Arash Abizadeh: ‘The Absence of Reference in Hobbes’ Philosophy of Language’, Philosophers’ Imprint, 15, 22 (2015)
Abstract: Against the dominant view in contemporary Hobbes scholarship, I argue that Hobbes’ philosophy of language implicitly denies that linguistic expressions (names) refer to anything. I defend this thesis both textually, in light of what Hobbes actually said, and contextually, in light of Hobbes’ desertion of the vocabulary of suppositio, which was prevalent in semantics leading up to Hobbes. Hobbes explained away the apparent fact of linguistic reference via a reductive analysis: the relation between words and things wholly reduces to a composite of the relation of signification between words and conceptions on the one hand, and the relation of representation between conceptions and things on the other. Intentionality, for Hobbes, accrues to conceptions, not words.
Mark Somos: ‘Bible interpretation and the Constitution of the Christian Commonwealth in Hobbes’s Leviathan, Part iii’, Storia del pensiero politico, 2/2015
Abstract: Few aspects of Hobbes’s thought received as much recent attention as his religion; yet there are no comprehensive analyses of Hobbes’s biblical exegesis. To illustrate a possible method and the value of such studies, this article traces Hobbes’s strings of references in Leviathan, Part III. It shows that despite ascribing the authority to finalise, censor, and otherwise control biblical editions to the Sovereign, Hobbes preferred the Geneva to the King James Bible. The article also considers some implications of Hobbes’s Bible interpretations for the constitutional design of his Christian Commonwealth, including representation, the Christian Sovereign, anticlericalism, and the Second Coming.
Tomaž Mastnak: ‘Hobbes in Kiel, 1938: From Ferdinand Tönnies to Carl Schmitt’, History of European Ideas, 41,7 (2015)
Abstract: This article sheds light on intellectual politics under Nazism by looking at a crucial shift in the field of Hobbes studies that was marked in a congress celebrating the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Thomas Hobbes’s birth, organised in Kiel, 1938. Before the congress, the decisive voice in Hobbes studies had for almost fifty years been that of Kiel University professor Ferdinand Tönnies. Tönnies was purged from the university upon the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 and died three years later. At the opening of the Hobbes congress in Kiel, its convener, Cay von Brockdorff, declared that the phase of Hobbes studies shaped by Tönnies was ending and that a new phase, represented by Paul Ritterbusch and Carl Schmitt, had emerged. Against the background of a long tradition of Hobbes studies in Kiel, this article summarises Tönnies’s contribution to Hobbes studies; analyses organisation and proceeedings of the congress, paying special attention to politico-theoretical disagreements between Ritterbusch and Schmitt and to von Brockdorff’s exploitation of their rivalry; and contextualises Schmitt’s interpretation of Hobbes published in the aftermath of the congress.
Rachelle Gold and Jim Pearce: ‘Ferox or Fortis: Montaigne, Hobbes, and the Perils of Paradiastole’, Philosophy and Rhetoric, 48, 2 (2015)
Abstract: Between the publication of Montaigne’s Essais (1588–1595) and Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) rhetors became increasingly anxious about arguing in utramque partem. Paradiastolic discourse, fundamental to Montaigne’s early essays, is anxiously though expertly deployed in Leviathan. Paradiastole fuses the ability to see and speak about an issue from antithetical perspectives with the ambivalence such power arouses in. Beyond their skepticism, Montaigne and Hobbes share a concern for how phenomena can be interpreted and represented through language. Despite Hobbes’s desire for a method that would ensure constant and determinate linguistic acts that would render rhetoric supererogatory, Leviathan demonstrates his unremarkable affinities with mainline Renaissance humanists alongside his uneasy affinities with the Sophists. Both the humanist and the Sophist used the trope to probe and to persuade, though both were anxious about the reversibility of such rhetorical redescriptions. Paradiastolic discourses, we argue, integrate the cognitive procedures of philosophy with the judicative procedures of rhetoric. The trope operates through exploiting the reciprocity between similar qualities, as exemplified by the influential paradiastolic pairing of ferox and fortis.
Robert A. Greene: ‘Thomas Hobbes and the Term ‘Right Reason’: Participation to Calculation’, History of European Ideas, 2015.
Abstract: Three times between 1640 and 1651, once at considerable length, Hobbes used and accepted, and then mocked, repudiated and discarded, the ancient/medieval term recta ratio/right reason. These repeated fluctuations in his thinking and rhetorical strategy occurred during the writing of his three major treatises on moral and political theory, one additional note on the term in De Cive, and an unpublished commentary on Thomas White’s De Mundo. They are made obvious by his substitution of recta ratio for reason or natural reason when recycling passages from Elements of the Law for use in De Cive, and by his subsequent reversal of that substitution when revising other passages in De Cive for use in Leviathan. Despite incorporating recta ratio as a structural element in De Cive, he finally reverted in Leviathan to regarding the term as a deceptive verbal construct, non-existent in rerum natura, and ridiculing its users and proponents. Right reason carried connotations linked to it in antiquity and in the Middle Ages, and Hobbes’s reversals in his view and use of it, and his final dismissal of it, provide further evidence and justification for the now familiar modern claim that he was a herald of modernity.
In 2009 Istvan Hont delivered the Carlyle Lectures at Oxford on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith. These were (posthumously) published earlier this summer as Politics in Commercial Society: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith, ed. Béla Kapossy and Michael Sonenscher (Harvard University Press, 2015). They make for an intriguing and sometimes a quite frustrating read, not least because they contain many bold and provocative claims, often with only minimal evidence adduced in their support. While the book is principally about Rousseau and Smith, Hobbes plays a crucial part in Hont’s genealogy of the concept of commercial society in the opening chapter, which might be of interest to visitors of this site. I also suspect that most discussions of the book will (rightly) focus on Hont’s interpretations of Rousseau and Smith, but his analysis of Hobbes also merits consideration.