The Rhetoric of Science and the Science of Rhetoric in Hobbes's State of Nature
Ioannis Evrigenis

May 9, 2023, 8:00pm - 9:30pm

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Monash University

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Many had discussed the state of nature before Hobbes, but it was his notorious use of that concept in De Cive and Leviathan that made it a mandatory point of reference for theorists of politics, in general, and of the social contract, in particular.  Hobbes's success in using the state of nature is evident in the fact that the concept was adopted by his critics as much as by his emulators, something that continues to this day.  Many have taken issue with the assertion that the natural condition of humanity is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short," a "war of every man, against every man," yet very few have dismissed the notion as irrelevant. To understand what Hobbes is doing in his account of the state of nature and why it matters, we will begin by tracing his view of how the human mind works.  In particular, we will focus on the role of pride, the mechanism by which we form syllogisms, the function of the imagination, our respect for pieties, and our fascination with shock and fear.  In so doing, we will reassess dominant interpretations of Hobbes's political thought and of the state of nature, as well as Hobbes's claim to have discovered a science of politics.

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