Thomas Holden: ‘Hobbes’s First Cause’, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 53, 4 (2015)
Abstract: Hobbes maintains that natural human reason can prove the existence of a “first cause of all causes.” But he also maintains that for all natural human reason can tell, the regress of causes might recede to infinity with no beginning at all. I argue that this apparent contradiction dissolves once we take his expressivist interpretation of religious language into account. For Hobbes, the proper function of talk about the divine attributes, including talk about its status as the “first cause of all,” is not to represent the nature of the deity, but simply to express our reverence and humility before it.
Special Issue of Philosophical Inquires: Revue des Philosophes Anglophones: ‘Bacon et Hobbes : le sens d’un silence’ (June 2015)
The issue contains the following articles:
Jean Terrel, Hobbes et Bacon : une relation décisive
Arnaud Milanese, Sur le passage de Bacon à Hobbes : un système et ses tensions
Jauffrey Berthier, Prudence juridique et prudence politique chez Bacon et Hobbes
A new issue of Hobbes Studies is now available, including the following articles:
Noel Malcolm, ‘Hobbes and sexual desire‘
Abstract: Hobbes has long been associated with the sexual ‘libertinism’ of the Restoration period. The connections that are commonly made are crude, misrepresenting his philosophy; moreover, the attitude to sexual matters expressed in many of his published works was quite puritanical. Yet there are elements of his thought that could be taken to support a libertine agenda: hostility to Augustinian teaching on lust and chastity; the idea that marriage laws are merely human; a recognition of self-regarding elements in sexual psychology; and the idea that desires in themselves are not sins. On this last point, however, Hobbes’s distinction between desires and intentions to act, combined with his account of the role of imagination in desire, does make it possible to attribute to him a distinctly non-libertine theory of how sexual behaviour is modified in civil society.
Joanne Paul, ‘Counsel, Command and Crisis’
Abstract: Although the distinction between counsel and command in Hobbes’s works, especially Leviathan, has been often acknowledged, it has been little studied. This article provides background and analysis of this critical distinction by placing it in conversation with the works of Henry Parker and in the context of the English Civil War, especially as regards the discussion of prudence, interests and crisis. In so doing, three conclusions can be drawn. First, it becomes clear that for both Parker and Hobbes, counsel serves as a foundation to their arguments about the placement and function of sovereignty. Second, in grounding their arguments about sovereignty in the discourse of counsel, both authors – intentionally or unintentionally – undermine the previously critical discourse of counsel. Finally, we see that especially Hobbes’s engagement with and overthrow of the discourse of counsel profoundly alters of the terms and focus of modern political debate, moving from a ‘monarchy of counsel’ to a discussion of political sovereignty.
Gregory J. Robson, ‘Two Psychological Defenses of Hobbes’s Claim Against the “Fool”’
Abstract: A striking feature of Thomas Hobbes’s account of political obligation is his discussion of the Fool, who thinks it reasonable to adopt a policy of selective, self-interested covenant breaking. Surprisingly, scholars have paid little attention to the potential of a psychological defense of Hobbes’s controversial claim that the Fool behaves irrationally. In this paper, I first describe Hobbes’s account of the Fool and argue that the kind of Fool most worth considering is the covert, long-term Fool. Then I advance and critically assess two psychological arguments according to which the Fool’s policy of self-interested covenant breaking is prudentially irrational. The first argument holds that, taken together, the deep guilt from early-stage covenant breaking, the cumulative guilt from continued covenant breaking, and the high statistical risk of detection during high-volume covenant breaking (which increases greatly when one is desensitized to guilt) render the Fool’s policy irrational. The second argument holds that the Fool’s policy is irrational because it puts him at risk of adopting a psychologically intolerable view of his fellow covenanters and, specifically, the extent to which they can be trusted.
Andrew T. Forcehimes, ‘Leviathans Restrained: International Politics for Artificial Persons’
Abstract: This essay challenges the analogy argument. The analogy argument aims to show that the international domain satisfies the conditions of a Hobbesian state of nature: There fails to be a super-sovereign to keep all in awe, and hence, like persons in the state of nature, sovereigns are in a war every sovereign against every sovereign. By turning to Hobbes’ account of authorization, however, we see that subjects are under no obligation to obey a sovereign’s commands when doing so would contradict the very end that motivated the authorization of the sovereign in the first place. There is thus an important disanalogy between natural and artificial persons, and this accordingly produces different reactions to the state of nature.
This issue also contains reviews by Nicholas Gooding of Images of Anarchy: The Rhetoric and Science in Hobbes’s State of Nature by Ioannis D. Evrigenis, and by Juhana Lemetti of the Clarendon edition of Leviathan, edited by Noel Malcolm.
Peter Schröder (ed.) Thomas Hobbes, Behemoth oder Das Lange Parlament (Meiner Verlag fur Philosphie, 2015)
About this Book: A new German edition of Thomas Hobbes’s important dialogue Behemoth, or The Long Parliament (1681), translated, edited and introduced by Peter Schröder.
Peter Schröder discusses his new edition here.
Sandra Leonie Field: ‘Hobbes and human irrationality’, Global Discourse, 5, 2 (2015)
Abstract: Hobbes’s science of politics rests on a dual analysis of human beings: humans as complex material bodies in a network of mechanical forces, prone to passions and irrationality; and humans as subjects of right and obligation, morally exhortable by appeal to the standards of reason. The science of politics proposes an absolutist model of politics. If this proposal is not to be idle utopianism, the enduring functioning of the model needs to be compatible with the materialist analysis of human behaviour. In this article, I argue that Hobbes’s attempts to render his science of politics compatible with his materialism are only partly successful; a fuller compatibility is achieved in the political writings of Spinoza.
Robin Douglass, Rousseau and Hobbes: Nature, Free Will and the Passions (Oxford University Press, 2015)
About this Book: Robin Douglass presents the first comprehensive study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s engagement with Thomas Hobbes. He reconstructs the intellectual context of this engagement to reveal the deeply polemical character of Rousseau’s critique of Hobbes and to show how Rousseau sought to expose that much modern natural law and doux commerce theory was, despite its protestations to the contrary, indebted to a Hobbesian account of human nature and the origins of society. Throughout the book Douglass explores the reasons why Rousseau both followed and departed from Hobbes in different places, while resisting the temptation to present him as either a straightforwardly Hobbesian or anti-Hobbesian thinker. On the one hand, Douglass reveals the extent to which Rousseau was occupied with problems of a fundamentally Hobbesian nature and the importance, to both thinkers, of appealing to the citizens’ passions in order to secure political unity. On the other hand, Douglass argues that certain ideas at the heart of Rousseau’s philosophy—free will and the natural goodness of man—were set out to distance him from positions associated with Hobbes. Douglass advances an original interpretation of Rousseau’s political philosophy, emerging from this encounter with Hobbesian ideas, which focuses on the interrelated themes of nature, free will, and the passions. Douglass distances his interpretation from those who have read Rousseau as a proto-Kantian and instead argues that his vision of a well-ordered republic was based on cultivating man’s naturally good passions to render the life of the virtuous citizen in accordance with nature.