Abstract

Homo homini lupus, man is a wolf to man, remains one of the most well-known and often quoted dicta in the tradition of political theory. Political theorists take this phrase by Thomas Hobbes in the Epistle Dedicatory of De Cive to illustrate the brutish, anarchical, and violent condition of man in the state of nature, prior to the establishment of a civil state. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I suggest that this brief passage directs our attention to lycanthropy: an acute, melancholic syndrome which seventeenth-century scholars thought could turn humans into animals. I suggest that Hobbes's political theory stands for a therapeutic intervention to curb the lycanthropic tendencies of his time. Hobbes's shock therapy implies leaving animality behind, as nonpolitical, and securing humanity in an artificial commonwealth. However, Hobbes's intervention will be insufficient, as the animality left behind, excluded from the realm of politics, will return reinstating symptoms of lycanthropy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 255-279
Launched on MUSE
2012-08-13
Open Access
No
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