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.

Article: Hobbes’s Paradoxical Toleration: Inter regentes tolerantia, tolerans intolerantia inter plebem

Nicholas Higgins: ‘Hobbes’s Paradoxical Toleration: Inter regentes tolerantia, tolerans intolerantia inter plebes‘, Politics and Religion, 9,1 (2016).

Abstract: The source of Hobbes’s liberal view of toleration is a recognized paradox within his absolutist political sovereign. This article argues that Hobbes’s view of toleration is consistent with his overall political theory based upon his broader religious teaching, which leads to an epistemological skepticism on the veracity of religion, and as such among rulers toleration is not only allowed, but necessary. Further, this article argues that the inability of the sovereign to punish the private conscience of the citizen derives from natural right and the inherent limitation of law. Finally, this article examines Hobbes’s use of religious argumentation to support the inability of a believer to challenge or deviate from the religious commands of the sovereign.