Hobbes and the Law of Nature

Hobbes and the Law of Nature

Perez Zagorin
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Hobbes and the Law of Nature
    Book Description:

    This is the first major work in English to explore at length the meaning, context, aims, and vital importance of Thomas Hobbes's concepts of the law of nature and the right of nature. Hobbes remains one of the most challenging and controversial of early modern philosophers, and debates persist about the interpretation of many of his ideas, particularly his views about natural law and natural right. In this book, Perez Zagorin argues that these two concepts are the twin foundations of the entire structure of Hobbes's moral and political thought.

    Zagorin clears up numerous misconceptions about Hobbes and his relation to earlier natural law thinkers, in particular Hugo Grotius, and he reasserts the often overlooked role of the Hobbesian law of nature as a moral standard from which even sovereign power is not immune. Because Hobbes is commonly thought to be primarily a theorist of sovereignty, political absolutism, and unitary state power, the significance of his moral philosophy is often underestimated and widely assumed to depend entirely on individual self-interest. Zagorin reveals Hobbes's originality as a moral philosopher and his importance as a thinker who subverted and transformed the idea of natural law.

    Hobbes and the Law of Natureis a major contribution to our understanding of Hobbes's moral, legal, and political philosophy, and a book rich in interpretive and critical insights into Hobbes's writing and thought.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3202-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Some Basic Hobbesian
    (pp. 1-29)

    The major masterpieces of philosophy are never out of date. They continually stimulate us to fresh questioning, present us with ideas about the world, mankind, and history that can enrich, clarify, and correct our own ideas, and offer us reflections, challenges, and options on living that may be of value to us in our coping with our own human problems and moral difficulties. Thomas Hobbes was a great systematic philosopher and one of the foremost universal minds of the seventeenth century.¹ although his writings encompassed a wide range of subjects, including various branches of philosophy, the natural sciences, mathematics, psychology,...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Enter the Law of nature
    (pp. 30-65)

    In 1629 Hobbes published an english translation of the Greek historian Thucydides’History of the Peloponnesian War. This was the first englishlanguage version of the entire text, which Hobbes augmented with annotations and a map of Greece he made himself. an admirer of Thucydides’ keen historical insight and disdain for athenian democracy, Hobbes called him “the most politic historiographer that ever writ.”¹ It is quite possible that Thucydides was one of the strongest influences in inculcating in Hobbes’s mind a dislike of popular government and democratic politics and a concern for political order. His translation was an outstanding literary achievement...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The sovereign and the Law of nature
    (pp. 66-98)

    Thomas Hobbes’s moral and political philosophy is an intricate system of interrelated concepts that are designed to support one another in demonstrating the causes and nature of the commonwealth and the inestimable benefits it brings to human beings. The capstone of his political theory is the doctrine of sovereignty, which postulates that a commonwealth in any of its three forms, whether a monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, necessitates the existence of a supreme sovereign power possessed of a comprehensive authority to govern its subjects. to this sole power the subjects have relinquished or transferred a significant portion of their natural rights...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Hobbes, the Moral Philosopher
    (pp. 99-128)

    From his own time to the present, there has been a persisting misconception of Hobbes as a thinker for whom the calculation by each individual of his self-interest and advantage is the predominant and determining feature in human relationships and moral decision making. This view has been thought by its proponents to be justified by Hobbes’s depiction of human nature as innately unsociable, competitive, and generally aspiring to outdo or dominate others, and by the precedence he assigned in the scheme of human life to self-preservation as an essential motivational force, a primordial right, and a primary goal of moral...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 129-170)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 171-177)