Hobbes, in both the Elements of Law and Leviathan, argues that a wide variety of terms – including ‘good’, ‘bad’, and the names of virtues and vices – have a double and inconstant signification. This paper explores and explains that theory of Hobbes’s. (Two other interpretations are discussed: Pettit’s discussion in terms of indexicals, and Alexandra’s in terms of sense and reference.) This inconstancy of signification has considerable potential to cause confusion and conflict. Given those practical consequences, it is of some importance for Hobbes to find a solution to this problem. The paper examines several possible Hobbesian solutions to the problem. There is reason to think that these suggested solutions cannot completely solve the problem. Hobbes appears to believe that an appropriately powerful sovereign can resolve such problems when necessary, but this is a practical solution that relies on sovereign power, and the difficulty is never in principle resolved.
Few passages in Hobbes’s writings have generated as much critical interest as the notorious reply to the fool – one who believes it is reasonable to renege on our promises whenever it is advantageous for us to do so. In his reply, Hobbes appears to argue that it is never reasonable to renege on our promises because doing so is never in our prudential interest. The problem is not only that this reply seems wrong, but further that it seems inconsistent with Hobbes’s own philosophical commitments. This research note argues that the reply makes sense if we are willing to read it as an incompletely worked-out claim about the prudence of sometimes preventing oneself from being fully prudent in the future.
Hobbes surely spent the ten years (1641–1651) of greatest significance for his philosophical career on the Continent, in France, above all, in Paris. It was during this period that he published De cive; wrote the De motu, loco et tempore; produced a draft of the entire Leviathan as well as most of De corpore. His complicated relationship with Descartes has been studied closely, and Mersenne’s role has become clearer. There remains however the task of more carefully delineating the contours of Hobbes’s relations with the circles of “learned libertinism.” The Libertinism which will be dealt with here was not only French, instead of English, but also “theoretical” and “intellectual” rather than practical, and nothing at all sexual, contrary to the common usage of that word in the current language. French Libertinism was a philosophical trend aimed at promoting a non-conformist approach to religion, history, morals, and even politics.
Hobbes, in his political writing, is generally understood to be arguing for absolutism. I argue that despite apparently supporting absolutism, Hobbes, in Leviathan, also undermines that absolutism in at least two and possibly three ways. First, he makes sovereignty conditional upon the sovereign’s ability to ensure the safety of the people. Second and crucially, he argues that subjects have inalienable rights, rights that are held even against the sovereign. When the subjects’ preservation is threatened they are no longer obliged to obey the sovereign. Third, there is also a possible limitation on the absolute power of the sovereign in the form of restrictions Hobbes puts in place on what laws he may legitimately make. Finally, Hobbesian absolutism is compared to the absolutism of Carl Schmitt. This exercise demonstrates the limitations that Hobbes places on the power and authority of the sovereign.
J. Matthew Hoye
Scholars debate whether Hobbes held to a command theory of law or to a natural law theory, and to what extent they are compatible. Curiously, however, Hobbes summarizes his own teachings by claiming that it is “natural justice” that sovereigns should study, an idea that recalls ancient virtue ethics and which is seemingly incompatible with both command and natural law theory. The purpose of this article is to explicate the general significance of natural justice in Leviathan. It is argued that below the formal and ideological claims regarding the law’s legitimacy, the effective ground of the legitimacy of both the civil and natural laws is sovereign virtue. In turn, it is argued that the model for this idea was found in Aristotle. As such, this article constitutes a general recasting of Hobbes’s legal philosophy with a focus on the natural person of the sovereign.
Bruce S. Bennett and Moletlanyi Tshipa
The Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI) is a theory in physics which proposes that, rather than quantum-level events being resolved randomly as according to the Copenhagen Interpretation, the universe constantly divides into different versions or worlds. All physically possible worlds occur, though some outcomes are more likely than others, and therefore all possible histories exist. This paper explores some implications of this for history, especially concerning causation. Unlike counterfactuals, which concern different starting conditions, MWI concerns different outcomes of the same starting conditions. It is argued that analysis of causation needs to take into account the divergence of outcomes and the possibility that we inhabit a less probable world. Another implication of MWI is convergent history: for any given world there will be similar worlds which are the result of different pasts which are, however, more or less probable. MWI can assist in thinking about historical causation and indicates the importance of probabilistic causation.
In this paper I argue that historiography employs causal narrative explanations just as other historical sciences such as evolutionary biology or paleontology do. There is a logic of explanation common to all these sciences that centers on causal explanation of unique and unrepeatable events. The explanandum of historiography can further be understood as mechanism in the sense developed by Stuart Glennan and others in recent years. However, causal explanation is not the only way historiography relates to the past. Arthur Danto has given us the theoretical tools to differentiate between causal narratives and conceptual colligations, with both playing a pivotal role in historiography even though Danto himself has not expressed that thought clearly.