The article investigates whether Hobbes’s political theory gives us reason to expect the systematic subordination of women. It argues that who dominates whom is a matter of victory in the quest to pull allies into ordered alliances. The primary means of gaining allies—force and wiles—depend on both skill-fitness and affective fitness. The analyses suggest that it is sex-linked and gender-linked differences in affective fitness—particularly in the intensity of men’s desire to use religious wiles—that most plausibly explain the subjection of women, both across the spectrum of states of nature and within civil societies. Although Hobbes’s political theory enables us to make sense of how it happened, there is nothing in that theory that either necessitates or should cause us to expect the systematic subordination of women.
Despite the vast amount of scholarship on Hobbes’s philosophy, his writings on sexuality have gone largely unexplored. This paper offers an interpretation of Hobbes’s writing on that topic. I argue that if we pay attention to his remarks on sexuality, we can retrieve a coherent account of sexual morality, one that takes a strong stance against doctrines of natural sexual morality, replacing them with a commitment to positivism about sexual norms. With this reconstruction of the Hobbesian view of sexual morality in hand, I conclude by exploring some of its implications from a contemporary feminist perspective.
This article challenges the idea that Hobbes presents a negative anthropology and shows, to the contrary, that there is a thick web of social relations in his state of nature and laws of nature. It considers the contradiction between human natural equality claimed by Hobbes, and female subjection that de facto characterizes most of his passages on gender relations. The key to this puzzle is found in comparison of the notions of conquest and consent, and of acquisition and institution, comparisons that establish a similarity between paternal authority and despotic dominion. A step towards the solution is provided by the hypothesis that the divide between “vainglorious” and “moderate” is gendered, with women more disposed to moderation than men. This can be explained by the idea that, “for society’s sake,” women in the state of nature appreciate more the advantages of long-term cooperation, even at the price of some subordination.
This paper offers a systematic analysis of Hobbes’s practical political thought. Hobbes’s abstract philosophy is rightly celebrated, but he also gave much practical advice on how to avoid disorder. Yet he is typically interpreted too narrowly in this respect, especially by those who only read him economistically. Other scholars supplement this economistic focus with sociological or political interpretations, but to my knowledge, no one stresses all three aspects of his thought. This paper thus examines each of Hobbes’s practical proposals for avoiding corruption and a state of nature. Hobbes clearly uses economistic, sociological and political approaches, which involve shaping incentives, desires/preferences, and opportunities, respectively. This intentionally anachronistic framework helps us see further, highlighting Hobbes’s rich and wide-ranging practical proposals for avoiding disorder – a crucial part of his theory.