New anthology: Early Modern Philosophy

Shapiro, Lisa & Lascano, Marcy P. (2021): Early Modern Philosophy. An Anthology, Broadview Press.

This new anthology of early modern philosophy enriches the possibilities for teaching this period by highlighting not only metaphysics and epistemology, but also new themes such as virtue, equality and difference, education, the passions, and love. It contains the works of forty-three philosophers, including traditionally taught figures such as Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, as well as less familiar writers such as Lord Shaftesbury, Anton Amo, Julien Offray de La Mettrie, and Denis Diderot. It also highlights the contributions of women philosophers, including Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Gabrielle Suchon, Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz, and Emilie Du Châtelet.

New article: Hobbes on treason and fundamental law

van Apeldoorn, Laurens (2021): Hobbes on treason and fundamental law, in: Intellectual History Review,

This article considers Hobbes’ contribution to the development of constitutionalist thought by contextualizing his treatment of the concepts of treason and fundamental law in De cive (1642, 2nd ed. 1647) and Leviathan (1651). While in Leviathan he adopts the controversial conception of treason as a violation of fundamental law that had been employed to convict Charles I of high treason in 1649, he draws on the original meaning of the term “fundamental law”, as outlined in the most influential early analysis of Innocent Gentillet, to deny that fundamental laws can constrain the rights and powers of the sovereign. He bolsters this position by treating fundamental law as natural, not civil, law. While citizens commit treason when they violate the original covenant that establishes the sovereign, citizens cannot appeal to a human court for violations of fundamental law by the sovereign (who must render account for violations of natural law only to God). Hobbes’ ingenious reconceptualization of fundamental law, hence, shows that, when understood correctly, the theory of treason embraced by parliamentarians could never support the violent resistance against, and overthrow of, a monarch like Charles I.

New article on automata in Hobbes

Bhorat, Ziyaad (2021): Automata in Hobbes: Three Heads of Cerberus, in: History of Political Thought, Volume 42, Number 3, pp. 441-463.

Some scholars maintain that the Hobbesian man, commonwealth, or both are analogous – or even identical – to an automaton. Yet automata as a concept remains relatively underexplored in Hobbes’s corpus. This paper aims to address this gap. Standing at the margin between nature and artifice, animate and inanimate, we find three heads of Hobbesian automata emerging from (i) the texts he translated, (ii) the mechanical artifices that surrounded him, and (iii) the physiology he greatly appreciated. These new contributions provide a fuller account of the rich, lively world of Hobbes’s political thought – one that moreover reemphasizes his Aristotelian influences.

New article on Hobbes and the Normativity of Democracy

Holman, Christopher (2021): “That Democratic Ink Must Be Wiped Away”: Hobbes and the Normativity of Democracy, in: The Review of Politics,

Hobbes’s preference for monarchical sovereign forms and his critique of democratic political organization are well known. In this article I suggest, however, that his opposition to democratic life constitutes the central frame through which we must understand some of the most important theoretical mutations that occur throughout the various stages of his civil science. Key alterations in the Hobbesian political theory from The Elements of Law to Leviathan can be interpreted as efforts to retroactively foreclose the emergence of a substantive democratic normativity that the prior theoretical framework allowed for or suggested. Hobbes’s opposition to democracy is ultimately so significant so as to fundamentally structure various key elements of his political philosophy.

New article on the case of the Virginia Company and Thomas Hobbes

Fitzmaurice, Andrew (2021): The early modern corporation as nursery of democratic thought: the case of the Virginia Company and Thomas Hobbes, in: History of European Ideas,

This paper examines early modern discussions of democracy in the context of a chartered company: namely, the Virginia Company. It examines descriptions of the Company’s constitution and politics as democratic. It focuses, in particular, upon a petition that William Cavendish (later the Second Earl of Devonshire) presented to the Virginia Company assembly defending the democratic constitution of the Company. Cavendish’s secretary, Thomas Hobbes, may or may not have assisted with drafting that petition, but he was closely involved in the debates to which it contributed. The discussion, therefore, provides a broader context for debates about the role of democratic ideas in Hobbes’ works. More importantly, however, it shows that sub-state bodies politic in early modern England, such as chartered companies, provided an environment in which political thought, including democracy, could flourish removed from the dangers of national politics.

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 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: The Political Theology of Betrayal: Hobbes’ Uzzah, and Schmitt’s Hobbes

Feisal G. Mohamed (2018): The Political Theology of Betrayal: Hobbes’ Uzzah, and Schmitt’s Hobbes, in: Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, 11-33.


Carl Schmitt’s interest in the writings of Thomas Hobbes is widely known, and clearly visible in Political Theology (1922). This essay explores the relationship between these two thinkers, especially surrounding the “protection- obedience axiom” that Schmitt strongly associated with Hobbes. As is apparent in Hobbes’ responses to the story of Uzzah, protection and obedience are more complex in his writings than might first appear. This essay considers these responses alongside those of John Donne, Richard Hooker, and Lancelot Andrewes. Schmitt tends to overlook this complexity, even as he comes to similar conclusions on the loyal subject’s exposure to the sovereign’s arbitrary violence. We will see that Schmitt is ambivalent about Hobbes, associating him with the advent of legal positivism, the strain of legal theory against which he continually strives. If Political Theology enlists Hobbes as an ally, then, it is on the point of methodology propping up Schmitt’s central argument: that political theory must be grounded in a sociology of the concept of sovereignty.

New Article: Materialism and Right Reason in Hobbes’s Political Treatises: A Troubled Foundation for Civil Science

Andrea Bardin (2019): Materialism and Right Reason in Hobbes’s Political Treatises: A Troubled Foundation for Civil Science, in: History of Political Thought, Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 85-110


After abandoning the approach taken in The Elements of Law, Hobbes used De Cive to establish his new civil science on a materialist basis, thus challenging the dualist foundations of Descartes’s mechanical philosophy. This shift is analysed here with close reference to the discontinuity in Hobbes’s use of the concepts of ‘laws of nature’ and ‘right reason’. The article argues that, the descriptive nature of mechanics notwithstanding, De Cive’s foundational aim left civil science with the normative task of producing its own material conditions of possibility until, in Leviathan, Hobbes went as far as reconsidering Plato’s philosophical commitment to political pedagogy.

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.