Hobbes's Fool the Stultus, Grotius, and the Epicurean Tradition

in Hobbes Studies
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Abstract

Among the paradoxical aspects of Hobbes's scepticism attention has recently turned to Hobbes's fool of Leviathan, chapter xv, where Hobbes makes a claim about justice that paraphrases Psalm 52:1: "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God." It is a charge of which Hobbes himself could be suspected, but in fact we see that it is on this startling claim that his legal positivism rests. Moreover it is embedded in a theory of natural law that Hobbes inherited from the late scholastics and that he shares in common with Grotius as a practical solution to the problem of scepticism. Indeed, the fool is not even honoured with the designation "sceptic." He is simply dumb, stultus, one of the mindless mob, or those led astray by priests. Hobbes's treatment of the fool as stultus is Epicurean, as we see in the Historia Ecclesiastica, where he gives the topos special attention, and Epicureanism helps us solve the puzzle of the fool.

Hobbes's Fool the Stultus, Grotius, and the Epicurean Tradition

in Hobbes Studies

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