New article on the nature and person of the state

Johan Olsthoorn (2020): Leviathan Inc.: Hobbes on the nature and person of the state, in: History of European Ideas, June 16, pp. 1-16;

This article aspires to make two original contributions to the vast literature on Hobbes’s account of the nature and person of the commonwealth: (1) I provide the first systematic analysis of his changing conception of ‘person’; and (2) use it to show that those who claim that the Hobbesian commonwealth is created by personation by fiction misconstrue his theory of the state. Whereas Elements/De Cive advance a metaphysics-based distinction between individuals (‘natural persons’) and corporations (‘civil persons’), from Leviathan onwards Hobbes contrasts individuals acting in their own name (‘natural persons’) with representatives (‘artificial persons’). These changes notwithstanding, Hobbes retains the same corporate conception of the state throughout. On the prevailing ‘fictionalist’ interpretation, the sovereign brings the commonwealth into existence by representing it. I argue, rather, that as an incorporation of natural persons, the commonwealth becomes one person through the authorized (i.e. non-fictitious) representation of each constituent member singly by one common representative (‘the sovereign’).

New article: Glory and the Evolution of Hobbes’s Disagreement Theory of War

Arash Abizadeh (2020): Glory and the Evolution of Hobbes’s Disagreement Theory of War: From Elements to Leviathan, in: History of Political Thought, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 265-298

The centrality of glory, contempt and revengefulness to Leviathan’s account of war is highlighted by three contextual features: Hobbes’s displacement of the traditional conception of glory as intrinsically intersubjective and comparative; his incorporation of the Aristotelian view that revengefulness is provoked by expressions of mere contempt; and the evolution of his account between 1640 and 1651. An archeology of Leviathan’s famous Chapter Thirteen confirms that Hobbes’s thesis throughout his career was that disagreement is the universal cause of war because prickly, glory-seeking humans view its expression as a sign of contempt: although Leviathan abandons Hobbes’s previous argument that war is primarily rooted in vainglorious individuals pursuing domination, Leviathan’s ‘glory’ argument for war is a descendent of the older ‘comparison’, not ‘vanity’, argument.

New article stressing intolerance in Hobbes

Boleslaw Z. Kabala (2019): The return of the intolerant Hobbes, in: History of European Ideas, DOI:

Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan presented a paradigm of the social contract that has proven foundational in Western political thought. A proper understanding of the philosopher’s thought is thus of paramount importance. I argue that today’s case for a religiously tolerant Hobbes has missed an important part of the historical record. I first consider an obscure but important document, the second edition of the Humble Proposals. It demonstrates that leading members of a seventeenth century Christian denomination, the Independents, considered a state-enforced confession of faith. Independents are generally seen as tolerant, and one of the arguments for Hobbesian toleration is that Hobbes endorsed them. But the second edition of the Humble Proposals aligns with the possibility in Hobbes that the civil sovereign will impose part III of Leviathan on the Universities and treat its contents as a legally required confession of faith – one that may be necessary for security, and the avoidance of civil war. Hobbes’s endorsement of Independency alone cannot be used to argue that his work leads to religious toleration. The evidence I present reinforces an earlier assessment and alongside other evidence points to the return of the intolerant Hobbes.

New article on the eternity of the law of nature in Hobbes

Robert A. Greene (2019): Thomas Hobbes: the eternal law, the eternal word, and the eternity of the law of nature, in: History of European Ideas,

The predication of the eternal law served as premise and and foundation for the existence of the law of nature in the classical/medieval intellectual inheritance of Thomas Hobbes and his contemporaries. Unlike them, he makes no mention of the eternal law in his early writings, The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, and On the Citizen. His triple use of the expression eternal law of God in Leviathan is ambiguous and misleading. Instead , he is one of the first writers in English to assert the eternity of the law of nature. He does that by invoking a biblical-based expression, verbum aeternum. In On the Citizen, and its exegetical, theological identification with Christ, to establish that claim. In Leviathan he repeats his declaration that the law of nature is eternal nine times, spread across more than five Chapters and twelve hundred pages. Four of them are equivalently excised from the Latin Leviathan and the others remain brief assertions, unanalyzed and undefended, rendering their effect incidental and perfunctory. He also abandons the expression verbum aeternum (as well as eternal word, which he never uses).

New article on Hobbes, Lucretius, and the Political Psychology of Peace

D. J. Kapust (2019): Hobbes, Lucretius, and the Political Psychology of Peace, in: History of Political Thought, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 246-269.

This paper explores Hobbes’s relationship to Lucretius. Building on scholarship dealing with Hobbes’s knowledge and use of Lucretius, I show that in Leviathan Hobbes decisively rejected central features of Lucretius’ argument. Hobbes’s rejection of these features, in turn, highlights the distinctiveness of key features of his argument about the passions and language, the distinctively authoritarian version of his contract theory, and his ultimate rejection of Lucretius’ Epicurean project.

New article on the person and office of the sovereign in Hobbes’ Leviathan

Laurens van Apeldoorn (2019): On the person and office of the sovereign in Hobbes’ Leviathan, in: British Journal for the History of Philosophy,


I contextualize and interpret the distinction in Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651) between the capacities of the sovereign and show its importance for contemporary debates on the nature of Hobbesian sovereignty. Hobbes distinguishes between actions the sovereign does on personal title (as a natural person), and actions he undertakes in a political capacity (as artificial person and in the office of representative of the state). I argue that, like royalists defending King Charles I before and during the English civil war, he maintains that the highest magistrate is sovereign in both his natural and political capacities because the capacities are inseparable, though district. This position goes back to the treatment of Calvin’s Case by Francis Bacon and Edward Coke and has further precedents in medieval English constitutional thought. An important reason for Hobbes to include this doctrine in Leviathan, I suggest, is to provide a response to parliamentarians who employed the sovereign’s multiple capacities to justify armed resistance against the king. I show the relevance of this contextualization by intervening in two recent debates, regarding the possibility of constitutionalist limitations on the actions of the Hobbesian sovereign and regarding whether sovereignty is held by the commonwealth or by the person of the sovereign.

New Article: Hobbes’s great divorce. Civil religion in comparative and historical perspective

Jeremy Kleidosty (2019): Hobbes’s great divorce. Civil religion in comparative and historical perspective, in: Intellectual History Review, Vol. 29, No. 1


Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan is well known for presenting a political philosophy based on a mechanistic account of human beings that offers the pain–pleasure response (or the peace–fear response) as a basis on which to make political choices. Although it has been subjected to countless treatments over the centuries, its account of civil religion in Part 3, “Of a Christian Commonwealth”, based on a highly original reading of the Bible, is deserving of further examination. Following an overview of a long line of pagan and later monotheistic Christian and Muslim thinkers who advance the position that religion is a way of civilizing or uniting the masses, including Thucydides, Cicero, Augustine, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Pomponazzi, amongst others, I argue that Hobbes turns this notion on its head by arguing that religion can cause the de-civilizing of the masses, and indeed can foment civil war, leading him to the solution of separating belief from practice, with the former a solely private matter and the latter the exclusive purview of the state. In its Hobbesian schema, this great divorce of belief and practice – rather than a call for tolerance or pluralism – is sacrifice that is necessary in order to create the religious homogeneity required to sustain the body politic in the form of the great Leviathan.

New Article: The natural kingdom of God in Hobbes’s political thought



In Leviathan, Hobbes outlines the concept of the ‘Kingdome of God by Nature’ or ‘Naturall Kingdome of God’, terms rarely found in English texts at the time. This article traces the concept back to the Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566), which sets forth a threefold understanding of God’s kingdom – the kingdoms of nature, grace, and glory – none of which refer to civil commonwealths on earth. Hobbes abandons this Catholic typology and transforms the concept of the natural kingdom of God to advance a claim often missed by his interpreters: Leviathan-states are the manifestation of a real, not metaphorical, kingdom of God. This argument plays a key role in Leviathan, which identifies the kingdom of God as the Christian doctrine most subject to abuse. Hobbes harshly criticizes Catholic and Presbyterian clergy for claiming to represent God’s kingdom. This claim, he argues, comes with the subversive implication that the church possesses spiritual and temporal authority, and caused great turmoil during the English Civil War. As an alternative, Hobbes points to civil commonwealths as the manifestation of God’s natural kingdom, which is the only form his kingdom currently takes.

New Book: Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law by Kody W. Cooper (University of Notre Dame Press)

Kody W. Cooper (2018): Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law (University of Notre Dame Press)


Has Hobbesian moral and political theory been fundamentally misinterpreted by most of his readers? Since the criticism of John Bramhall, Hobbes has generally been regarded as advancing a moral and political theory that is antithetical to classical natural law theory. Kody Cooper challenges this traditional interpretation of Hobbes in Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law. Hobbes affirms two essential theses of classical natural law theory: the capacity of practical reason to grasp intelligible goods or reasons for action and the legally binding character of the practical requirements essential to the pursuit of human flourishing. Hobbes’s novel contribution lies principally in his formulation of a thin theory of the good. This book seeks to prove that Hobbes has more in common with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of natural law philosophy than has been recognized. According to Cooper, Hobbes affirms a realistic philosophy as well as biblical revelation as the ground of his philosophical-theological anthropology and his moral and civil science. In addition, Cooper contends that Hobbes’s thought, although transformative in important ways, also has important structural continuities with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of practical reason, theology, social ontology, and law. What emerges from this study is a nuanced assessment of Hobbes’s place in the natural law tradition as a formulator of natural law liberalism. This book will appeal to political theorists and philosophers and be of particular interest to Hobbes scholars and natural law theorists.

Table of contents

  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • The foundations of Hobbes’s natural law philosophy
  • Hobbesian moral and civil science : rereading the doctrine of severability
  • Hobbes and the good of life
  • The legal character of the laws of nature
  • The essence of Leviathan : the person of the commonwealth and the common good
  • Hobbes’s natural law account of civil law
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Index

New Book: Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes by Timothy Raylor (Oxford University Press)

Timothy Raylor (2018): Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes (Oxford University Press) (forthcoming)


Thomas Hobbes claimed to have founded the discipline of civil philosophy (political science). The claim did not go uncontested and in recent years the relationship of philosophical reasoning to rhetorical persuasion in Hobbes’s work has become a significant area of discussion, as scholars attempt to align his disparaging remarks about rhetoric with his dazzling practice of it in works like Leviathan. The dominant view is that, having rejected an early commitment to humanism and with it rhetoric when he adopted the ‘scientific’ approach to philosophy in the late 1630s, Hobbes later came to re-embrace it as an essential aid to or part of philosophy. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes proposes that Hobbes was, from first to last, dubious about the place of rhetoric in civil society, and came to see it as a pernicious presence within philosophy – a position from which he did not retreat. It offers a fresh and expanded picture of Hobbes’s humanism by examining his years as a country house tutor; his teaching and his translation of Thucydides, the influence on him of Bacon, and the range of his early natural historical and philosophical interests. In demonstrating the distinctively Aristotelian character of his understanding of rhetoric, the book also revisits the new approach to philosophy Hobbes adopted at the end of the 1630s, clarifying the nature and scope of his concern about the contamination of philosophy and political life by the procedures of rhetorical argumentation.

Table of contents

1: Noble Tutor
2: Civil History and Style in Thucydides
3: Poetry and Natural History in the Peak
4: Aristotle’s Rhetoric in the Schoolroom
5: Logic, Rhetoric, and Philosophy
6: Discovery, Proof, and Style
7: Rhetoric and Leviathan
Appendix: The Authorship of The Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique
List of Manuscripts