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Mortal Gods

Science, Politics, and the Humanist Ambitions of Thomas Hobbes

By Ted H. MIller

Publication Year: 2011

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vi

I have accumulated many debts in writing this book. I can’t begin to repay them. I nevertheless wish to thank those who were there from the very beginning, and those who have come along later as the work continued. I am particularly grateful for the assistance I have received from Tracy Strong, who saw this work from its earliest and now distant inception. I also have Gerald Doppelt, Alan Houston, Arthur Lupia, Steven Shapin, and Don Wayne to ...

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Chapter 1 Introduction

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pp. 1-8

Alexis de Tocqueville is not, perhaps, the first name readers of an interpretation of Thomas Hobbes would expect to see. For some, it will correctly stand as a marker of the eclecticism of North American political theory. Nevertheless, every interpretation must have an origin, and this one is no exception. It emerges from within the broad, relatively fragmented and freewheeling constellation of curiosities of political theory as it is primarily practiced ...

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Chapter 2 The Humanist Face of Hobbes's Mathematics, Part 1

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pp. 9-33

In this chapter I intend to start picking up the stakes that mark a false boundary within our understanding of Hobbes. This boundary is between Hobbes’s alleged humanist “phase” and subsequent “phases” in which Hobbes is said to have (at least for a time) abandoned humanism for mathematical reasoning for more modern scientific endeavors. As regards mathematics and humanism, Hobbes had a single ...

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Chapter 3 Constraints that Enable the Imitation of God

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pp. 35-54

Discovering philosophy within oneself may mean following the example of “statuaries” (sculptors), who claim to “find” their object in the raw material by removing the superfluous, but to be what Hobbes would consider a “philosopher in good earnest” one must learn to do as God did. One must imitate creation. One must make order out of confusion, and it is the capacity to do ...

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Chapter 4 King of the Children of Pride: The Imitation of God in Context

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pp. 55-80

I have argued that Hobbes cultivated useful learning as a kind of possession. It was a possession that could help establish and constitute the possessor’s identity. A person could be known by the practices and talents made possible by it. Attentiveness to these connections and a claim to be able to cultivate these talents in others were a part of what it meant to be a humanist. This aspect of humanism carried over into Hobbes’s approach to philosophy, and to ...

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Chapter 5 Architectonic Ambitions: Mathematics and the Demotion of Physics

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pp. 81-114

In Chapters 3 and 4 I stressed several points. First, Hobbes did not pursue either descriptive or predictive accounts of natural phenomena. His use for physics was merely to re-create the effects observed in nature. Second, Hobbes assigned a lower rank to physics because it re-creates rather than creates originally. He assigned a higher rank to sciences such as geometry and the science ...

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Chapter 6 Eloquence and the Audience Thesis

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pp. 115-135

Why is it that Hobbes’s first two presentations of his political philosophy, Elements of Law and De Cive, are relatively devoid of rhetoric and Leviathan, his masterwork, shows such great and deliberate eloquence? We know that Hobbes said that rhetoric should be no part of philosophy.1 Perhaps the most elegant solution to this problem would be to declare that ...

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Chapter 7 All Other Doctrines Exploded: Hobbes, History, and the Struggle Over Teaching

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pp. 137-160

I have argued that Hobbes should be understood as having never departed from a humanist tradition in which teaching political skills through history played a prominent role. For those who have seen Hobbes’s intellectual development otherwise, namely, as phased, his utilization of history could be taken as evidence of the existence of three phases. The author who began with a ...

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Chapter 8 The Humanist Face of Hobbes's Mathematics, Part 2: LEVIATHAN and the Making of a Masque-Text

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pp. 161-199

Thus far, I have discussed Hobbes’s enthusiasm for mathematics largely in terms of his relationships to humanist educators and fellow mathematicians. I also noted that Hobbes’s thoroughgoing materialism was central to his positions in these debates. What I have not done is show how Hobbes’s humanism and his materialism, in the broadest sense, come together. This chapter will be ...

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Chapter 9 Conclusion

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pp. 201-219

My intention throughout this book has been to pull Hobbes away from his scientific admirers and to move him too close for comfort to the antifoundational critics who disparage the aspirations attributed to him by his scientific admirers. Thoughtful antifoundational political theory is mindful not only of the unexamined presuppositions that guide and inform others, but acknowledges its own. Bringing Hobbes a bit closer will help with the latter, and so I will ...

Appendix: Who is a Geometer?

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pp. 221-237


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pp. 239-302


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pp. 303-331


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pp. 333-338

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271052335
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271048918

Publication Year: 2011