At least four different senses of 'meaning' need to be kept separate when describing the proper way to do the history of ideas. The first sense, communicative meaning, relies on the communicative intentions of the author and is very close to H. P. Grice's 'nonnatural meaning'. The second sense, meaning as significance or importance, is close to Grice's "natural meaning," but I focus on a type that depends on human interests; in this sense, meaning as significance is always relative to a person or group and changes as the events or the interests of the person or group change. I show that Quentin Skinner in his classic article, "Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas," confuses these senses. While historians of ideas often focus on identifying communicative meaning, what historians care most about is the significance or importance that something had for people in the past or in the present.
Lloyd's book, Morality in the Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, correctly stresses the deductive element in Hobbes's proofs of the laws of nature. She believes that “the principle of reciprocity” is the key to these proofs. This principle is effective in getting ego-centric people to recognize moral laws and their moral obligations. However, it is not, I argue, the basic principle Hobbes uses to derive the laws of nature, from definitions. The principle of reason, which dictates that all similar cases be treated similarly, is. It is important not to diminish the centrality of reason for Hobbes because it is essential to understanding his reply to “the fool” and understanding why the state of nature cannot be a continuum.
Bernard Gert’s distinctive interpretation of the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes in his recent book may be questioned in at least three areas: (1) Even if Hobbes is not a psychological egoist, he seems to be a desire egoist, which has the consequence, as he understands it, that a person acts at least for his own good in every action. (2) Although there are several senses of reason, it seems that Hobbes uses the idea that reason is calculation of means to ends; while such calculation sets intermediate goals, reason itself does not set ultimate ends. (3) Hobbes’s political theory is best understood as a form of social contract theory because subjects covenant among themselves to authorize the sovereign to protect them; authorization has the consequence that subjects give some of the their rights to the sovereign; but this gifting of rights is not the essence of the origin of the civil state.