The Elements of Law and Hobbes’s Purpose

In: Hobbes Studies
Ioannis Evrigenis Department of Political Science, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA,

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The unauthorized 1650 publication of The Elements of Law broke Hobbes’s treatise into two parts that were inconsistent with his own division of the work. This obscured what is arguably the most important insight into Hobbes’s method: his account of how human beings use language to instigate and appease others. I review the evidence of how the publication history of the Elements resulted in a break between I.13 and I.14 that Hobbes did not intend. I then argue that as the description of the very method that Hobbes was using to counteract dangerous dogmatists and appease his fellow citizens, the discussion in question made sense in a work intended for private circulation but not in treatises to be read by those on whom the method was to be applied. I show how reading I.13 and I.14 together, as Hobbes had intended, shows that Hobbes never changed his mind about rhetoric.

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