Event Title

The Religious Worldview of Leviathan

Presenter Information

Lee Borocz-Johnson, Elmhurst College

Location

HSC 2137

Start Date

28-2-2015 10:00 AM

Description

It is a questionably recent trend in Thomas Hobbes scholarship to seriously consider his theory of the relation of religion to sovereignty. Consequently, there is still no wide agreement as to the nature of Hobbes’s general theory of religion. Nor has any account of his theological picture of sovereignty in the second half of Leviathan gained wide and unproblematic acceptance among the scholarly community. This paper is not intended to pronounce thoroughly or decisively on either of these issues. Rather, I pick up the more specific issue of the religious attitudes underlying Hobbes’s thought. One debate among many has centered upon whether or not the theological points of view taken up in Leviathan might underwrite a serious religious worldview. Those who take the position that Hobbes does not put forth a serious religious worldview tend to focus generally on his mechanistic materialism, his concerns regarding the potential danger of out-of-control religiosity, and his focus upon religion exclusively to the extent that it is ‘usable’ by the sovereign for political ends. Those who take the position that Hobbes does put forth a serious religious worldview tend to focus on his theological points in the larger context of reformation theology. The general claim of this position is that where Hobbes seems to make radical and unprecedented claims, he is actually not deviating very drastically from fairly standard reformed attitudes of his time. This paper takes the position that Hobbes puts forth a serious religious worldview, specifically taking into account Hobbes’s theories of nature and human psychology. To defend this position, I argue that Hobbes’s theories of nature and sovereignty do not coherently fit together if the worldview he espouses does not contain his theological viewpoints as true and real constituents. In other words, I claim that Hobbes seeks at every step to give a purely descriptive account of the world, and this account includes not only a serious religious position, but also an affirmation of Christianity as the true religion.

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Feb 28th, 10:00 AM

The Religious Worldview of Leviathan

HSC 2137

It is a questionably recent trend in Thomas Hobbes scholarship to seriously consider his theory of the relation of religion to sovereignty. Consequently, there is still no wide agreement as to the nature of Hobbes’s general theory of religion. Nor has any account of his theological picture of sovereignty in the second half of Leviathan gained wide and unproblematic acceptance among the scholarly community. This paper is not intended to pronounce thoroughly or decisively on either of these issues. Rather, I pick up the more specific issue of the religious attitudes underlying Hobbes’s thought. One debate among many has centered upon whether or not the theological points of view taken up in Leviathan might underwrite a serious religious worldview. Those who take the position that Hobbes does not put forth a serious religious worldview tend to focus generally on his mechanistic materialism, his concerns regarding the potential danger of out-of-control religiosity, and his focus upon religion exclusively to the extent that it is ‘usable’ by the sovereign for political ends. Those who take the position that Hobbes does put forth a serious religious worldview tend to focus on his theological points in the larger context of reformation theology. The general claim of this position is that where Hobbes seems to make radical and unprecedented claims, he is actually not deviating very drastically from fairly standard reformed attitudes of his time. This paper takes the position that Hobbes puts forth a serious religious worldview, specifically taking into account Hobbes’s theories of nature and human psychology. To defend this position, I argue that Hobbes’s theories of nature and sovereignty do not coherently fit together if the worldview he espouses does not contain his theological viewpoints as true and real constituents. In other words, I claim that Hobbes seeks at every step to give a purely descriptive account of the world, and this account includes not only a serious religious position, but also an affirmation of Christianity as the true religion.