Thomas Hobbes and the Political Philosophy of Glory

By Gabriella Slomp | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
The Trajectory of Glory

Introduction

In 1663 Sorbière wrote to Hobbes, referring to the meetings held at the Montmorian Academy by the arch-pompous physicists:

I fear that what happens to our Montmorian Academy at Sourdis's house will come to confirm your political theories, and the less we achieve in the natural sciences, the more we prove, by actual practice, the complete truth of your most subtle Elements of political philosophy [ De Cive]. For as du Prat used to say rather elegantly, laughing, while we were on our way to that Academy, at the dull behaviour of several of its members, 'Let us visit the physicists, so that they may teach us lessons in morals and politics without realizing it' ( Correspondence II, letter 152, 553).

This letter by Sorbière is typical of the view, shared by Hobbes in the Elements of Law and De Cive, that people are full of vanity and self-importance. In these earlier writings Hobbes seems convinced that this attitude is universal; more precisely, he regards glory and superiority as the chief appetite of men, and violent and shameful death as their paramount aversion.

However, by the time Hobbes received Sorbière's letter, he had revised his previous understanding of human psychology. This chapter aims at showing that in the transition from Anti-White, Elements of Law and De Cive to Leviathan and De Homine, Hobbes becomes less confident in the very possibility of pinpointing any ultimate appetites common to all people.

I argued in Chapters 3 and 5 that the meaning and the political implications of glory are the same in all Hobbes's writings; Hobbes writes in Leviathan thus:

hitherto I have set forth the nature of Man, (whose Pride and other Passions have compelled him to submit himselfe to Government;) ( Leviathan, 220).

By contrast, the status of glory in relation to other passions does

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