New article on the Rhetoric of Hobbes’s Translation of Thucydides
Campbell, Chris (2021): The Rhetoric of Hobbes’s Translation of Thucydides, in: The Review of Politics, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0034670521000711
In several key passages in Thomas Hobbes’s understudied translation of Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War, Hobbes’s Pericles directs audiences to distrust rhetoric in favor of calculative self-interest, inward-focused affective states, and an epistemic reliance on sovereignty. Hobbes’s own intervention via his translation of Thucydides involves similar rhetorical moves. By directing readers to learn from Thucydides, Hobbes conceals his own rhetorical appeals in favor of sovereignty while portraying rhetoric undermining sovereignty as manipulative, self-serving, and representative of the entire category of “rhetoric.” Hobbes’s double redescription of rhetoric is an important starting point for an early modern project: appeals that justify a desired political order are characterized as “right reason,” “the law of nature,” or “enlightenment,” while rhetoric constituting solidarities or publics outside the desired order is condemned. Hobbes’s contribution to this project theorizes rhetoric as a barrier to individual calculations of interest, placing a novel constraint on political life.