Political Theory Cover

New article, ‘Hobbes and the Politics of Translation’, by Alicia Steinmetz

Steinmetz, Alicia (2020): Hobbes and the Politics of Translation, in: Political Theory, https://doi.org/10.1177/0090591720903393

This essay argues that Hobbes’s work as a translator was fundamental to his mature political philosophy. A proper appreciation for the significance of Hobbes’s lifelong engagement with the politics of translation clarifies both the relationship between Hobbes’s humanist and scientific work, and the meaning of his simultaneous critique and use of rhetoric in his political writings. Against the interpretation held by many scholars that Hobbes simply traded his early humanist interests for his mature political and scientific views, I demonstrate that Hobbes was consistently concerned with the political instability generated by the vernacular translation of classical Greek and Roman texts. In responding to this instability, Hobbes developed his geometrical approach to speech while also, through his analysis of the relationship between translation and metaphor, finding ways to employ humanist rhetorical techniques consistent with this approach. Yet I show that Hobbes continued to rely on translation in areas of speech where he thought science alone could not provide persuasive answers.