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Elliott Karstadt

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.

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Dorrit van Dalen

The seventeenth century was a period of major social change in central sudanic Africa. Islam spread from royal courts to rural communities, leading to new identities, new boundaries and new tasks for experts of the religion. Addressing these issues, the Bornu scholar Muḥammad al-Wālī acquired an exceptional reputation. Dorrit van Dalen’s study places him within his intellectual environment, and portrays him as responding to the concerns of ordinary Muslims. It shows that scholars on the geographical margins of the Muslim world participated in the debates in the centres of Muslim learning of the time, but on their own terms. Al-Wālī’s work also sheds light on a century in the Islamic history of West Africa that has until now received little attention.

Eros and Revolution

The Critical Philosophy of Herbert Marcuse

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Javier Sethness Castro

In Eros and Revolution, Javier Sethness Castro presents a comprehensive intellectual and political biography of the world-renowned critical theorist Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979). Investigating the origins and development of Marcuse's dialectical approach vis-à-vis Hegel, Marx, Fourier, Heidegger, and Freud as well as the central figures of the Frankfurt School—Horkheimer, Adorno, Neumann, Fromm, and Benjamin—Sethness Castro chronicles the radical philosopher's lifelong activism in favor of anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, and anti-authoritarianism together with Marcuse's defiant revindication of global libertarian-socialist revolution as the precondition for the realization of reason, freedom, and human happiness. Beyond examining Marcuse's revolutionary life and contributions, moreover, the author contemplates the philosopher's relevance to contemporary struggle, especially with regard to ecology, feminism, anarchism, and the general cause of worldwide social transformation.

John Henry

Hobbes tried to develop a strict version of the mechanical philosophy, in which all physical phenomena were explained only in terms of bodies in motion, and the only forces allowed were forces of collision or impact. This ambition puts Hobbes into a select group of original thinkers, alongside Galileo, Isaac Beeckman, and Descartes. No other early modern thinkers developed a strict version of the mechanical philosophy (not even Newton who allowed forces of attraction and repulsion operating at a distance). Natural philosophies relying solely on bodies in motion require a concept of inertial motion. Beeckman and Descartes assumed rectilinear motions were rectilinear, but Galileo adopted a theory which has been referred to as circular inertia. Hobbes’s natural philosophy depended to a large extent on what he called “simple circular motions.” In this paper, I argue that Hobbes’s simple circular motions derived from Galileo’s belief in circular inertia. The paper opens with a section outlining Galileo’s concept, the following section shows how Hobbes’s physics depended upon circular motions, which are held to continue indefinitely. A third section shows the difficulty Hobbes had in maintaining a strictly mechanistic philosophy, and the conclusion offers some speculations as to why Galileo’s circular inertia was never entertained as a serious rival to rectilinear inertia, except by Hobbes.

Douglas Jesseph

This paper will deal with the notion of conatus (endeavor) and the role it plays in Hobbes’s program for natural philosophy. As defined by Hobbes, the conatus of a body is essentially its instantaneous motion, and he sees this as the means to account for a variety of phenomena in both natural philosophy and mathematics. Although I foucs principally on Hobbesian physics, I will also consider the extent to which Hobbes’s account of conatus does important explanatory work in his theory of human perception, psychology, and political philosophy. I argue that, in the end, there are important limitations in Hobbes’s account of conatus, but that Leibniz adapted the concept in important ways in developing his science of dynamics.

José Médina

Since Euclid, optics has been considered a geometrical science, which Aristotle defines as a “mixed” mathematical science. Hobbes follows this tradition and clearly places optics among physical sciences. However, modern scholars point to a confusion between geometry and physics and do not seem to agree about the way Hobbes mixes both sciences. In this paper, I return to this alleged confusion and intend to emphasize the peculiarity of Hobbes’s geometrical optics. This paper suggests that Hobbes’s conception of geometrical optics, as a mixed mathematical science, greatly differs from Descartes’s one, mainly because they do not share the same “mechanical conception of nature.” I will argue that Hobbes and Descartes also have in common the quest for a different kind of geometry for their optics, different from that of the Ancients. I will show that this departure is not recent since Hobbes’s approach is already evident in 1636, when he judges the demonstrations of his contemporary friends, Claude Mydorge and Walter Warner. Finally the paper broadly suggests what is noteworthy in Hobbes’s optics, that is, the importance of the idea of force in his mechanics, although he was not able to conceptualize it in other terms than “quickness.”