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Notes and Discussions Calvin and Hobbes, or, Hobbes as an Orthodox Christian Three years ago, in the proceedings of an Italian conference on Hobbes and Spinoza, I published an article arguing that Hobbes was at best a deist, and most likely an atheist? In a recent book on Hobbes, A. P. Martinich devoted an appendix to criticizing that article, as part of his case that Hobbes is not merely a theist, but an orthodox Christian, and specifically, that he had "a strong commitment" to the Calvinist branch of the Church of England.' It has been suggested that I respond to Martinich's rebuttal, and I think I should. Martinich's work is arguably the best available book of its kind.3 Pursuing the issues this book raises may help us to see why it is worth our while to be curious about the differences between the English text of Leviathan, first published in 165 x, and the Latin text of that work, first published in 1668. This is a topic generally ignored in English-language discussions of Hobbes and one in which I have a special interest.4 The great virtue of Martinich's book is that he is very precise about what his thesis See '"I Durst Not Write So Boldly' or, How to Read Hobbes' Theological-Political Treatise," in Hobbes e Spinoza, Atti del Convegno Internazionale, Urbino, i4-~ 7 ottobre, 1988, ed. by Daniela Bostrenghi, intro, by Emilia Giancotti (Napoli: Bibliopolis, 199a ). By 'deist' I understand someone who believes in a personal God, but rejects divine revelation as a basis for religious belief. By an 'atheist' I understand someone who rejects the existence of any God. l The Two Gods of"Leviathan" (Cambridge University Press, x992), x-2. Subsequent references to this book will cite page numbers in parentheses in the text. s I know no other sustained attempt to argue for such a bold thesis about Hobbes's religious views. Sharon Lloyd's Ideals as Interests in Hobbes's "Leviathan" (Cambridge University Press, 1992) is similar in certain respects: she assumes, as Martinich does, that Hobbes was a sincere Christian, who wished to make Christianity more acceptable to a modern age, and she argues that taking his Christian commitments seriously is essential to understanding his political philosophy. But she does not claim that Hobbes is orthodox (t 7, 112, and 345-46) or attempt to deal with the full range of Hobbes's positions on religious issues. 4The edition of Lev/athan I recently published with Hackett is the first in English to systematically translate variant passages from the Latin edition. In referring to Leviathan I cite passages by chapter and paragraph number, as given in my edition, which also has other material I believe will be useful (e.g., Hobbes's verse autobiography, excerpts from his prose autobiography and from Aubrey's biography, a glossary, annotation, and extensive indices). It was Frangois Tricaud who paved the way here, by publishing a French translation which gave a very careful account of the differences between the English and Latin versions (Paris: Sirey, 197x). It is an embarrassment to English-language scholarship that we should need the French to show us how to treat one of our greatest philosophers. [257] 258 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 34:2 APRIL 1996 entails. A writer will count as an orthodox Christian if and only if he adheres to "the authoritative Christian creeds of the first four church councils," by which he means the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.s There are some obviously good reasons for focussing on those creeds: they probably have wider acceptance among Christian churches than any others; the Church of England, to which Hobbes proclaimed his allegiance, requires acceptance of those creeds;6 and Hobbes himself would certainly have liked this definition of orthodoxy.7 There are also some less obviously good reasons for focussing on those creeds. One of the Hobbesian doctrines most apt to lead to charges of atheism is his materialism. He holds that the notion of an incorporeal substance is a contradiction (L iv, 21), and this leads him--not to deny the existence of God and the human soul--but...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 257-271
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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