Hobbes, Language and Philip Pettit

in Hobbes Studies
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Abstract

In this article I explore two aspects of Pettit's thesis about Hobbes' innovation with regard to the transformative and central role of language in thought and politics. First, I argue that while Hobbes had many debts to both traditionalists and innovators, he did break new ground in characterising language as in some ways constitutive of thought – a conclusion he came to as a consequence not only of his extreme nominalism, but also of his views on the exceptional sensibility of words. Second, I argue that while language is part of a matrix of the forces which shape politics, it plays a powerful and indispensable part in both saving and cursing society.

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