On the Spirit of Hobbes’s Political Philosophy

"On the Spirit of Hobbes's Political Philosophy," Revue Internationale de Philosophie, Vol. 4, No. 14 (October 1950).  Reprinted in Natural Right and History (Ch. 3A).


Hobbes rejects the idealistic tradition on the basis of a fundamental agreement with it.  he means to do adequately what the Socratic tradition did in a wholly inadequate manner.  He means to succeed where the Socratic tradition had failed.  He traces the failure of the idealistic tradition to one fundamental mistake: traditional political philosophy assumed that man is by nature a political or social animal.  By rejecting this assumption, Hobbes joins the Epicurean tradition.  He accepts its view that man is by nature or originally an a-political and even an a-social animal, as well as its premise that the good is fundamentally identical with the pleasant.  But he uses that a-political view for a political purpose.  He gives that a-political view a political meaning.  He tries to instill the spirit of political idealism into the hedonistic tradition.  He thus became the creator of political hedonism, a doctrine which has revolutionized human life everywhere on a scale never yet approached by any other teaching.

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