganini, Gianni (2020): Early Modern Epicureanism. Gassendi and Hobbes in Dialogue on Psychology, Ethics, and Politics, in: Oxford Handbook of Epicurus and Epicureanism, ed. by Phillip Mitsis, OUP, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199744213.013.26
Two fundamental notions of Epicureanism took new life in modern political thought: that of the social contract, the agreed and consensual basis of law and authority, and that of the “state of nature” that precedes it. There is no question that among all ancient traditions the Garden was one of very few to base law and politics on the contract and consent of the contracting parties. Yet, by contrast with the Sophists, who emphasized the conventional aspects so far as to be open to the charge of pure relativism, Epicureans looked for a “weak” but “natural” foundation of the social contract deducing it from an idea or mental anticipation (prolēpsis) of justice based on utility. This approach was revived in the seventeenth-century Neo-Epicureanism of Pierre Gassendi who also reworked Epicurus’s and Lucretius’s outdated psychology, transforming it into a more modern “mechanistic” theory of mind. During the greater part of the 1640s Hobbes and Gassendi both lived in Paris and were in close personal contact. The same period was for both thinkers decisive for the construction of their works: the Syntagma philosophicum for Gassendi, De cive, De motu, loco et tempore, and Leviathan for Hobbes. This chapter explores the complex interplay between them, especially with regards to psychology, the foundations of ethics, legal theory, and political philosophy, stressing the important role that ancient Epicureanism and seventeenth-century Neo-Epicureanism played in the birth of a modern theory of individual rights.
Johan Olsthoorn (2020): Leviathan Inc.: Hobbes on the nature and person of the state, in: History of European Ideas, June 16, pp. 1-16; https://doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2020.1779466
This article aspires to make two original contributions to the vast literature on Hobbes’s account of the nature and person of the commonwealth: (1) I provide the first systematic analysis of his changing conception of ‘person’; and (2) use it to show that those who claim that the Hobbesian commonwealth is created by personation by fiction misconstrue his theory of the state. Whereas Elements/De Cive advance a metaphysics-based distinction between individuals (‘natural persons’) and corporations (‘civil persons’), from Leviathan onwards Hobbes contrasts individuals acting in their own name (‘natural persons’) with representatives (‘artificial persons’). These changes notwithstanding, Hobbes retains the same corporate conception of the state throughout. On the prevailing ‘fictionalist’ interpretation, the sovereign brings the commonwealth into existence by representing it. I argue, rather, that as an incorporation of natural persons, the commonwealth becomes one person through the authorized (i.e. non-fictitious) representation of each constituent member singly by one common representative (‘the sovereign’).
In this paper we deal with Hobbes’s elucidation of the political conflict caused by rebellious groups. First of all, we attempt to prove that groups are important characters in Hobbesian antagonisms. Secondly, it will be argued that the isomorphic structure that underlies all associations is vital to account for these disputes. To wit, the fact that minor corporate bodies are ‘similar’ vis à vis the State leaves a lengthy flank open to rebellion, since this homology may encourage their leaders to compare themselves with the sovereign and to challenge his or her power. Whereas the inclusion of this trait may seem at face value paradoxical to Hobbes’s absolute order project, we shall contend that it is actually a way of ascribing responsibility to the leaders of rebellious groups. Furthermore, as a subsidiary hypothesis, it will be claimed that the centrality of the theory of represented corporations is a result of Hobbes’s aim to erase, not rebellion as such, but only its tumultuous setup.