Hobbes on the Web

In the 24 September 2001 edition of the New Statesman, John Gray wrote that “The Enlightenment thinking that found expression int he era of globalisation will not be much use in its dangerous aftermath. Even Hobbes cannot tell us how to deal with fundamentalist warriors who choose certain death in order to humble their enemies” (p.27).

Now this always struck me as a weird verdict, as of all the classic works of political philosophy, Leviathan seems to be obviously the one most concerned with the dangers to peace and security posed by religious fanatics, both to themselves and to other people. Throughout the book, therefore, Hobbes develops various strategies both for undermining the characteristic arguments that religious extremists make (e.g., the chapter on martyrs) and for making them appear ridiculous (e.g., the opinion that those who claim they have their own conversations with God are possessed of a “vile and unmanly disposition”). (Leviathan is also, of course, the funniest classic of political philosophy, by quite a long way, and we make a mistake when, as with the game theorists’ interpretations of Hobbes, we choose to ignore the rhetoric and the wit of the text in order to make our way through to what we might think is the meat of the analytical arguments.)

Someone else clearly shares a version of my opinion, anyway, as one of the few good political theory websites out there is American Leviathan, whose highlight is the gallery of soundclips from Hobbes experts around the world (including John Gray!, also Noel Malcolm, Quentin Skinner, Michael Hardt, Richard Tuck, etc.).

(Thanks to JMcD for drawing this to my attention.)

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