New Hobbes Studies Special Issue dedicated to the career and work of Professor Johann Sommerville

Hobbes Studies, Special Issue (March 2022)


Book Reviews

New article: A Bridge between Art and Philosophy: The Case of Thomas Hobbes

Skinner, Quentin (2022): A Bridge between Art and Philosophy: The Case of Thomas Hobbes, in: European Review,

The leading question raised by the rhetoricians of classical antiquity was how to speak with maximum persuasive force. You must find the means, they answered, to enable your readers to see what you are arguing. This initially gave rise to a preoccupation with visual metaphors and other so-called figures of speech. Much later, with the development of the printed book, this also led to the practice of inserting actual figures into books to provide visual summaries of their arguments. Here, one pioneer was Thomas Hobbes, and this article offers an interpretation of the frontispieces he included in his two main works of political philosophy, De cive and Leviathan. The moral Hobbes aims to convey is that we have no alternative but to submit to the protecting power of the sovereign state if we wish to live in security and peace.

New article on Hobbes’ Biological Rhetoric and the Covenant

Kuschel, Gonzalo Bustamante (2021): Hobbes’ Biological Rhetoric and the Covenant, in: Philosophy & Rhetoric.

For Victoria Kahn, Hobbes’ argument that fear of violent death is “the passion to be reckoned upon” in explaining what inclines men to peace must be interpreted as a mimetic argument. However, Kahn then notes a paradox that makes Hobbes’ thinking problematic: whereas love and the desires are appetites that produce an imitative effect, fear is different. Though also a passion, fear lacks that capacity to produce a mimetic effect or, therefore, to generate a contract. My hypothesis is that resolving the dilemma presented in Kahn’s interpretation of Hobbes requires a shift in attention from mimesis to rhetoric and, more specifically, to biological rhetoric as defined by Nancy Struever. This approach to Hobbes makes it possible to understand the rhetorical role of fear in generating and maintaining the social contract, and how the problem that Kahn signals —the impotence of fear in relation to mimesis — can be resolved.

New article on Hobbes and authoritarian leadership

Patapan, Haig (2022): The modern manual of authoritarian leadership, in: Democratization,

The rise of modern authoritarianism is distinguished by its increasing sophistication in the techniques of authoritarian rule. Is it possible to comprehend these modern authoritarian techniques within a larger framework that accounts for their theoretical provenance, interrelationship and efficacy? This article argues that the nature and structure of the modern state has shaped the form and expression of authoritarian rule. More specifically, it shows how Thomas Hobbes, the influential theoretical founder of the modern state, can account for the modern “manual” of authoritarian leadership, with its distinctive use of rule of law and constitutions, voting and elections, and a free marketplace as means to enhance power and consolidate rule. Understanding the theoretical foundations of this modern manual is valuable for providing new insights into the efficacy of these techniques and thereby the dangers posed by modern authoritarians and the means to counter their threat.

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,

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.

New collection of essays: A Companion to Hobbes

Adams, Marcus P. (ed.) (2021): A Companion to Hobbes. (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy). John Wiley & Sons.


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.