Morton Schoolman, ‘Flathman on Hobbes’, Theory & Event, 19,1 (2016)
This essay is a modified version of Schoolman’s introductory essay to a new edition of Richard Flathman’s Thomas Hobbes: Skepticism, Individuality, and Chastened Politics.
Gianni Paganini: Hobbes’s Galilean Project. Its Philosophical and Theological Implications’ in Daniel Garber and Donald Rutherford (eds.), Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Vol. VII (2015), pp. 1-46.
Abstract: This article focuses on De motu, loco et tempore (Anti-White) and shows the strong impact of Galilean science on Hobbes, not only for his scientific thought, but also for the construction of a new ‘first philosophy’ and for the treatment of theological topics. The context of Thomas White’s book (De mundo dialogi), the Aristotelian and Scholastic, especially Suarezian, background, and Cartesian philosophy as presented in the Objections and Replies to the Meditations are carefully explored in connection with Hobbes’s arguments. Finally, the author tries to demonstrate that in De motu Hobbes was not looking for a ‘fideist’ solution, but for some sort of ‘linguistic compromise’, according to his own conception of ‘first philosophy’ as ‘nomenclature.’ This ‘compromise’ was to be surpassed in the subsequent English Leviathan.
Special Issue of the Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy: Hobbes and the Law (19.1, 2016)
Edited by Anthony F. Lang Jr. and Gabriella Slomp.
This issue contains the following articles:
Anthony F. Lang Jr. and Gabriella Slomp, ‘Thomas Hobbes: theorist of the law‘
Abstract: This short article introduces the papers that follow on the topic of Hobbes as a theorist of the law. It provides an overview of Hobbes’ reputation as a theorist of law in both domestic and international theory. The paper summarizes the papers that follow and suggest how they fit into the wider literature on Hobbes, legal theory, and constitutional theory.
Larry May, ‘Hobbes, law and public conscience‘
Abstract: This paper brings forth the importance of public conscience in Hobbes’s account of politics and law. It connects this idea to the famous Martens Clause that played and continues to play a crucial role in international legal debates. The Martens Clause, part of the preliminary materials of the Hague Conventions, posits that humanity’s ‘public conscience’ should play a role in international legal norms concerning warfare when treaties or conventions do not provide guidance. The paper argues that Hobbes also appeals to public conscience in his construction of the relationship between law and politics. Rather than the private conscience that might challenge the sovereign, the public conscience is that which reflects moral principles such as equity which the paper argues is more important than justice in interpreting the law. The paper thus elucidates an important component of Hobbes’s theory and makes clear its relevance for international affairs.
Tom Sorell, ‘Law and equity in Hobbes‘
Abstract: Equity is clearly central to Hobbes’s theory of the laws of nature, and it has an important place in his doctrine of the duties and exercise of sovereignty. It is also prominent in his general theory of law, especially as it is articulated in the late Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England. Still, it is not more central to Hobbes’s ethics, politics and legal philosophy than his concept of justice, or even ascentral. On the contrary, his theory of justice is presupposed by his views about equity – in the sense that fidelity to a social contract is a condition of adjudication and definitive interpretation of law. Nor does equity contribute to a genuinely anti-authoritarian strand in Hobbes’s political philosophy. It is not as if, between the lines of that philosophy, Hobbes is a liberal. He does not think that the sovereign should exercise self-restraint because liberty and autonomy are good and sovereign self-restraint creates a space for both. Rather, he thinks that heavy-handed rule saps initiative, wealth and other resources from the people, making them less able to participate in or finance military action or internal state security. In other words, heavy-handed rule can make it harder for the sovereign to discharge the principal duty of sovereignty – ensuring public safety.
Patricia Springborg, ‘Hobbes, civil law, liberty and the Elements of Law‘
Abstract: When he gave his first political work the title The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, Hobbes signalled an agenda to revise and incorporate continental Roman and Natural Law traditions for use in Great Britain, and from first to last he remained faithful to this agenda, which it took his entire corpus to complete. The success of his project is registered in the impact Hobbes had upon the continental legal system in turn, specific aspects of his theory, as for instance the right to punish, entering the European civil code through Pufendorf, and remaining to this day. This is a topic of considerable importance at a time at which the UK is considering scrapping the European Union, with all the attendant legal ramifications that entails. But strangely, despite some acknowledgement of Hobbes’s contribution to European civil law, and specifically the German civil code, the larger legal context for his thought has not thus far been systematically addressed.
Abstract: I focus on Hobbes’s distinction between the natural and political persons embodied in one sovereign and show that, driven by their passions, ignorance, or bad judgement, rulers qua natural men may undermine the end they ought to pursue qua political actors, namely the protection of the well-being of the people. In particular, as legislators, they may make laws that are unnecessary, or that the people cannot endure, or that give rise to their impatience and discontent. I argue that in Hobbes’s argument, the notion of good counsel provides a safety net against bad commands being issued by rulers. I claim that the process of consultation of good counsellors is an essential component of Hobbes’s understanding of law-making. I suggest that the Hobbesian notions of counsel and counsellor provide a valuable framework to illuminate aspects of contemporary global law-making.
Maximilian Jaede, ‘Hobbes on the making and unmaking of citizens‘
Abstract: This article examines Thomas Hobbes’s views on legal citizenship in relation to sovereign prerogative powers and the conditions of rule by law. It is argued that the authority of Hobbesian sovereigns includes the right to decide whether individuals be admitted as subjects of the state, or treated as public enemies. While Hobbes’s specific understanding of the legal status of citizens seems to be inapplicable today, it is suggested that he provides us with a broader perspective on the making and unmaking of citizens, which could be used to evaluate attempts to deprive terrorists of their citizen rights. In Hobbes’s view, the sovereign does not only have a right to formally admit or exclude individuals, but also a duty to constitute them as citizens through civic education. Hence, it is ultimately the government’s responsibility if citizens turn into enemies of the state.
Anthony F. Lang Jr., ‘Thomas Hobbes and a chastened ‘global’ constitution the contested boundaries of the law‘
Abstract: Hobbes’ account of politics, law, and obligation has long been read, especially by realists in international affairs, as leaving no space for international law or institutions. This article argues that a more nuanced reading of Hobbes’ ideas about law and politics provides support for not only a defense of international law but a defense of a (chastened) global constitution. Hobbes’ constitutionalism does not derive from a separation or balance of powers but on two other elements of constitutionalism: the importance of the individual and the centrality of law. The article proceeds as follows: The first section locates Hobbes theory of law in relation to his theory of authority, drawing on David Dyzenhaus’s emphasis on the rule of law in Hobbes. The second section draws on theorists such as Larry May to find a defense of international law and institutions, what I call international constitutionalism. The third section turns to Richard Flathman’s interpretation of Hobbes as a theorist of liberal self-making, suggesting how his insights can be applied globally. The conclusion brings these thoughts to bear on the relevance of Hobbes for global law and politics.
Steven Michels: ‘Hobbes and Frank on Why Democracy is Overrated’ in J. Edward Hackett (ed.) House of Cards and Philosophy: Underwood’s Republic (Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, 2015).
Abstract: Thomas Hobbes envisioned a “state of nature”, the period before the establishment of civil society, where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. As a remedy, Hobbes preferred a hereditary monarchy. Frank Underwood is Hobbesian to the core. He wants to use the harsh and violent reality of political life to satisfy his desire for power and the glory that comes with it. Democracy, as he sees it, is little more than the state of nature with elections. Frank exploits the inherent shortcomings of democracy on his way to the presidency. The petty partisanship in Washington has led to an Underwood administration, which quickly and not unexpectedly flouts the Constitution. But tyranny is just another word for getting things done. As Underwood puts it, “Democracy is so overrated”.
David Singh Grewal, ‘The Domestic Analogy Revisited: Hobbes on International Order’, Yale Law Journal, 125, 3 (2016).
Abstract: This Essay reexamines Thomas Hobbes’s understanding of international order. Hobbes defended the establishment of an all-powerful sovereign as the solution to interpersonal conflict, and he advanced an analogy between persons and states. Extending this “domestic analogy,” theorists following Hobbes have supposed that a global sovereign would prove the solution to interstate conflict. Yet Hobbes himself never proposed a global sovereign, which has led some scholars to diagnose an apparent inconsistency in his philosophy.
This Essay seeks to resolve that inconsistency, drawing on Hobbes’s theory of the passions and his hope for radical political transformation. Hobbes believed that the solution to international disorder was not analogous but rather identical to the solution to domestic strife: both would be overcome through the establishment of a “well-ordered commonwealth.” Hobbes argued that a state capable of securing peace within its borders was unlikely to make aggressive war outside them. The radical transformation he envisaged in domestic politics would thus in itself mitigate and perhaps even overcome international conflict.
This “realist-utopian” position aligns Hobbes more closely with later social-contract theorists, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and John Rawls. It also invites a reconsideration of the foundational principles of international law, with implications for contemporary problems from humanitarian intervention to economic integration. Hobbes’s realist-utopianism provides a needed corrective not only to the narrowly defined realism that has long claimed his imprimatur, but also to realism’s rivals, which unwittingly share its premises.
Teresa M. Bejan: ‘Difference without Disagreement: Rethinking Hobbes on “Independency” and Toleration’, The Review of Politics, 78, 1 (2016)
Abstract: In arguments for a more tolerant Hobbes, Leviathan‘s endorsement of “Independency” is often Exhibit A; however, the conditionals Hobbes attached have received little attention. These—and the dangers of “contention” and sectarian “affection” they identify—are essential for understanding Hobbes’s views on toleration. Together, they express a vision of “difference without disagreement” in which the accommodation of diversity in religious worship and association depends on the suppression of disagreement through sovereign- and self-discipline over speech. This expressly antievangelical ideal of toleration as a civil silence about difference presents a challenge to the more tolerant Hobbes thesis, particularly in its recent “Erastian Independency” guise. It also raises deeper questions about what might be at stake in applying the labels of “intolerant” or “tolerant” to Hobbes today.