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‘I Professed to Write Not All to All’

Diversified Communication in Thomas Hobbes’s Political Philosophy

In: Hobbes Studies
Author:
Eva Helene Odzuck Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Institute of Political Science, Kochstraße 4/21, D-91054 Erlangen Eva.Odzuck@fau.de

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While there are old questions in research on Hobbes regarding which audience he addressed in each of his different works – e.g. there are speculations that De Cive is addressed to scientists and Leviathan to the English people – another question has rarely been discussed and only recently reconsidered: Might Hobbes have addressed different audiences also within one and the same text, and if so, might he have intended to communicate different messages to different readers? As ‘Straussian’ as this question might sound, it does not require us to impose external principles of hermeneutics on Hobbes’s texts. As this paper will argue, there is strong plausibility for the claim that Hobbes himself believes in the possibility and the necessity of ‘diversified communication’ or, to state it differently, to communicate different things to different people within one and the same text. By analysing Hobbes’s passion-grounded hermeneutics that is expressed both in Hobbes’s political writings and in his writings on science and on poetry, I show that it is very likely that Hobbes wrote ‘not all to all’ but instead designed different arguments for different people. Employing the heterogeneity principle in interpreting Hobbes’s texts might thus shed new light on some persistent puzzles of Hobbes’s political philosophy.

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