Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory

Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory

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In recent years serious attempts have been made to systematize and develop the moral and political themes of great philosophers of the past. Kant, Locke, Marx, and the classical utilitarians all have their current defenders and arc taken seriously as expositors of sound moral and political views. It is the aim of this book to introduce Hobbes into this select group by presenting a plausible moral and political theory inspired by Leviathan. Using the techniques of analytic philosophy and elementary game theory, the author develops a Hobbesian argument that justifies the liberal State and reconciles the rights and interests of rational individuals with their obligations. Hobbes's case against anarchy, based on his notorious claim that life outside the political State would be a "war of all against all," is analyzed in detail, while his endorsement of the absolutist State is traced to certain false hypotheses about political sociology. With these eliminated, Hobbes's principles support a liberal redistributive (or "satisfactory") State and a limited right of revolution.
Turning to normative issues, the book explains Hobbes's account of morality based on enlightened self-interest and shows how the Hobbesian version of social contract theory justifies the political obligations of citizens of satisfactory States.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 542 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 28.7mm | 680g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 069102765X
  • 9780691027654
  • 2,096,520

Back cover copy

Both conflict and cooperation are ubiquitous features of human social life. Interests of individuals conflict with those of their neighbors because (among other reasons) material resources are scarce, ideals and values are diverse, and people care about their reputations and relative standing among their fellows. At the same time, individuals share a number of common interests and concerns, and this makes social cooperation possible. Among the most important of these common interests are the prevention and limitation of violent conflict and the protection of personal possessions. When these interests are secured and when environmental and economic conditions are reasonably favorable, people generally can live out their lives and engage in cooperative (and competitive) social activities without constant concern for their own survival and that of their loved ones. But it is not easy to secure persons and possessions when others may gain by attacking the former or seizing the latter. In fact, it requires two major social institutions--morality and government--working in a coordinated fashion to do so. This is one of the main themes of Hobbes's philosophy that will be developed in this book.
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Review quote

"This book's great strength is the analytical care with which
Kavka addresses Hobbes's theories. He organizes the material by
major issues, and his argument builds from chapter to chapter. The
whole is a model commentary on a great philosopher's work."-Russell Hardin, University of Chicago
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Rating details

7 ratings
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