Chapter 10 An Association without Power?

Gift, Recognition, and Democracy in the Hobbesian Conception of Early Christian Communities

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
Francesco Toto
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This chapter focuses on the question whether the main elements of early Christianity can be seen to be consistent with the basic assumptions of Hobbes’s political theory. The exemplary early Christian values are: communal life; faith in the “kingdom to come” and its power to reconcile interest and morality and thus to guarantee peace independently of State power; the strength with which charity and self-sacrifice assert themselves as signs of power and obtain recognition that in turn increases power, thus directing the struggle for recognition to moral ends and establishing democratic forms of self-organization in the life of the community. The question arises whether these elements can be seen to be consistent with the – at least apparent – basic assumptions of Hobbes’s theory, according to which humans, naturally competing for access to goods that cannot be enjoyed in common, are inevitably gripped by anxiety about the future, and, lusting after power and glory, engage in a struggle that can only be overcome by the repressive intervention of the State.

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The Philosophers and the Bible

The Debate on Sacred Scripture in Early Modern Thought

Series:  Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, Volume: 333