The Place of Interests in Hobbes’s Civil Science

in Hobbes Studies
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Many scholars argue that Hobbes’s political ideas do not significantly develop between The Elements of Law (1640) and Leviathan (1651). This article seeks to challenge that assumption by studying the way in which Hobbes’s deployment of the vocabulary of ‘interest’ develops over the course of the 1640s. The article begins by showing that the vocabulary is newly important in Leviathan, before attempting a ‘Hobbesian definition’ of what is meant by the term. We end by looking at the impact that the vocabulary has on two key areas of Hobbes’s philosophy: his theory of counsel and his arguments in favour of monarchy as the best form of government. In both areas, Hobbes’s conception of ‘interests’ is shown to be of crucial importance in lending a new understanding of the political issue under consideration.

  • 1

    Richard TuckHobbes (Oxford: Oxford University Press1989) 28. See also Deborah Baumgold Hobbes’s Political Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1988) 3; Jean ­Hampton Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1986) 5; John Plamenatz Man and Society: A Critical Examination of Some Important Social and ­Political Theories from Machiavelli to Marx 2 vols. (London: Longmans 1963) vol. 1 118; D. D. Raphael Hobbes: Morals and Politics 2nd ed. (London: Routledge 2004) 13; Arnold A. Rogow Thomas Hobbes: Radical in Service of Reaction (New York: W. W. Norton 1988) 126; Richard Tuck Philosophy and Government 1572–1651 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1993) 326–9.

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  • 3

    Quentin Skinner‘Hobbes’s changing conception of civil science’ in Visions of Politicsvol. 3: Hobbes and Civil Science(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2002) 80.

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  • 5

    MalcolmEditorial Introduction13.

  • 6

    MalcolmEditorial Introduction15–18.

  • 7

    MalcolmEditorial Introduction19.

  • 9

    MalcolmEditorial Introduction101–2. See also Noel Malcolm ‘Hobbes and the European Republic of Letters’ in Aspects of Hobbes (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2002) 457.

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  • 12

    Quentin SkinnerReason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1996) esp. ch. 9.

  • 14

    SkinnerReason and Rhetoric428–30. Cf. Dean Mathiowetz Appeals to Interest: ­Language Contestation and the Shaping of Political Agents (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press 2011) 112.

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  • 28

     See also MathiowetzAppeals to Interest137. Cf. C. B. Macpherson Political Theory of ­Possessive Individualism (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1962) 1; David van Mill ‘­Rationality Action and Autonomy in Hobbes’s LeviathanPolity 27 (1994): 302; J. Judd Owen ‘Hobbes and the Paradox of Liberalism’ Polity 37 (2005): 144–5; Richard Tuck ‘Hobbes and Tacitus’ in Hobbes and History eds. G. A. J. Rogers and Tom Sorrell (London: Routledge 2000) 109; Elijah Weber ‘Rebels with a Cause: Self Preservation and Absolute Sovereignty in Hobbes’s LeviathanHistory of Philosophy Quarterly 29 (2012): 234–40.

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  • 29

    Gordon Schochet‘Intending (Political) Obligation: Hobbes and the Voluntary Basis of Society’ in Hobbes and Political Theoryed. Mary G. Dietz (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas 1990) 66–7.

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  • 30

     See also MathiowetzAppeals to Interest106–14.

  • 31

     Cf. James H. Read‘Thomas Hobbes: Power in the State of Nature, Power in Civil Society,’ Polity 23 (1991): 506–7.

  • 37

    Vere Chappell‘Introduction’ in Hobbes and Bramhall on Liberty and Necessityed. Vere Chappell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999) ix–x; Noel Malcolm ‘Summary Biography of Hobbes’ 18.

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  • 45

     Cf. Barnard GertHobbes: Prince of Peace (Cambridge: Polity2010) 37–8; Stephen Holmes Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1995) 81.

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  • 46

    Noel Malcolm‘Hobbes and the European Republic of Letters’501–2 509–10.

  • 47

     Cf. Miriam M. ReikThe Golden Lands of Thomas Hobbes (Detroit: Wayne State University Press1977) 97.

  • 59

     Cf. MathiowetzAppeals to Interest120.

  • 67

    Joanne Paul‘Counsel, Command, and Crisis,’ Hobbes Studies 28 (2015): 119–20.

  • 73

    Glenn BurgessBritish Political Thought 1500–1660: The Politics of the Post-­Reformation (Basingstoke: Palgrave2009) 312; Pierre Force Self-Interest before Adam Smith: A ­Genealogy of Economic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003) 142; J. A. W. Gunn Politics and the Public Interest in the Seventeenth Century (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1969) 66; Albert O. Hirschman The Passions and the Interests: Arguments for Capitalism Before its Triumph 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1997) 98; Susan Moller Okin ‘“The Soveraign and his Counsellours”: Hobbes’s Reevaluation of Parliament’ Political Theory 10 (1982): 50–5.

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  • 78

     Cf. MathiowetzAppeals to Interest125–7. For discussion of the Hobbesian conception of representation the authorisation of the sovereign representative and of the state as a fictional person see Baumgold Hobbes’s Political Theory 36–55; David P. Gauthier Logic of Leviathan: The Moral and Political Theory of Thomas Hobbes (Oxford: Clarendon 1969) 120–77; Hannah Fenichel Pitkin The Concept of Representation (Berkeley: University of California Press 1967) 14–37; David Runciman ‘The concept of the state: the sovereignty of a fiction’ in States and Citizens eds. Quentin Skinner and Bo Stråth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003) 34–5; Quentin Skinner ‘Hobbes on Persons Authors and Representatives’ in The Cambridge Companion to Leviathan ed. Patricia Springborg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007) 157–80.

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  • 79

    Okin‘Hobbes’s Reevaluation of Parliament’51 58–9.

  • 100

    Consider also James J. Hamilton‘The Social Context of Hobbes’s Political Thought,’ Modern Intellectual History 11 (2014): 15–16.

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