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Hobbes, Augustine, and the Christian nature of man in Leviathan

Thomas HobbesHobbes, Augustine, and the Christian nature of man in Leviathan

Julia Brotea

Leviathan: Notes on Political Research, N.7, pp. 77-91 (2013)

Abstract

Scholars of Thomas Hobbes can be loosely divided into two camps: those who believe Hobbes retained strong medieval elements in his philosophy and those who argued that Hobbes’ philosophy marks a clear break from both Ancient philosophy and Christianity. However, regardless of their position, Hobbesian scholars always acknowledge the presence of Christian elements in Hobbes’ work. In light of this trend, I compare how Augustine, as a man who undergoes conversion in Confessions, bears strong similarities to the man that agrees to a covenant in the Leviathan. This comparison demonstrates that, although Hobbes challenges the old Christian and medieval order with his Leviathan, his understanding of man is still rooted in Christian thought.

The Leviathan sprang, fully armored, into modernity. Yet, because its creation was not ex nihilo, it is possible to trace some of the cultural and religious conditions present at the time of its naissance. Indeed, the scholarship on Hobbes can be divided between those who believe Hobbes retained strong Christian and medieval elements in his thought (i.e. Oakeshott, A.P. Martinich) and those who argue that Hobbes’s philosophy marks a clear break with both the Ancient tradition of natural law (i.e. Schopenhauer, Strauss, Curley) and with Christianity (i.e. Schmitt, Voegelin). Yet, regardless of their final position, Hobbesian scholars always acknowledge the presence of Christian elements in Hobbes’s work.

Click here to read this article from Leviathan



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