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New book: Leviathan on a Leash

Fleming, Sean (2020): Leviathan on a Leash: A Theory of State Responsibility, Princeton University Press.

Description

States are commonly blamed for wars, called on to apologize, held liable for debts and reparations, bound by treaties, and punished with sanctions. But what does it mean to hold a state responsible as opposed to a government, a nation, or an individual leader? Under what circumstances should we assign responsibility to states rather than individuals? Leviathan on a Leash demystifies the phenomenon of state responsibility and explains why it is a challenging yet indispensable part of modern politics.

Taking Thomas Hobbes’ theory of the state as his starting point, Sean Fleming presents a theory of state responsibility that sheds new light on sovereign debt, historical reparations, treaty obligations, and economic sanctions. Along the way, he overturns longstanding interpretations of Hobbes’ political thought, explores how new technologies will alter the practice of state responsibility as we know it, and develops new accounts of political authority, representation, and legitimacy. He argues that Hobbes’ idea of the state offers a far richer and more realistic conception of state responsibility than the theories prevalent today, and demonstrates that Hobbes’ Leviathan is much more than an anthropomorphic “artificial man.”

Leviathan on a Leash is essential reading for political theorists, scholars of international relations, international lawyers, and philosophers. This groundbreaking book recovers a forgotten understanding of state personality in Hobbes’ thought and shows how to apply it to the world of imperfect states in which we live.

New article on Hobbesian Laughter in Theory and Practice

Black, Zachariah (2020): Laughing with Leviathan: Hobbesian Laughter in Theory and Practice, in: Political Theory, https://doi.org/10.1177/0090591720952056

Abstract
Thomas Hobbes’s infamously severe accounts of the phenomenon of laughter earned the condemnation of such varied readers as Francis Hutcheson and Friedrich Nietzsche, and he has maintained his reputation as an enemy of humor among contemporary scholars. A difficulty is raised by the fact that Hobbes makes ample use of humor in his writings, displaying his willingness to evoke in his readers what he appears to condemn. This article brings together Hobbes’s statements on laughter and comedic writing with examples of his own humorous rhetoric to show that Hobbes understands laughter as a species of insult, but that there are conditions under which humor can be made to serve the cause of peace. Drawing on evidence from across Hobbes’s works, and in particular from an understudied discussion of “Vespasian’s law” in the Six Lessons, this essay theorizes the conditions under which Hobbes found witty contumely to be conducive to peace. On this reading, Hobbes models the discrete use of humorous rhetoric in defense of peace, a defense that will be ongoing even after the commonwealth has been founded. Hobbes offers insight into how we can remain attuned to laughter’s inegalitarian tendencies without foregoing the equalizing potential to be found in laughing at ourselves and at those who think too highly of themselves.

New article on Hobbes’s Politics of Monstrosity

Robbins, Nicholas W. (2020): Hobbes’s Social Contract as Monster Narrative: The Wolf-Man, Leviathan, and the Politics of Monstrosity, in: Polity, 52 (4),
doi.org/10.1086/710686

Description
This article reads Hobbes’s social contract through a monster genre lens, revealing the presence of an ancient narrative structure that deploys powerful symbolic forces. It argues that Hobbes creatively utilizes the monster genre’s mythic spatiality, linear trajectory, and subject positions—monster, victim, and hero—to compellingly present a fundamental problem plaguing humanity (wolfishness), as well as his political-theoretical solution (Leviathan). In this political monster tale, Leviathan, a heroic sovereign, conquers the wolf-man of the nightmarish state of nature, thereby making civil society possible. However, Hobbes potentially undercuts the success of his own political theory by framing his fellow citizens as monstrous wolf-men, and by associating his sovereign with a figure that, read mythically and symbolically, appears to be a complex hybrid that devours its subjects.

New piece on Hobbes: “Leviathan against the city”

Hoye, Jonathon Matthew (2020): Leviathan against the city, in: History of Political Thought, 41 (3), 419-449.

Description

Thomas Hobbes tends to be read through the lens of the nation-state. Recently, historians of urban politics have shown that borough politics were essential elements of the British politics, culminating in the civil wars. The purpose of this article is to contextualize the developments in Hobbes’s political theory within that urban history. Against the widespread interpretation that Hobbes’s theory of the state in Leviathan responds only to the ideology of national popular sovereignty, I argue that it also amounts to an assault on the practices of urban republican politics. To make my case, I triangulate the theory of the state in Leviathan using European ideological, local historical and textual coordinates. This perspective affords new insights into Hobbes’s understanding of democracy, republicanism, popular sovereignty and the state.

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; https://doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2020.1779466

Abstract
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

Abstract
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: https://doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2019.1628581

Abstract
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,
DOI:
10.1080/01916599.2019.1622329

Abstract
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,
https://doi.org/10.1080/09608788.2019.1613632

Abstract

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.