Has Hobbesian moral and political theory been fundamentally misinterpreted by most of his readers? Since the criticism of John Bramhall, Hobbes has generally been regarded as advancing a moral and political theory that is antithetical to classical natural law theory. Kody Cooper challenges this traditional interpretation of Hobbes in Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law. Hobbes affirms two essential theses of classical natural law theory: the capacity of practical reason to grasp intelligible goods or reasons for action and the legally binding character of the practical requirements essential to the pursuit of human flourishing. Hobbes’s novel contribution lies principally in his formulation of a thin theory of the good. This book seeks to prove that Hobbes has more in common with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of natural law philosophy than has been recognized. According to Cooper, Hobbes affirms a realistic philosophy as well as biblical revelation as the ground of his philosophical-theological anthropology and his moral and civil science. In addition, Cooper contends that Hobbes’s thought, although transformative in important ways, also has important structural continuities with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of practical reason, theology, social ontology, and law. What emerges from this study is a nuanced assessment of Hobbes’s place in the natural law tradition as a formulator of natural law liberalism. This book will appeal to political theorists and philosophers and be of particular interest to Hobbes scholars and natural law theorists.
Table of contents
- The foundations of Hobbes’s natural law philosophy
- Hobbesian moral and civil science : rereading the doctrine of severability
- Hobbes and the good of life
- The legal character of the laws of nature
- The essence of Leviathan : the person of the commonwealth and the common good
- Hobbes’s natural law account of civil law
Thomas Hobbes claimed to have founded the discipline of civil philosophy (political science). The claim did not go uncontested and in recent years the relationship of philosophical reasoning to rhetorical persuasion in Hobbes’s work has become a significant area of discussion, as scholars attempt to align his disparaging remarks about rhetoric with his dazzling practice of it in works like Leviathan. The dominant view is that, having rejected an early commitment to humanism and with it rhetoric when he adopted the ‘scientific’ approach to philosophy in the late 1630s, Hobbes later came to re-embrace it as an essential aid to or part of philosophy. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes proposes that Hobbes was, from first to last, dubious about the place of rhetoric in civil society, and came to see it as a pernicious presence within philosophy – a position from which he did not retreat. It offers a fresh and expanded picture of Hobbes’s humanism by examining his years as a country house tutor; his teaching and his translation of Thucydides, the influence on him of Bacon, and the range of his early natural historical and philosophical interests. In demonstrating the distinctively Aristotelian character of his understanding of rhetoric, the book also revisits the new approach to philosophy Hobbes adopted at the end of the 1630s, clarifying the nature and scope of his concern about the contamination of philosophy and political life by the procedures of rhetorical argumentation.
Table of contents
1: Noble Tutor
2: Civil History and Style in Thucydides
3: Poetry and Natural History in the Peak
4: Aristotle’s Rhetoric in the Schoolroom
5: Logic, Rhetoric, and Philosophy
6: Discovery, Proof, and Style
7: Rhetoric and Leviathan
Appendix: The Authorship of The Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique
List of Manuscripts
How David Hume and Adam Smith forged a new way of thinking about the modern state
What is the modern state? Conspicuously undertheorized in recent political theory, this question persistently animated the best minds of the Enlightenment. Recovering David Hume and Adam Smith’s long-underappreciated contributions to the history of political thought, The Opinion of Mankind considers how, following Thomas Hobbes’s epochal intervention in the mid-seventeenth century, subsequent thinkers grappled with explaining how the state came into being, what it fundamentally might be, and how it could claim rightful authority over those subject to its power.
Hobbes has cast a long shadow over Western political thought, particularly regarding the theory of the state. This book shows how Hume and Smith, the two leading lights of the Scottish Enlightenment, forged an alternative way of thinking about the organization of modern politics. They did this in part by going back to the foundations: rejecting Hobbes’s vision of human nature and his arguments about our capacity to form stable societies over time. In turn, this was harnessed to a deep reconceptualization of how to think philosophically about politics in a secular world. The result was an emphasis on the “opinion of mankind,” the necessary psychological basis of all political organization.
Table of contents
- Chapter 1: Sociability
- Chapter 2: History and the Family
- Chapter 3: The State without Sovereignty
- Chapter 4: Rousseau’s Return to Hobbes
- Chapter 5: Adam Smith’s Political Theory of Opinion
- Chapter 6: Alternatives and Applications
This paper examines Hobbes’s use of religious rhetoric, specifically his definitions of the terms grace, faith, and future words in his explanation of the nature and origins of obligation. Through categorization and analysis of Hobbes’s different forms of obligation, paying special attention to the religious rhetoric of the false forms, it becomes evident that Hobbes’s view of obligation is designed not only to establish a political order, but to undermine man’s obligation to God, and as such, remove the possibility of competing obligation in the life of the citizen, and thereby reduce the cause of civil wars.
Readers of Hobbes have sought to account for differences between the arguments of his most influential texts. In De cive Hobbes (tepidly) endorsed apostolic structures of spiritual authority, while in Leviathan he at last unleashed his vehement anticlericalism. I argue that these disparities do not reflect an identifiable change in Hobbes’s ideas or principles over time. Rather, the political context in which Hobbes composed his treatises drastically altered over the course of his writing career, and the Hobbesian theoretical significance of those contextual developments best accounts for some ecclesiological inconsistencies across his oeuvre. There was, throughout the brief and tumultuous period after the regicide during which Hobbes composed Leviathan, no sovereign power in England to whom he should defer, and consequently he acquired certain liberties that subjects in a civitas forgo. Those included the renewal of his right to wage a ‘war of pens’ against High Anglican episcopal power.
Hobbes left a complicated legacy for the English Whigs. They thought that his Leviathan was all too powerful, but they found other elements in his thought more appealing – mostly his anticlericalism. Still, the precise relationship between Hobbes and the Whigs has remained underexplored, while some still argue that Hobbes was simply too much of an absolutist for the Whigs to rely on his political ideas. This article attempts to show that Hobbes was, in fact, recruited by proto- and early Whigs for their causes. It shows how Hobbesian ideas were used in the toleration debates of the 1660s and 1670s, and even in debates on human reason and liberty of conscience. Then it demonstrates how similar Hobbesian principles, and even phrases, were used subsequently in the formative years of Whiggism from the 1680s to the 1720s, by thinkers who were worried, as Hobbes was, about the political aspirations of the Church. By collecting a series of prominent thinkers who are associated with Whiggism and who engaged with Hobbes in various ways – including Buckingham, Marvell, Cavendish, Warren, Blount, Tindal, Trenchard and Gordon – this article shows that Hobbes was employed systematically in the service of Whig causes, such as limited toleration, civil religion and an opposition to religious persecution.