Article: Hobbes and human irrationality

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.

Book: Rousseau and Hobbes: Nature, Free Will and the Passions

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.

Article: Hobbes’s State of Nature: A Modern Bayesian Game-Theoretic Analysis

Hun Chung: ‘Hobbes’s State of Nature: A Modern Bayesian Game-Theoretic Analysis’ Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 1, 3 (2015)

Abstract: Hobbes’s own justification for the existence of governments relies on the assumption that without a government our lives in the state of nature would result in a state of war of every man against every man. Many contemporary scholars have tried to explain why universal war is unavoidable in Hobbes’s state of nature by utilizing modern game theory. However, most game-theoretic models that have been presented so far do not accurately capture what Hobbes deems to be the primary cause of conflict in the state of nature—namely, uncertainty, rather than people’s egoistic psychology. Therefore, I claim that any game-theoretic model that does not incorporate uncertainty into the picture is the wrong model. In this paper, I use Bayesian game theory to show how universal conflict can break out in the state of nature—even when the majority of the population would strictly prefer to cooperate and seek peace with other people—due to uncertainty about what type of person the other player is. Along the way, I show that the valuation of one’s own life is one of the central mechanisms that drives Hobbes’s pessimistic conclusion.

Book: Submission and Subjection in Leviathan

Michael Byron: Submission and Subjection in Leviathan: Good Subjects in the Hobbesian Commonwealth, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

Abstract: In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes famously characterizes the state of nature as a predicament in which life is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’ The only means of escape from that dire condition is to found the commonwealth, with its notorious sovereign. Hobbes invests the sovereign with virtually absolute power over the poor subjects of the commonwealth, and that vast and unlimited sovereign has drawn the reader’s eye for 350 years. Yet Hobbes has a great deal to say about subjects in a commonwealth as well, and he articulates a normative conception of a good subject. This book develops a novel interpretation of the role of submission in Leviathan, and it introduces the concept of subjection to explain the expectations Hobbes has for good subjects.

Article: ‘Hobbes on the Scientific Study of the Human Mind’

Laurens van Apeldoorn: ‘Hobbes on the Scientific Study of the Human Mind’, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 97,3 (2015)

Abstract: This paper considers Hobbes’ scientific study of the human mind and the method that structures it. I argue that Hobbes approaches the mind – as he approaches the inanimate natural world – in accordance with the method of “physics” as set out in the fourth and last part of De Corpore. I discuss this method and show how and why it applies to the study of the human mind, in particular in his most famous exposition of the topic in Leviathan. This understanding of Hobbes’ method allows us to reconsider and reject a number of criticisms of his work: first, that Hobbes’ scientific study of the human mind is inconsistent because it also relies on introspection; second, that his approach fails because it is not, and cannot be, fully deductive, as a result of which the introduction of psychological concepts is unwarranted; and, finally, that his scientific study of the mind is superfluous because he never sufficiently shows it is important for his moral and political philosophy to understand the mind in accordance with the method of physics.