Hobbes on Felicity

Aristotle, Bacon and Eudaimonia

in Hobbes Studies
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Thomas Hobbes’s concept of felicity is a re-imagining of the Hellenistic concept of eudaimonia, which is based on the doctrine that people by nature are happy with little. His concept is based instead on an alternative view, that people by nature are never satisfied and it directly challenges the Aristotelian and Hellenistic concepts of eudaimonia. I also will suggest that Hobbes developed it from ideas he found in Aristotle’s Rhetoric as well as in Francis Bacon’s critique of ancient moral philosophy in The Advancement of Learning.

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References

2

D. Rutherford, “In Pursuit of Happiness: Hobbes’s New Science of Ethics,” Philosophical ­Topics, 31 (2003), 380; M. T. Harvey, “Hobbes’s Voluntarist Theory of Morals,” Hobbes Studies, 22 (2009), 55–57; S. V. Kitanov, “Happiness in a Mechanistic Universe: Hobbes on the Nature and Attainability of Happiness,” Hobbes Studies, 24 (2011), 117–18; L. Foisneau, “Hobbes on Desire and Happiness,” Homo Oeconomicus, 31 (2014), 479–89.

3

Foisneau, “Hobbes,” 479.

4

Rutherford, “Pursuit,” 383.

5

T. Sorell, “Hobbes and Aristotle,” in Philosophy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. C. Blackwell and S. Kusukawa (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), 371; C. Leijenhorst, The Mechanisation of Aristotelianism (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 219–22; J. Lemetti, “From Metaphysics to Ethics and Beyond: Hobbes’s Reaction to Aristotelian Essentialism,” in Matter and Form, ed. A. Ward (Lanham, md: Lexington Books, 2009), 147–62; A. Brett, “‘The Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-wealth’: Thomas Hobbes and Late Renaissance Commentary on Aristotle’s ­Politics,” Hobbes Studies, 23 (2010), 72–102; I. D. Evrigenis, Images of Anarchy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 100–101, 110.

9

Skinner, Visions, 3:142–76.

10

S. James, Passion and Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 4–5. Most early modern lists of the passions were based either on Aristotle’s account, which reduced all variants of the passions to six, or the Stoic account, which reduced them to four. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. T. C. Faulkner, N. K. Kiessling and R. L. Blair, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 255.

12

C. Tilmouth, Passion’s Triumph over Reason (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 213–34.

14

R. Peters, Hobbes (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1956), 144.

15

Bunce, “Thomas Hobbes’ relationship with Francis Bacon – an introduction,” Hobbes Studies, 16 (2003), 42.

16

Skinner, Visions, 2:44, 52.

18

A. P. Martinich, Hobbes: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 67–69; G. Slomp, Thomas Hobbes and the Political Philosophy of Glory (Basingstoke: ­Macmillan, 2000), 50.

19

Strauss, Political Philosophy, 134–35.

22

M. C. Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 15.

23

D. McMahon, The Pursuit of Happiness: A History from the Greeks to the Present (London: Penguin, 2006), 6–7.

24

Nussbaum, Therapy, 31.

26

R. Kraut, Aristotle on the Human Good (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 4–8.

27

Kraut, Aristotle, 160; C. D. C. Reeve, Action, Contemplation, and Happiness (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 2012), 101–102.

28

Reeve, Action, 270.

32

McMahon, Pursuit, 64–65.

34

Seneca, “Consolation to Helvia,” in The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, trans. M. Hadas (New York: Norton, 1958), 111.

35

Nussbaum, Therapy, 291.

37

Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus,” in The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers, ed. W. J. Oates (New York: Modern Library, 1940), 31.

38

Nussbaum, Therapy, 30.

39

Skinner, Visions, 2:42.

40

Tilmouth, Triumph, 154, 228.

41

N. Rudd, trans., Horace: Satires and Epistles; Persius: Satires (London: Penguin, 2005), 43.

42

Plutarch, “On Tranquillity of Mind,” in Moralia, trans. W. C. Helmhold, Vol. 6 (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 1939), 471 D–E.

44

K. Thomas, The Ends of Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 15.

46

 Quoted in P. Slack, “Material Progress and the Challenge of Affluence in Seventeenth-Century England,” Economic History Review, 62 (2009), 579.

47

 Quoted in Thomas, Ends, 29.

48

Slack, “Material Progress,” 590.

49

McMahon, Pursuit, 195.

50

Bacon, Advancement, 245.

51

Bacon, Advancement, 247.

52

Bacon, Advancement, 248.

53

Bacon, Advancement, 249.

54

Bacon, Advancement, 250–51.

55

Bacon, Advancement, 249.

56

Bacon, Advancement, 653.

57

Bacon, Advancement, 249.

60

F. S. McNeilly, The Anatomy of Leviathan (London: Macmillan, 1968), 129–36.

61

V. J. McGill, The Idea of Happiness (New York: Praeger, 1967), 266.

67

G. B. Herbert, Thomas Hobbes: The Unity of Scientific and Moral Wisdom (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1989), 122.

69

Reeve, Action, 234.

77

B. Gert, Hobbes (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), 51.

78

D. Van Mill, Liberty, Rationality, and Agency in Hobbes’s Leviathan (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), 91.

80

Y. C. Zarka, La décision métaphysique de Hobbes (Paris: Vrin, 1999), 11; N. White, A Brief History of Happiness (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 45; Tilmouth, Triumph, 224.

82

Slomp, Hobbes, 44; Kitanov, “Happiness,” 124.

85

J. W. Mulnix and M. J. Mulnix, Happy Lives, Good Lives (Toronto: Broadview, 2015), 14–19.

86

Hobbes, Leviathan, 41.

87

Hobbes, Leviathan, 42.

88

9 Hobbes, Leviathan, 29.

90

J. J. Hamilton, “The Social Context of Hobbes’s Political Thought,” Modern Intellectual History, 11 (2014), 8–16.

93

Hobbes, Leviathan, 85.

94

Nussbaum, Therapy, 42.

95

C. Brooke, Philosophical Pride (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 73. I agree with Juhanna Lemetti that Hobbes does not have a unified notion of human nature in the classic sense. His early claims for the preeminence of the passion of glory sit uneasily with other elements of his theory of human behavior, such as his Aristotelian notion of the virtuous person, his description of the classical “great spirited” or magnanimous man, and what Bernard Gert has accurately described as Hobbes’s account of the malleability of human nature. Perhaps this explains, at least in part, why his emphasis on glory disappears in Leviathan. My point is that we have to understand the early importance of glory to understand his orientation to eudaimonia. B. Gert, Hobbes (Oxford: Polity Press, 2010), 42; Lemetti, “Metaphysics to Ethics,” 151–52.

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