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Reading and Writing in the Text of Hobbes's Leviathan GARY SHAPIRO CRITICS HAVE OFTEN SUGGESTEDthat Hobbes is a paradigm case of a philosopher whose own style of writing violates the norms he sets down for rational discourse. Philosophy, he says, "professedly rejects not only the paint and false colors of language, but even the very ornaments and graces of the same." More specifically he says that metaphors must be "utterly excluded" from "the rigorous search of truth.., seeing they openly professe deceit, to admit them into counsel, or reasoning, were manifested folly.'" Nevertheless, attention focuses on his flair for the dramatic or metaphorical, as in the great raise en scene that is the state of nature or in the overriding metaphor in which the state is regarded as an artificial man. Now while I agree that Hobbes is a crucial case in determining the interplay of philosophical themes and literary modes (and I approach this distinction with some caution), I want to attend to some rather different aspects of his philosophical writing. In doing so, I will limit myself to his acknowledged masterpiece, the Leviathan, which is the mature fruit not only of his thought on ethics and politics but also of his reflections on the problematics of philosophical communication . Hobbes concludes the Leviathan by arguing that common opinion is superficial in its assumptions that neither reason and eloquence nor courage and timorousness can exist in the same man. This choice of apparent opposites is significant and extends beyond Hobbes's reference to Sidney Godolphin, who remarkably combined these and other qualities. That Hobbes does make this reference to an individual reveals his interest in the application of his theories; but the most important case of the combination of courage and fear is in the idea of the state projected in his book, and the best example of the combination of reason and eloquence is in that book itself. Courage has a place in warfare between states or in the defense of the commonwealth against rebels; fear of the laws will be the proper attitude of the citizen in the normal condition of the commonwealth . Leo Strauss has pointed out Hobbes's decisive turn away from the Greeks in basing morality upon the fear of death. What I am interested in, however, is the conjunction of reason and eloquence, which is no less decisive for Hobbes's own philosoThis paper was written with the aid of a grant from the Kansas University General Research Fund (3121-2038). I am grateful to Mary I. Oates for conversations on Hobbes that were helpful in defining the paper's scope. i The English Works of Thomas Hobbes, ed. Sir William Moleswonh, 11 vols. (London: John Bohn, 1839), vol. 3, Leviathan, chap. 8, pp. 58-59 (cited hereafter in this edition). [1471 148 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY phical procedure (at least in the Leviathan). Eloquence, or rhetoric, suggests to us ornamentation and appeal to the passions. We expect Hobbes, with his militant championship of science and his denunciation of misleading literary flourishes, to be on his guard against rhetoric. We might think that he is making a plea for his own plain style when at the end of his Review he says, "There is nothing I distrust more than my elocution" (p. 711). But we must not confuse "eloquence" with "elocution"; the first is rhetoric, whereas the second is only an aspect of rhetoric. "Elocution" is Hobbes's own translation , in his compendium of Aristotle's rhetoric, of the term lexis, which is most often translated now as "style" or "diction." In distrusting his elocution Hobbes is not distrusting the invention and arrangement of his discourse. These are the other two aspects of Aristotelian rhetoric, and it is with their help, as we shall see, that Hobbes claims a prudent authorship over the whole of his book. As Strauss and others have pointed out, Hobbes's admiration for Aristotle's Rhetoric was an abiding one, whatever his misgivings may have been about Aristotle's politics and metaphysics. It will be important to return to this Aristotelian background later in order to assess Hobbes's agreements with it and his divergences from it. But it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 147-157
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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