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Eric Voegelin Society Meeting 2009
Questioning Hobbes's Pessimistic Interpreters:
Voegelin and Leo Strauss view Hobbes as someone who dismantles the framework
of classical philosophy. Both
argue, in somewhat different ways, that his rejection of teleology, his famous
eschewal of the summum bonum, contributes to this dismantling.
Both argue, moreover, that his presentation of human nature essentially
obliterates the possibility of transcendent experience which had supplied an
orientation for classical and Christian conceptions of the good life.
In short, they find that Hobbes has jettisoned the highest parts of
human existence while allowing the lowest to remain.
These are, of course, forceful reproofs; and they have been influential
as well, for they frequently appear on the level of assumptions in more
contemporary political-theoretical treatments of Hobbes.
And yet there is an alternative way of reading Leviathan
according to which Hobbes's rejection of the summum bonum is seen not
as a decline but an advance, given the diversity of human ends; and Hobbes is
understood not to sanction all passions indiscriminately but rather to offer a
new way of keeping particular passions in check.
According to this view Hobbes stands as the originator of a "rule of
law" tradition that emphasizes the burden of responsible decision-making for
individuals. Moreover, religion
is not abandoned but rather placed at the center of moral life--though Hobbes's
understanding of religion is far from traditional.
This interpretation is intriguing and worthy of further consideration,
especially against the backdrop of the prevailing Voegelinian-Straussian view.
This essay begins,
therefore, by laying out in summary form both Voegelin's and Strauss's
major criticisms of Hobbes before turning to the aforementioned "alternative"
At the core of
Voegelin's critique of Hobbes is the idea that Hobbes is a gnostic (perhaps
the quintessential modern gnostic)--someone who perverts or ignores
fundamental categories of existence such as immanence and transcendence,
passion and reason, amor sui and amor dei.
In misusing these concepts Hobbes shows himself as someone who opposes
the dual traditions of classic and Christian philosophy. According to Voegelin he is, indeed, the first in a long line
of subversive thinkers such as Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche
and a precursor to modern totalitarianism.
It is Hobbes's rejection of the summum bonum and the
replacement of this with a summum malum, which, in Voegelin's view,
marks the decisive break from traditional philosophy.
"Aristotelian ethics starts from the purposes of action," writes
Voegelin, "and explores the order of human life in terms of the ordination
of all actions toward a highest purpose."
If this highest
purpose is removed, he continues, the source of order disappears not only from
the lives of individuals "but also from life in society . . . the order of
the life in community depends on homonoia, in the Aristotelian and
Christian sense, that is, on the participation in the common nous."
Of course it is
Hobbes who first takes this step, and in so doing he undercuts rather than
bolsters social life. For social
life depends precisely on some shared, fixed point of orientation for the
members of a community: the summum bonum.
Moreover, in disposing of the summum bonum, Hobbes also
obliterates the traditional ordering of passion and reason.
No longer are human passions regulated by reason as a sort of ruler,
but instead the strongest passion must rule the others.
Since Hobbes views
the spiritual life itself as only "the extreme of existential passion,"
he cannot, according to Voegelin, "interpret the nature of man
from the vantage point of the maximum of differentiation through the
experiences of transcendence."
In other words,
Hobbes rules out any possibility of a transcendent nous or logos as
an ordering principle for the soul, for he views spiritual life as nothing but
passion at its most extreme. And
since Hobbes will brook no transcendent rationality (for him, life consists
only in passions of varying degrees) it follows that only a passion stronger
than all others can keep them in check. This,
of course, is the summum malum--the fear of death.
Voegelin puts his point another way when he speaks of Hobbes's
perversion of the Augustinian categories of love.
The summum bonum consists in a transcendent nous or logos
that orders human activity through amor Dei.
When its opposite, amor sui, predominates, the proper order of
the soul is disturbed and an individual's pride is given full and free rein.
The only way to
control this largely unregulated amor sui is, according to Hobbes, to
place a stronger "King of the Proud" over these passionate beings and
this, of course, is the Leviathan.
Hobbes collapses the tension between immanence and transcendence in his
attempt to establish Christianity as a civil theology.
Voegelin argues that Hobbes eliminates transcendence because he attempts to
show that the immanent (civil law) can and should "contain" the
transcendent (the law of nature). Or,
put differently, for Hobbes the law of nature derives its force over men only
secondarily by being God-given law. Its
primary force comes from the fact that it is promulgated by the sovereign.
Voegelin summarizes Hobbes's argument as follows: "[the] law of
nature, finally, is not a law actually governing human existence before the
men, in whom it lives as a disposition toward peace, have followed its precept
by combining in a civil society under a public representative, the sovereign."
Thus divine law is
made subject to a human ruler, all opportunity for public debate is
eliminated, and the potentially positive tension caused by the conflict
between divine and human law is removed.
Hobbes has reverted back to the "compactness" of a society in which
the distinction between immanent and transcendent is not recognized, denying
"the existence of a tension between the truth of the soul and the truth of
As Voegelin reads
Hobbes, "civil" theology now exhausts theology itself.
This is a crucial element of Voegelin's interpretation of Hobbes as a
gnostic. "With this idea . . .
of abolishing the tensions of history by the spreading of a new truth, Hobbes
reveals his own Gnostic intentions; the attempt at freezing history into an
everlasting constitution is an instance of the general class of Gnostic
attempts at freezing history into an everlasting final realm on this earth."
In this quite negative assessment of Hobbes Voegelin has much in common
with Strauss, although they speak in somewhat different terms.
Essentially Strauss makes this same point--i.e., that Hobbes has
radically misrepresented society's proper orientation--but he makes it in
the context of "classic natural right."
As Strauss sees it, classic natural right (which may be broadly
understood as that which is naturally correct and good for human beings)
depends upon a conception of the world as intelligible and ordered, on the one
hand, and of human purpose, on the other.
A human being thus
begins from an experience of an ordered world (even though he is able to
apprehend only part of that order) and moves toward his purpose not by
free construction but by "discovering" his true nature.
Like Voegelin, Strauss believes that there exists a summum bonum
which all human action must strive for, if it is to be rational.
As Strauss describes it,
life is activity
which is directed towards some goal; social life is an activity which is
directed towards such a goal as can be pursued only by society; but in order
to pursue a specific goal, as its comprehensive goal, society must be
organized, ordered, constructed, constituted in such a manner which is in
accordance with that goal.
other words, for Strauss (as for Voegelin) social life is ordered by its end
or purpose, and lacking such an end or purpose it becomes incoherent.
conception of natural right, then, is attunement to a cosmic order that is
ontologically prior to human experience, the discovery of that order through
philosophy, and the fulfillment of one's purpose as a part of that order.
It consists primarily in duties and obligations, not rights understood
in their modern sense. It
presupposes the idea of "purpose" for man and society that may be more or
less perfectly apprehended. It is
the task of philosophy to apprehend this "purpose" or "best regime" as
clearly as possible, whether or not it is actually instituted as a real
political order in the world. Strauss
describes this teleological conception of political philosophy as follows:
If . . . one
looks back to Plato [and Aristotle] . . . one must hold that it is not the
conviction of man's superiority to all existing creatures but the conviction
of the transcendence of good over all being which is the reason why
philosophic investigation begins with the ethical and political problem, with
the question of the right life and the right society.
in the classic tradition the fundamental question of political philosophy is
not "what sorts of institutions are best in government?" but "what is
the best life/regime?" Strauss
describes this traditional approach to political philosophy as "genetic."
Identifying Aristotle as its classic exponent, he explains this
approach as a method in which a certain "standard" or image of perfection
is held up as an ideal from the outset of an investigation.
This standard then "dominates the testing of the individual stages of
the development [of the thing being examined]."
Order is "immutable,
eternal, in existence from the beginning" and independent of human will.
cannot easily be corrupted by the desires of human beings but takes its
bearings from transcendent perfection. Indeed,
according to this conception man's reason arises not from his own resources
but is guided at all times by transcendent reason.
This would seem to be
equivalent to Voegelin's nous or logos.
It is essential to understand this view of classic natural right in
order to appreciate Strauss's view of just how dramatically Hobbes departs
from it. The preceding paragraphs
have highlighted Strauss's conception of the major parts of classic natural
right: an ordered world that owes its order to a transcendent source and
teleological conceptions of the good for man and the good for society.
Like Voegelin's emphasis on the summum bonum as something that
exists prior to any individual's assertion of his preferences, Strauss's
view of classic natural right emphasizes a pre-existing, "discoverable"
good for mankind, which endows social life with order and rationality.
Both Strauss and Voegelin, however, view Hobbes as someone who has
rejected this view in order radically to redefine the nature of "right"
for his own purposes.
In stark contrast
to Aristotle's "genetic" approach, Hobbes's "compositive"
approach, as Strauss describes it, begins not with an idea of perfection but
with the primitive imperfection of human passions.
These passions are the raw material from which Hobbes builds his State;
and Hobbes has "no intention of measuring the imperfect by a standard which
In other words, while
Aristotle begins with an idea of perfection (a teleological view of man and
society), Hobbes throws out the "end" and looks only to the manifestly
imperfect beginnings of political society as building blocks for a future
There is no sense, in
Hobbes, of a philosopher seeking an answer to the question "what ought to be
the aim of the state?"
Thus while Aristotle
orients himself by transcendent perfection, Hobbes takes his bearings solely
from immanent human experience--and, specifically, from man's passionate
The character of
political philosophy is therefore different; it "no longer has the function,
as it had in classical antiquity, of reminding political life of the eternally
immutable prototype of the perfect State, but the peculiarly modern task of
delineating for the first time the programme of the essentially perfect State."
And, in Strauss's
view, this is a very unstable basis for political philosophy, for, so he
argues, if there is no "superhuman order" then the ground of politics is
Hobbes also departs from the tradition that understands the world to
possess an order of its own prior to the emergence of human society. Contrary to most ancient and medieval thinkers, Hobbes
assumes that there is "no natural harmony between the human mind and the
universe," and that any human order must be "made," not found.
Only if the universe
is unintelligible will man have the true freedom to construct his world as he
And, Strauss implies,
an unintelligible universe must lack a transcendent "orderer"; and thus
there can be no God, for Hobbes.
Man therefore must
assume the task of ordering, and must do so with the consciousness of being
the "most excellent work of nature."
He can be sovereign
only because "there is no cosmic support for his humanity . . . because he
is absolutely a stranger in the universe."
What does Strauss
see as the implications of Hobbes's denial of a cosmic order?
First, traditional philosophy must be abandoned because (among other
reasons) its preoccupation with transcendence and the divine is unnecessary.
And second, the denial of order clears the way for Hobbes's
fundamental ontological premise: that the state of nature is fundamentally
hostile, and that men must rely on their own resources to escape from it.
As Strauss argues, "[o]nly if man is not subject to a higher power .
. . can the relation of men among themselves . . . be determined . . . not by
mutual obligations but by (justified or unjustified) claims of each on each."
On Hobbes's account
the traditional assumptions of man's social nature and God's providence
are both false.
both Voegelin and Strauss find major problems in Hobbes's theoretical
framework. He has denied the
existence of a summum bonum, of a pre-existing purpose for man
discoverable by philosophy. Hobbes's
philosophy begins rather with the primitive passions of man (the "compositive"
approach, as Strauss puts it), not with Aristotle's "genetic" method.
These passions, moreover, submit to no governance by a divine nous or
logos. Hobbes has collapsed the distinction between immanence
and transcendence, according to Voegelin, leading to a more "compact"
representation of political life. And
he has emphasized the love of oneself, amor sui, over the love of God
as a motivating force for human beings.
the basis of these arguments, it would seem that any alternative reading of
Hobbes has a number of significant obstacles to overcome. If one accepts the arguments of Voegelin and Strauss, Hobbes
would appear to be (1) a thinker who denies the existence of God and
transcendent reality and (2) someone who explicitly rejects the teleological,
scholastic framework of his predecessors in order to found a new hedonist
political philosophy on the basis of human passions. Why should anyone mount a defense of Hobbes if these are
indeed the positions he represents?
of the answer to this question is, of course, that both these premises are
subject to considerable debate. The
controversy over Hobbes and religion has raged for centuries and there is
still little scholarly consensus on the subject.
There are, however,
reasons for thinking that Hobbes was not out to discredit religion absolutely
but rather to redefine it in such a way that it might become more compatible
with individual reasoning and less apt to terrorize.
There is, in
addition, ample evidence in Hobbes's writings that his aim was not to found
a "hedonist" political philosophy, but rather expressly to prevent
hedonistic passions (which are always present in human beings) from dominating
the better ones.
An essay of this
length cannot, of course, begin adequately to represent the complexity of
these debates. But I want to
offer in the following pages two points that might provide a foundation for a
more positive reading of Hobbes.
first point concerns the question of religion in Hobbes's Leviathan.
While many readers agree with the dominant view of Hobbes's alleged
impiety, others make the argument that in the Leviathan Hobbes is
setting out a particular view of religion which, though not familiar or "orthodox,"
is nonetheless Christian.
What does this sort
of Christianity look like? First,
it relies primarily on the natural reason of human beings and on their
rational apprehension of God's word through natural laws and their reading
of the Bible. It therefore places a great deal of responsibility on
individuals to consider religious questions for themselves; and so although
obedience may yet be due to others, the "intellectual faculty" is not to
be submitted to anyone else.
It is true Hobbes
posits an all-powerful sovereign who is to legislate for the commonwealth, but
at the beginning of Part III of the Leviathan ("Of a Christian
Commonwealth") he reminds his readers that
we are not to
renounce our senses and experience, nor (that which is the undoubted word of
God) our natural reason. For they
are the talents which he hath put into our hands to negotiate till the coming
again of our blessed Saviour; and therefore not to be folded up in the napkin
of an implicit faith . . .
words, subjects owe their civil rulers obedience and respect, but these
subjects retain the freedom to decide religious matters for themselves.
This understanding of Christianity depends, of course, upon Hobbes's
idea that true Christian faith consists largely in "inward" persuasion,
for Hobbes downplays the importance of external professions and actions and
stresses the personal, interior character of belief.
If a ruler forbids
faith in Christ, Hobbes says, "such forbidding is of no effect, because
belief and unbelief never follow men's commands."
It consists in each
person's private faith, which neither a sovereign nor anyone else can
perceive. "For internal faith
is in its own nature invisible, and consequently exempted from all human
Hobbes writes, and the civil power has jurisdiction only over a
person's external actions and words.
"And of that which cannot be accused, there is no judge at all but
God, that knoweth the heart."
Thus the experience
of transcendence is unique for each person, and as for "the inward thought
and belief of men, which human governors can take no notice of . . .
they are not voluntary, nor the effect of the laws, but of the unrevealed
will, and of the power, of God, and consequently fall not under obligation."
The sovereign may
oblige me to be obedient to his laws but not "to think any otherwise than my
reason persuades me."
Moreover, in addition to his emphases on the individuality and
inwardness of the religious experience, Hobbes seems to be attempting to
define a sort of Christianity that does not look constantly to the future but
rather insists on a type of immediacy in religious experience.
This might be one way of accounting for Hobbes's rejection of the summum
bonum, i.e., not because the idea of good is wholly unimportant, but
because the orientation toward such a future good entails a lack of focus on present
religious understanding. The
future is a "fiction of the mind,"
writes Hobbes, and as one commentator has put it, what Hobbes
actually requires is "an account of revelation that will show how to
approach the future in a non-fictive way, or . . . to suspend people's
preoccupation with the future in favor of the improvement of their spiritual
Religion, if it
arises merely out of fear and anxiety about the future, is no better than
superstition. For true religion,
fear of the future must be downplayed as a motive force in favor of an
individual's working out of his own religious understanding by reading the
Bible and reflecting on what is found there.
Rejecting the summum bonum, then,
is to begin to
appreciate fully what the life of Christian faith really is. The transformative power of Christian faith is not seen by
Hobbes to imply a radical transformation of the world as it now is, but rather
to induce a radical transformation in our understanding of the significance,
or insignificance, of the present world.
if it is to have any effect on our lives, cannot be superstitious or based on
fear of spirits,
nor does it depend on some supposed state of future perfection
(the summum bonum). Hobbes
downplays the importance of tradition and church dogma in favor of a reformed
version of Christianity that emphasizes personal, inward conviction.
While Hobbes's understanding of Christianity does have the practical
aim of reducing the conflict between people who claim to be divinely inspired,
it does not thereby necessarily preclude the experience of
There is yet another ground upon which Hobbes might be defended against
his critics. This concerns his notion of the rule of law.
As has been noted above, both Strauss and Voegelin take Hobbes to task
for emphasizing man's passions at the expense of his reason.
Both writers imply that Hobbes approves
a lack of governance for the passions.
It is worth recalling what Voegelin says on this subject:
Hobbes's work] the generic nature of man must be studied in terms of human
passions; the objects of the passions are no legitimate object of inquiry.
This is the fundamental counterposition to classic and Christian moral
philosophy . . . Aristotelian ethics starts from the purposes of action and
explores the order of human life in terms of the ordination of all actions
toward a highest purpose , the summum bonum . . .
When the summum
bonum is taken away, however, the source of order disappears from human
life, because for Voegelin, as has been noted above, social order depends on
an Aristotelian and Christian homonoia.
entails a sort of like-mindedness about the common good of a society. Similar passages may be found in Strauss.
But although both
Voegelin and Strauss are forceful defenders of the idea that a rationally
ordered community must have a point of orientation--a common good for all--there
are others who argue just as forcefully that there are alternative ways of
conceiving rational political order. Michael
Oakeshott is perhaps the most well known example of a philosopher who holds
this sort of non-teleological view of political order, despite the fact that
he has much else in common with Strauss and Voegelin.
How might this "non-teleological" conception of political order be
described? Perhaps it would be
best to return to Hobbes himself, since he has so boldly rejected the classic
tradition of philosophy.
Hobbes forthrightly rejects the summum bonum early on in Leviathan,
it does not necessarily follow that to do so is by definition to be "irrational."
For while Voegelin and Strauss both argue for the summum bonum
as necessary for rational ethics and politics, neither bothers to explain
exactly why it is essential. In
fact, the idea of a summum bonum presupposes (1) that we could know
what it is and (2) that we could agree on it--both premises that are
questioned by Hobbes. As he famously observes, why has there been "such diversity
of ways in running to the same mark, felicity, if it be not night amongst us,
or at least a mist?"
there is a lack of public agreement about the summum bonum, as there
certainly seems to have been in Hobbes's time, is there an alternative
solution that might yet provide the framework for a rationally ordered
society? Hobbes's answer is
that it is not necessary to agree on the "end" of a society; rather, we
ought merely to agree on the "formal" or "procedural" rules that
govern that society so that individuals may be free to pursue their
self-chosen purposes. This
manifests itself in an accepted "rule of law" as an arrangement
does not elevate, promote, or defend any particular conception of good.
The variety of satisfactions human beings imagine to be desirable
precludes the use of law to promote or discourage particular versions of
fulfillment. Rather, law is an
instrumentality indicating a virtue compatible with many different goods.
Law maximizes the liberty of individuals to develop their lives as they
words, resolving the question of the summum bonum is no longer
necessary. What then does
become necessary is the establishment of a legal framework that minimizes
conflicts between individuals. Though
this is not the traditional organization of society around a summum bonum,
it is nevertheless a moral agreement in which the actors acknowledge that they
will abide by the "rules of the game."
Oakeshott makes this point in On Human Conduct:
association is a moral condition; it is not concerned with the satisfaction of
wants and with substantive outcomes but with the terms upon which the
satisfaction of wants may be sought. And
politics is concerned with determining the desirable norms of civil conduct
and with the approval or disapproval of civil rules which, because they
qualify the pursuit of purposes, cannot be inferred from the purposes pursued.
indeed, a different way of thinking about politics, and it may be
unsatisfactory to many. It does,
however, provide a rational alternative to Voegelin's and Strauss's
requirement that society be oriented toward a common good.
Furthermore, in the context of this "rule of law" society, the
sovereign--often understood by critics to be equivalent to a tyrant--is
instead merely the emblem of this rule of law and "not the trustee or
director of a common substantive purpose."
Hobbes believes that
it is in the sovereign's interest to follow the natural law as well
as to make the laws. It is, of
course, true that the sovereign's power is absolute, but this absolute power
is not given so that the sovereign can abuse his subjects or take advantage of
them. The interest of the
sovereign and his people is one and the same, Hobbes says; and thus a prudent
sovereign will act within strict limits.
William Connolly is
especially clear on this point:
What happens if
the sovereign overreaches himself and tries to govern too many areas of life?
First, Hobbes thinks that a sovereign power that overreaches itself
will fail eventually. Because the
laws will become too many and too complicated, and many will be unenforceable.
But second, the sovereign, though created by an earthly pact, is
ultimately accountable to God. This
is a central reason Hobbes prefers monarchy to either democracy or
aristocratic rule. While the
monarch does not sin against his subjects in acting capriciously or
ruthlessly, he does sin against God in breaking a law of nature.
This unity between the will of the sovereign and the will of the
individual is not operative in other forms of rule; its presence in this case
makes it possible to hold the monarch responsible as an individual when
sinning against God in his capacity as sovereign: "But in a monarchy, if the
monarch makes any decree against the laws of nature, he sins himself; because
in him the civil will and the natural are all one."
sovereign is compelled to protect the safety of his people "not by care
applied to individuals, further than their protection from injuries when they
shall complain, but by a general providence, contained in public instruction,
both of doctrine and example, and in the making and executing of good laws."
In short, there is to
be no special treatment for certain people: just a general providence for all
alike. This, then, is the rule of
law in Hobbes: a formal, procedural set of rules overseen by a sovereign who
shares the interest of his people.
The state thus no
longer depends on a summum bonum and is understood instead as "the
embodiment of rules of conduct for minimizing the collisions and maximizing
the forbearance among individuals who cannot know one another's
Virtue, here, is
self-restraint. It is true, of
course, that this is not an outwardly heroic virtue; but it does argue against
the idea that Hobbes's emphasis on "passions" was meant to encourage the
indiscriminate expression of those passions.
contract, the mutual renunciation of individual power to the sovereign,
incorporates a renunciation of the right to seek unlimited power over others.
The purpose of the state is not to encourage the oppression of the weak
by the strong, but rather to give individuals the opportunity to use their
peaceful, creative and non-adversarial powers to develop the benefits of
has thus set out the conditions for society organized around the "rule of
law" in the absence of a summum bonum.
The purpose of this essay has been to suggest two starting points for
an alternative reading of Hobbes: that there is a conception of religion to be
found in Leviathan and that Hobbes does not sanction all passions but
rather constructs a "rule of law" meant to rein in certain passions.
Of course, any full treatment of Hobbes would have to come to terms
with a number of questions that could be raised about these points.
First, does Hobbes's focus on the "inwardness" of religion
neglect the outward religious actions that arise as a result of that
inward belief? Can Christianity
be understood as primarily an inward religion?
And second, it may be good so far as it goes to discuss a rule of law
in Hobbes, but what kind of safeguards does Hobbes provide against a sovereign
who chooses to abuse his powers and to destroy that fragile rule of law? These are legitimate objections to the "alternative"
reading I have set out above.
this reading does counterbalance what I take to be a too-pessimistic view of
Hobbes on the part of both Strauss and Voegelin.
Although they write forceful critiques of Hobbes--particularly
regarding Hobbes's rejection of the classical and Christian philosophical
framework--there would seem to be room for a more nuanced view of Hobbes that
takes into account his discussion of religion in parts three and four of Leviathan
(which neither Strauss nor Voegelin considers at any length) as well as Hobbes's
significant emphasis on restraint and moderation within a rule of law.
 I am thinking here especially of Michael Oakeshott's famous introduction to Leviathan as well as his several other essays on Hobbes, now published in Hobbes on Civil Association (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1975).
Voegelin, Published Essays 1953-1965, in The
Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, vol. 11, (Columbia: University of
Missouri Press, 2000), 53.
Voegelin, History of Political Ideas, Vol. 7: The New Order and Last Orientation,
in The Collected Works of Eric
Voegelin, vol. 25, (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 71.
Voegelin, The New Science of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1987), 180.
180. See also Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics and Gnosticism
(Washington: Regnery, 1997), 70; Collected Works vol. 11, 55; and Collected
Works vol. 25, 63-65.
Without a summum
bonum, writes Voegelin, there is "no point of orientation that can
endow human action with rationality."
In Science, Politics and Gnosticism, 70.
New Science of Politics, 180.
puts it this way: "Since Hobbes does not recognize sources of order in the
soul, inspiration can be exorcised only by a passion that is even stronger
than the pride to be a paraclete, and that is the fear of death.
Death is the greatest evil; and if life cannot be ordered through
orientation of the soul towards a summum bonum, order will have to be
motivated by fear of the summum malum."
The New Science of Politics, 182.
notes his debt to Oakeshott's analysis of Hobbes's civil theology in Collected
Works vol. 11, 36. The
relevant passages may be found in Michael Oakeshott, "Introduction to Leviathan,"
in Hobbes on Civil Association (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc.,
New Science of Politics, 154.
Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1953), 180. "The
predominant tradition had defined natural law with a view to the end or the
perfection of man as a rational and social animal."
Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1988), 34.
Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1936), 90.
Strauss, Natural Right and History, 179-181.
Philosophy of Hobbes, 152.
the outset [Hobbes] sought to answer the question of the best form of State
with regard not to man's essential being and the place occupied by him in
the universe, but to experience of human life, to application, and therefore
with particular reference to the passions." Ibid., 110.
Right and History, 175. Consider
Patrick Martin's analysis in "Natural Law: Voegelin and the End of
[Legal] Philosophy" in Louisiana Law Review 62 (2002), 884.
"Specific rules do not make the order of society; rather they articulate
the true order. When enacted
they are not the order of society; rather, they are a means of securing
the true order." See also
Voegelin, as quoted in this article: "The inquiry into the true order of
society . . . develops, in the classic philosophers, into an autonomous
occupation of the human mind--an enterprise that can be successful only
because the true order of society is the order in which man can unfold fully
the potentialities of his nature," 886.
See also p. 201 "[T]he very fact that the universe is
unintelligible permits reason to rest satisfied with its free constructs, to
establish through its constructs an Archimedean basis of operations, and to
anticipate an unlimited progress in its conquest of nature."
169-70, Strauss, Political Philosophy of Hobbes, 74-5.
Philosophy of Hobbes, 91.
Right and History, 175.
Philosophy of Hobbes, 123.
For summaries of this debate, see Keith Brown, Hobbes Studies
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965) and Paul D. Cooke, Hobbes and
Christianity: Reassessing the Bible in Leviathan (Lanham, Maryland:
Rowman and Littlefield, 1996).
terrors of religion, see Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Edwin Curley,
(Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), chapter 12.
30 of Leviathan Hobbes writes: "Again, every sovereign ought to
cause justice to be taught, which (consisting in taking from no man what is
his) is as much as to say, to cause men to be taught not to deprive their
neighbours by violence or fraud of anything which by the sovereign authority
is theirs. Of things held in propriety those that are dearest to a man
are his own life and limbs; and in the next degree (in most men) those that
concern conjugal affection; and after them riches and means of living.
Therefore, the people are to be taught to abstain from violence to
one another's person by private revenges, from violation of conjugal
honour, and from forcible rapine and fraudulent surreption of one another's
See Wendell John Coats, Jr. Oakeshott
and His Contemporaries (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 2000)
and Timothy Fuller, "The Idea of Christianity in Hobbes's Leviathan"
in Jewish Political Studies Review 4 (1992): 139-178.
Hobbes, Leviathan, 246.
arises, of course, when one's inward religious beliefs conflict with what
the sovereign commands. Hobbes
addresses this problem in Leviathan chapter 42 and gives an answer
that is perhaps not very satisfying to many readers.
"This we may say," Hobbes writes, "that whatsoever a subject .
. . is compelled to [do] in obedience to his sovereign, and doth it not in
order to his own mind, but in order to the laws of his country, that action
is not his, but his sovereign's; nor is it he that in this case denieth
Christ before men, but his governor, and the law of his country," 339.
"The Idea of Christianity," 142.
Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 32.
New Science of Politics, 180.
particular, the introduction to Strauss's Natural Right and History,
thinking here of the distinction Oakeshott makes between civil association
and enterprise association in part two of On Human Conduct (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1975).
particular his vitriolic criticisms of Aristotle and others in Leviathan,
"The Idea of Christianity," 113.
On Human Conduct, 174.
Hobbes, Leviathan: "The riches, power, and honour of a monarch
arise only from the riches, strength and reputation of his subjects.
For no king can be rich, nor glorious, nor secure, whose subjects are
either poor, or contemptible," 120.
Connolly, Political Theory and Modernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988),
beg the question of how one could be certain that the sovereign would not
abuse his power.
and His Contemporaries, 63.
Peter Hayes, "Hobbes's Bourgeois Moderation" in Polity 31