and at the same time how different his arguments really were. The problem he was trying to tackle here was indeed the fundamental issue dealt with in Hobbes's The Elements of Law (and in each of his subsequent works of political theory): given the facts of human disagreement, disorder, and conflict, how are agreement and order possible? Hobbes shares some of the 'Short Tract's' assumptions, starting with a deterministic universe in which human beings are impelled by their desires and 'good' means merely 'object of desire'. But the argument which he goes on to develop is quite different from that intimated and prepared for by the 'Short Tract'. Instead of trying to make use of the realism of those assumptions about the objective world to initiate a search for what is 'really' good, Hobbes reconciles himself to the unavoidable subjectivity of goodness: 'insomuch that while every man differeth from other in constitution, they differ also one from another concerning the common distinction of good and evil. Nor is there any such thing as αγ±θ¿Ó ·φÏως, that is to say, simply good.' 220 Instead, he constructs a second-order system of values, based on the fact that the avoidance of death is a necessary condition for people's enjoyment of their subjective goods (whatever those may be), and on the argument that peace is the optimum condition for ensuring the avoidance of death. Analysis of the 'oneness' of apparent goods can play no part in this solution: what matters is not whether an apparent good is composed of good or bad parts, but how it measures when judged by the standard of conduciveness to peace.

It would be good to know more about the development of Hobbes's thinking on these subjects between 1635, when he expressed his ambition to write about human psychology, and 1640, when he produced his first philosophical work. Unfortunately, the evidence is lacking. It is very likely that discussions with Robert Payne, at Welbeck, in London, and perhaps elsewhere, played some part in that development. It also seems very likely that Payne, who possessed most of the requisite interests and abilities, was stimulated—both by his friend Thomas Hobbes and by his employer, the Earl of Newcastle—to work on the same set of issues himself. The 'Short Tract' is, most probably, the record of his attempt, and in the end his failure, to solve those problems; as such, it not only gives us a valuable insight into Hobbes's personal and philosophical milieu, but also helps us to measure, by contrast, the extent of Hobbes's success.

Appendix I The 'Hobbes Manuscripts' at Chatsworth

This is a summary listing, the main purpose of which is to record which items are in Payne's hand. More information about many of these items can be found in the RCHM


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Aspects of Hobbes


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