The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, His Theory of Obligation

The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, His Theory of Obligation

The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, His Theory of Obligation

The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, His Theory of Obligation

Excerpt

'. . . his principles are pernicious both to piety and policy, and destructive to all relations of mankind, between prince and subject, father and child, master and servant, husband and wife; and . . . they who maintain them obstinately, are fitter to live in hollow trees among wild beasts, than in any Christian or political society. So God bless us.'

Bishop Bramhall on Hobbes (E. W., vol. 5, p. 25)

I
THE PROBLEM

IT is commonly asserted that Hobbes is a logical thinker where this ought to be a matter for debate. This may be due in part to the fact that the first two centuries of commentary upon Hobbes's work were directed mainly towards refutation of his premisses or conclusions, and the earlier critics were often willing to concede the logical nature of his argument provided that its pessimistic, if not diabolical, character were also recognized. During the last hundred years, however, there has been a greater tendency to treat the initial assumptions of Hobbes's system with academic neutrality, and to concentrate upon alleged logical defects within the system itself. It has been pointed out, for example, that Hobbes's materialism and theory of motion are not consistent with his phenomenalism or with his egoistic psychology; that his account of reason and of names will not bear the weight that has to be put upon it; or again, that his ethical and political theory requires a fresh start and is related only in an approximate and confused way to his first principles. And yet the contemporary account of his doctrine still closes with a tribute to his logical rigour.

If Hobbes's system as a whole is ignored, and attention focused upon his ethical and political theory, often regarded . . .

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