Thomas Hobbes

By Otfried Höffe
Translated by Nicholas Walker

Subjects: Philosophy, History Of Philosophy, Political Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438457666, 268 pages, July 2016
Hardcover : 9781438457659, 268 pages, October 2015

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Table of contents

1. Introduction: Thomas Hobbes: A Pioneer of Modernity
1. 1 Three Challenges of the Epoch
1. 2 A Pioneer in Three Senses
1. 3 The Continuity of Hobbes’s Development
I. Hobbes’s Career and Philosophical Development
2. Beginnings
2. 1 Student, Tutor, and Traveling Companion
2. 2 Euclid and Galileo
2. 3 The English Civil War
2. 4 Exile in Paris
3. Leviathan and Behemoth
3. 1 A Fractured Relationship to Rhetoric
3. 2 The Symbol of Leviathan
3. 3 The Return to England
Part II. The Encyclopedic Character of Hobbes’s Philosophy

4. Science in the Service of Peace
4. 1 The Principal Aim of Hobbes’s Philosophy
4. 2 The Complex Method
4. 3 The Mathematical Paradigm and Its Limits
4. 4 Ethics and Political Authority
4. 5 Analysis and Composition
5. Natural Philosophy and the Theory of Knowledge
5. 1 Empirical Realism
5. 2 Levels of Knowledge
5. 3 On Dreams
5. 4 Prudence
6. Language, Reason, and Science
6. 1 Language 1: The Pre-communicative Dimension
6. 2 Language 2: The Political Dimension
6. 3 Realism and Nominalism
6. 4 The Framework of Language and Reason
6. 5 Science
6. 6 Hobbes’s Division of the Sciences
7. An Anthropology of the Individual: The Passions
7. 1 A Naturalistic Hedonism
7. 2 A Topography of the Passions
7. 3 Freedom, Self-Preservation, and Determinism
7. 4 Power
8. An Anthropology of the Social: The Possibility of Peace in a Condition of War
8. 1 The Conditions of Peace
8. 2 “Man Is a Wolf to Man”
8. 3 A Prevailing Inclination for Peace?
9. Legitimating the State
9. 1 The Laws of Nature
9. 2 A Moral Philosophy?
9. 3 The Original Contract
9. 4 Absolute Authority
9. 5 A Right to Rebellion?
10. Law
10. 1 “Not Truth but Authority”
10. 2 The Division of Laws
10. 3 A Theory of Commands
10. 4 Laws of Nature as a Corrective?
10. 5 Authorized Power
11. Religion and Church
11. 1 A Twofold Political Question
11. 2 The Anthropological Foundations of Religion
11. 3 The Kingdom of God
11. 4 The Principles of a Christian Politics
11. 5 A Materialistic Theology
11. 6 Hobbes’s Critique of Other Churches
12. An Excursus: Hobbes’s Critique of Aristotle
12. 1 The “Vain Philosophy” of Aristotle
12. 2 An Aristotelian in Spite of Himself
12. 3 Inevitable Strife or the Social Nature of Man?
13. History
13. 1 Translating Thucydides
13. 2 The History of the Church and the Kingdom of God
13. 3 Behemoth
Part III. The Influence of Hobbes
14. From His Age to Our Own
14. 1 The Early Reception and Critique of Hobbes’s Work
14. 2 A Continuing Debate
14. 3 The Modern Discussion
Chronology of Hobbes’s Life and Work
Name Index
Subject Index

An introduction to Thomas Hobbes as a systematic and not merely political philosopher.


Best known for his contributions to political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes set out to develop a coherent philosophical system extending from logic and natural philosophy to civil and religious philosophy. In this introduction to Hobbes's thought, Otfried Höffe begins by providing an overview of the entire scope of his work, making clear its systematic character through analysis of his natural philosophy, his individual and social anthropology, and his political thought. He then offers an innovative examination of religious and ecclesiastical questions, touching not only on the political implications of religion so important to Hobbes, but also on his attempt to reconstruct Christianity in terms of a materialistic philosophy. He also explores Hobbes's continuous critique of Aristotle and Aristotelian Scholastics, in which Höffe argues that Hobbes and Aristotle have much more in common philosophically than is normally supposed—and certainly more than Hobbes himself acknowledged. Finally, Höffe sketches the influence Hobbes had and continues to have on the development of legal and political philosophy.

Otfried Höffe is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Director of the Research Center for Political Philosophy at the University of Tübingen. His many books include Aristotle (translated by Christine Salazar) and Immanuel Kant (translated by Marshall Farrier), both also published by SUNY Press. Nicholas Walker has translated many books, including Kant's Moral and Legal Philosophy (edited by Karl Ameriks and Otfried Höffe) and Hegel on Ethics and Politics (edited by Robert B. Pippin and Otfried Höffe).


"A thoroughly successful introduction to the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes…" — Reinhard Brandt, in Süddeutsche Zeitung, in praise of the German edition