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Medievalist
10-17-2008, 06:34 PM
The Hoover journal, Policy Review, has an article about the place of Hobbes' Leviathan in current political philosophy; the gist of "Leviathan Then And Now" by Peter Berkowitis is that
Over the past several decades, however, professors of political science and philosophy have largely relegated Hobbes’s masterpiece to the back shelves. At best, they tend to view Leviathan as an historical artifact, an early and influential stepping stone on the way to the development of those Kantian-inspired theories — Rawlsian and Habermasian at the forefront — that aim to vindicate the rights-based, progressive welfare state and dominate academic teaching and research.

This demotion of Hobbes’s masterpiece is unwarranted and impedes understanding of Leviathan.

Berkowitis goes on to argue that we need to read Hobbes in context, and provides some measure of context.

What say you? The entire article is here (http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/29949629.html).

Ken
10-17-2008, 06:50 PM
Hobbe's book may've been relegated to a back shelf, but all of the ideas and philosophy he put forth are still everywhere to be heard. When great people speak their words echo for eons, as if the entire universe were lodged within a canyon.

Higgins
10-17-2008, 08:57 PM
The Hoover journal, Policy Review, has an article about the place of Hobbes' Leviathan in current political philosophy; the gist of "Leviathan Then And Now" by Peter Berkowitis is that

Berkowitis goes on to argue that we need to read Hobbes in context, and provides some measure of context.

What say you? The entire article is here (http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/29949629.html).

if

"Outside the law and beyond the political order, the preeminent human passions come to the fore and produce chaos."

sums up the Hobbsian view, then the sciences of ethnology and archaeology have disposed of that idea, though I'm sure political scientists still think in such terms.

Outside of political science, Hobbes is read as eagerly as any other 17th century writer. For example:

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/2353.html

Medievalist
10-17-2008, 09:05 PM
Outside of political science, Hobbes is read as eagerly as any other 17th century writer. For example:

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/2353.html

Actually, no, he's not--he doesn't approach the degree to which Bacon is read, never mind Milton or Donne or even Burton.

Only very rarely in philosophy or English lit undergrad programs is all of Leviathan taught; mostly they excerpt the first section on man as microcosm.

In graduate programs, outside of seminars on Hobbes or 17th century prose, Leviathan is read only in excerpts.

The Shapin and Schaffer secondary study you link to is still in its first edition and printing as a paperback--and it was published in 1995.

In any case, the point of the article is not that "Hobbe's isn't popular," rather that "Hobbes is dismissed in political science because he is read outside of his contemporary context"--which, by the way, is not the way he's read, or taught in history, philosophy or English, even now.

Higgins
10-17-2008, 09:49 PM
Actually, no, he's not--he doesn't approach the degree to which Bacon is read, never mind Milton or Donne or even Burton.

Only very rarely in philosophy or English lit undergrad programs is all of Leviathan taught; mostly they excerpt the first section on man as microcosm.

In graduate programs, outside of seminars on Hobbes or 17th century prose, Leviathan is read only in excerpts.

The Shapin and Schaffer secondary study you link to is still in it's first edition and printing as a paperback--and it was published in 1995.

In any case, the point of the article is not that "Hobbe's isn't popular," rather that "Hobbes is dismissed in political science because he is read outside of his contemporary context"--which, by the way, is not the way he's read, or taught in history, philosophy or English, even now.


I think political scientists are over-stating the neglect of Hobbes. He certainly isn't neglected in any comprehensive discussions of the 17th century that I am aware of. Ironically, Richard Hooker probably was far more relevent to the 17th context in England than Hobbes was. You might say that "in context", Hobbes was deliberately out of context (for example in claiming to apply a Euclidian method or in not following scriptural authority). Hence the interest he generates in contemporary political scientists who probaby have never even heard of Hooker.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Hooker

ColoradoGuy
10-17-2008, 11:15 PM
But coincidence I was just recently moving around boxes of stored books, pulled out Leviathan, and entered the mental time warp brought on by seeing marginal scribbles I had made in 1969. I went to a small, liberal arts college and was first taught Leviathan in one of those majestic history survey courses that lasted all year--something called "History of Western Civilization," and in those days taken by over half the student body at least. From that perspective, Berkowitz is right. The course (and all of them like it in those days) was relentlessly Whiggish in its outlook: its title might as well have been "The Inevitable Progression of Historical Improvement." Hobbes was a way-station on the path to the glorious present, and he was taught largely by historians, not political scientists.

Then came Post-Modernism, in full flower by the time I went back to graduate school twenty-five years later. I found this passage in the article interesting in regard to PoMo and related things:

"But in the nineteenth century the liberal tradition’s classic natural-rights teaching was battered by the Marxist critique, which reduced morality to ideology, and Nietzsche’s critique, which reduced morality to power. Taking these criticisms to heart and then some, the liberal tradition grew timid about asserting the rationality of natural right. This timidity opened the door to liberal relativism — the doctrine that we should embrace the value of diversity because all views about morals and politics are equally valuable — which emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. This in turn paved the way for liberal relativism’s renegade offshoot, liberal postmodernism, which asserts that we should embrace the value of diversity because all views about morals and politics are equally devoid of value. Both forms of contemporary liberalism represent influential rivals to the classical liberal natural rights teaching. But neither liberal relativism nor liberal postmodernism, both of which, like Hobbes’s political theory, are based on the rejection of the idea of an ultimate aim or greatest good, calls into question Hobbes’s grounding of the foundation of freedom and equality in the indignity and inefficacy of man’s natural condition."

Very interesting article--thanks for posting it.

Higgins
10-17-2008, 11:26 PM
This in turn paved the way for liberal relativismís renegade offshoot, liberal postmodernism, which asserts that we should embrace the value of diversity because all views about morals and politics are equally devoid of value. Both forms of contemporary liberalism represent influential rivals to the classical liberal natural rights teaching. But neither liberal relativism nor liberal postmodernism, both of which, like Hobbesís political theory, are based on the rejection of the idea of an ultimate aim or greatest good, calls into question Hobbesís grounding of the foundation of freedom and equality in the indignity and inefficacy of manís natural condition."

Very interesting article--thanks for posting it.

I think many scientific findings place in doubt the idea that non-state societies have less dignity and efficacy than societies within states. And one might equally well state the idea of diversity as a value in itself on grounds that any point of view or type of life may offer valuable insights into how people ought to see what is good or bad in their societies or states.