Essay: The Domestic Analogy Revisited: Hobbes on International Order

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.

Article: Difference without Disagreement: Rethinking Hobbes on “Independency” and Toleration

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.

Article: Hobbes on Natural Philosophy as “True Physics” and Mixed Mathematics

Marcus P. Adams, ‘Hobbes on Natural Philosophy as “True Physics” and Mixed Mathematics’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 56 (2016).

Abstract: In this paper, I offer an alternative account of the relationship of Hobbesian geometry to natural philosophy by arguing that mixed mathematics provided Hobbes with a model for thinking about it. In mixed mathematics, one may borrow causal principles from one science and use them in another science without there being a deductive relationship between those two sciences. Natural philosophy for Hobbes is mixed because an explanation may combine observations from experience (the ‘that’) with causal principles from geometry (the ‘why’). My argument shows that Hobbesian natural philosophy relies upon suppositions that bodies plausibly behave according to these borrowed causal principles from geometry, acknowledging that bodies in the world may not actually behave this way. First, I consider Hobbes’s relation to Aristotelian mixed mathematics and to Isaac Barrow’s broadening of mixed mathematics in Mathematical Lectures(1683). I show that for Hobbes maker’s knowledge from geometry provides the ‘why’ in mixed-mathematical explanations. Next, I examine two explanations from De corporePart IV: (1) the explanation of sense in De corpore 25.1-2; and (2) the explanation of the swelling of parts of the body when they become warm in De corpore 27.3. In both explanations, I show Hobbes borrowing and citing geometrical principles and mixing these principles with appeals to experience.


Book: Before Anarchy: Hobbes and his Critics in Modern International Thought

Theodore ChristovBefore Anarchy Hobbes and his Critics in Modern International Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

About this Book: How did the ‘Hobbesian state of nature’ and the ‘discourse of anarchy’ – separated by three centuries – come to be seen as virtually synonymous? Before Anarchy offers a novel account of Hobbes’s interpersonal and international state of nature and rejects two dominant views. In one, international relations is a warlike Hobbesian anarchy, and in the other, state sovereignty eradicates the state of nature. In combining the contextualist method in the history of political thought and the historiographical method in international relations theory, Before Anarchy traces Hobbes’s analogy between natural men and sovereign states and its reception by Pufendorf, Rousseau and Vattel in showing their intellectual convergence with Hobbes. Far from defending a ‘realist’ international theory, the leading political thinkers of early modernity were precursors of the most enlightened liberal theory of international society today. By demolishing twentieth-century anachronisms, Before Anarchy bridges the divide between political theory, international relations and intellectual history.

Radio Hobbes

Whenever I’m teaching Hobbes—or any great thinker, for that matter—I like to point students towards some good radio discussions of his thought. I’ve long directed them to this excellent episode of In Our Time, with Melyvn Bragg in conversation with Quentin Skinner, David Wooton and Annabel Brett. I recently also discovered this very interesting episode of Great Lives, with Steven Pinker and Noel Malcolm. And for a somewhat less scholarly discussion of what Hobbes might have to tell us about issues from online computer games and Bitcoin to naked rambling, there’s this on ‘Hobbes and Civil Disobedience’ (I assume, for Hobbes, civil and disobedience are words, which when they are joined together, destroy one another). You’ll notice I’ve not ventured beyond the BBC and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find something more sophisticated than the last offering here.


ADDENDUM: This episode of Philosophy Bites, with Noel Malcolm in conversation with Nigel Warburton, is also recommended (thanks to Juhana Lemetti for the pointer). And for Francophone audiences, here’s Luc Foisneau talking about ‘Hobbes: la vie inquiète’ for France Culture.

Chapter: From Chaos to Order: The Role of the Self in Hobbes’ Moralism

Francis Offer: ‘From Chaos to Order: The Role of the Self in Hobbes’ Moralism’ in Elvis Imafidon and Brenda Hofmery (eds.), The Ethics of Subjectivity: Perspectives since the Dawn of Modernity, London, Palsgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp.11-23.

Abstract: In this essay, an attempt is made to extrapolate from Hobbes’ political theory, his views on morality, as espoused in his seminal work, Leviathan.1 Hobbes’ goal in Leviathan was not primarily to evolve a moral theory, but because the socio-political situation that precipitated his theorizing was beginning to defile all known rules of morality, it becomes imperative to examine the place of morality in his philosophical construct. Besides, the book Leviathan also detailed Hobbes’ physicalist outlook, which greatly influenced his interpretation of human actions on the basis of materialism. Hobbes’ concern and enthusiasm for science underscore his belief that everything that happens can be accounted for by the law of motion. For him, “knowing” and “willing” are merely the appearances of subtle motions and they underlie our desires and aversions, which ultimately define our concept of good and evil. Morality is thus not hinged on some reality beyond the reach and control of men, as was often held by his predecessors — particularly before Descartes. Rather it is a product of human social dwelling, a creation of social actors.