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HOBBES'S CHANGING ECCLESIOLOGY

  • ANDREW KENNETH DAY (a1)
Abstract

Readers of Hobbes have sought to account for differences between the arguments of his most influential texts. In De cive Hobbes (tepidly) endorsed apostolic structures of spiritual authority, while in Leviathan he at last unleashed his vehement anticlericalism. I argue that these disparities do not reflect an identifiable change in Hobbes's ideas or principles over time. Rather, the political context in which Hobbes composed his treatises drastically altered over the course of his writing career, and the Hobbesian theoretical significance of those contextual developments best accounts for some ecclesiological inconsistencies across his oeuvre. There was, throughout the brief and tumultuous period after the regicide during which Hobbes composed Leviathan, no sovereign power in England to whom he should defer, and consequently he acquired certain liberties that subjects in a civitas forgo. Those included the renewal of his right to wage a ‘war of pens’ against High Anglican episcopal power.

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Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USAandrewday2019@u.northwestern.edu
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I would like to thank Jeffrey Collins, Daniel Kapust, and Quentin Skinner for their comments on and incisive criticisms of this article. For their generosity, encouragement, and advice, I am especially grateful to Mary Dietz, Loubna El Amine, and above all James Farr.

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1 ‘For my life is not inconsistent with my writings: / Justice I teach, and justice I cultivate.’ My translation. For Hobbes's texts I use Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, ed. Malcolm, Noel (3 vols., Oxford, 2012) (hereafter Leviathan); Hobbes, Thomas, On the citizen, ed. Tuck, Richard (Cambridge, 1998) (hereafter DC); and Hobbes, Thomas, English works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, ed. Sir Molesworth, William, iv (London, 1969) (hereafter EW).

2 See Skinner, Quentin, ‘Regarding method’, in Visions of politics, i: Regarding method (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 17, for development of this distinction.

3 See e.g. Burgess, Glenn, ‘Usurpation, obligation, and obedience in the thought of the Engagement Controversy’, Historical Journal, 29 (1986), pp. 515–36; and Skinner, Quentin, ‘Conquest and consent in Hobbes and the Engagement Controversy’, in Visions of politics, iii: Hobbes and civil science (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 281302.

4 See Tuck, Richard, ‘The “Christian atheism” of Thomas Hobbes’, in Hunter, Michael and Wootton, David, eds., Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment (Oxford, 1992), pp. 111–30.

5 See Collins, Jeffrey, The allegiance of Thomas Hobbes (Oxford, 2005). See also Figgis, J. Neville, ‘Erastus and Erastianism’, Journal of Theological Studies, 2 (1900), pp. 66101. I follow Collins in using the word ‘Erastian’, which denotes the complete subordination of religion to the state.

6 Springborg, Patricia, ‘Hobbes, heresy, and the Historia ecclesiastica’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 55 (1994), p. 553.

7 See Quentin Skinner, ‘Motives, intentions, and interpretation’, in Visions of politics, i, pp. 90–102, on this mode of explanation.

8 For a classic piece on Hobbes's religious thought, see Pocock, J. G. A., ‘Time, history, and eschatology in the thought of Thomas Hobbes’, in Politics, language and time: essays on political thought and history (Chicago, IL, 1989), pp. 148202.

9 DC, p. 216.

10 Ibid., p. 233.

11 Leviathan, ii, p. 510, and iii, p. 852.

12 See Tuck, Richard, ‘Warrender's De cive’, Political Studies, 32 (1985), pp. 308–15; and Collins, Jeffrey, ‘Christian ecclesiology and the composition of Leviathan: a newly discovered letter to Thomas Hobbes’, Historical Journal, 43 (2000), pp. 217–31.

13 See Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, ed. Tuck, Richard (Cambridge, 1996), pp. xxxixxl. See Tuck, Richard, ‘The civil religion of Thomas Hobbes’, in Phillipson, Nicholas and Skinner, Quentin, eds., Political discourse in early modern Britain (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 120–38.

14 Collins, The allegiance of Thomas Hobbes, p. 120.

15 Sommerville, Johann P., Thomas Hobbes: political ideas in historical context (London, 1992), p. 107.

16 See Nauta, Lodi, ‘Hobbes on religion and the church between “The element of law” and “Leviathan”: a dramatic change of direction?’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 63 (2002), pp. 587–94.

17 See EW, p. 199.

18 DC, p. 216.

19 DC, pp. 198–9.

20 See Collins, The allegiance of Thomas Hobbes, pp. 80–1.

21 Nauta, ‘Hobbes on religion and the church between “The element of law” and “Leviathan”: a dramatic change of direction?’, p. 592.

22 DC, p. 223.

23 It is debatable just how ‘unHobbesian’ this dualism is, though certainly it seems a violation of Hobbes's metaphysical monism.

24 Leviathan, pp. 774 and 836.

25 Ibid., p. 854.

26 DC, p. 208.

27 Baumgold, Deborah, ‘The difficulties of Hobbes interpretation’, Political Theory, 36 (2008), pp. 827–55; and Baumgold, Deborah, ‘The composition of Hobbes's Elements of law’, History of Political Thought, 25 (2004), pp. 1643.

28 Springborg, Patricia, ‘The paradoxical Hobbes: a critical response to the Hobbes symposium’, Political Theory, 37 (2009), pp. 676–88.

29 See Hoekstra, Kinch, ‘The de facto turn in Hobbes's political philosophy’, in Sorell, Tom and Foisneau, Luc, eds., Leviathan after 350 years (Oxford, 2004), pp. 3373; and Hoekstra, Kinch, ‘II – The end of philosophy (the case of Hobbes)’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 106 (2006), pp. 2562.

30 Tuck, ‘The civil religion of Thomas Hobbes’, p. 130.

31 Collins, The allegiance of Thomas Hobbes.

32 Leviathan, ii, p. 502.

34 See Murphy, Mark C., ‘Hobbes (and Austin, and Aquinas) on law as command of the sovereign’, in Martinich, Al P. and Hoekstra, Kinch, eds., The Oxford handbook of Hobbes (Oxford, 2016), pp. 337–56.

35 Leviathan, ii, p. 250.

36 Tuck established this likely timeline. Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Tuck, p. xi.

37 Although not necessarily. See Tuck, Richard, The sleeping sovereign: the invention of modern democracy (Cambridge, 2016).

38 See EW, p. 420.

39 Ibid., p. 414.

40 Ibid., p. 417.

41 DC, p. 135.

43 Ibid., p. 13.

44 Ibid., p. 13.

45 Ibid., p. 14.

46 Dietz, Mary, ‘Hobbes's subject as citizen’, in Dietz, Mary, ed., Thomas Hobbes and political theory (Lawrence, KS, 1990), p. 96.

47 Leviathan, ii, p. 518.

48 Hyde, Edward, A brief view and survey of the dangerous and pernicious errors to church and state, in Mr. Hobbes's book, entitled Leviathan (Oxford, 1676), p. 90.

49 Arash Abizadeh has argued that authority and territory are not intrinsically linked in Hobbes's theory of proprietary sovereignty. See Arash Abizadeh, ‘Sovereign jurisdiction, territorial rights, and membership in Hobbes’, in Martinich and Hoekstra, eds., The Oxford handbook of Hobbes.

50 Leviathan, ii, p. 194.

51 Ibid., iii, p. 708.

52 Schmitt, Carl, The Leviathan in the state theory of Thomas Hobbes: meaning and failure of a political symbol (Chicago, IL, 2008), p. 34.

53 Skinner, Quentin, Hobbes and republican liberty (Cambridge, 2008), p. 290.

54 DC, p. 5.

55 See e.g. Johnston, David, The rhetoric of Leviathan (Princeton, NJ, 1986); and Skinner, Quentin, Reason and rhetoric in the philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge, 1997).

56 Tuck, ‘The civil religion of Thomas Hobbes’, p. 132.

57 DC, p. 15.

58 Hobbes, Thomas, Correspondence, i: 1622–1659, ed. Malcolm, Noel (Oxford, 1998), pp. 157–8.

59 DC, p. 14.

60 Love, Harold, Scribal publication in seventeenth-century England (Oxford, 1993), p. 177.

61 Baumgold, ‘The difficulties of Hobbes interpretation’, p. 839.

62 DC, p. 80.

63 Ibid., p. 15.

64 Leviathan, ii, p. 4.

65 Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Tuck, p. x.

66 Leviathan, ii, p. 6.

67 My italics. EW, p. 425.

68 DC, p. 172.

69 Quoted in Tuck, ‘The civil religion of Thomas Hobbes’, p. 126.

70 Collins, Jeffrey, ‘Thomas Hobbes, “father of atheists”’, in Hudson, Wayne, Lucci, Diego, and Wigelsworth, Jeffrey R., eds., Atheism and deism revalued: heterodox religious identities in Britain, 1650–1800 (Farnham, 2014), pp. 2544.

71 Quoted in Leviathan, i, p. 37

72 See Springborg, Patricia, ‘Thomas Hobbes and Cardinal Bellarmine’, History of Political Thought, 16 (1995), pp. 503–31.

73 Leviathan, iii, p. 854.

74 Quoted in ibid., i, p. 96.

75 Ibid., i, p. 99.

76 Webb, Simon, Aubrey's brief lives: omnibus edition (Langley, 2017), p. 160.

78 Raylor, Timothy, ‘The Anglican attack on Hobbes in Paris, 1651’, Historical Journal, 53 (2010), p. 164.

79 Leviathan, i, p. 87.

80 DC, p. 96.

81 Ibid., i, p. 2.

82 Tuck, ‘The “Christian atheism” of Thomas Hobbes’, p. 129.

83 Ibid., p. 130.

84 See Collins, Jeffrey, ‘The church settlement of Oliver Cromwell’, History, 87 (2002), pp. 1840.

85 Collins, The allegiance of Thomas Hobbes, p. 7.

86 Ibid., p. 80.

87 Hobbes similarly criticized Constantine, Charles's analogue, for conceding interpretive authority to Catholic Fathers. See Hobbes, Thomas, Historia ecclesiastica: critical edition, including text, translation, introduction, and notes, ed. Springborg, Patricia (Paris, 2008), p. 403.

88 DC, p. 144.

89 Leviathan, iii, p. 708.

90 Ibid., iii, p. 1139.

91 Tuck, ‘The “Christian atheism” of Thomas Hobbes’, pp. 112–13.

92 Leviathan, iii, p. 1139.

93 Ibid., iii, p. 1139.

94 Hobbes elsewhere used the metaphor of vessels containing faith. See Hobbes, Historia ecclesiastica: critical edition, including text, translation, introduction, and notes, ed. Springborg, p. 403.

95 For an essay on Hobbes's hopes to craft a Christianity conducive to commonwealths, see Sarah Mortimer, ‘Christianity and civil religion in Hobbes's Leviathan’, in Martinich and Hoekstra, eds., The Oxford handbook of Hobbes, pp. 501–19.

96 See Abizadeh, Arash, ‘Hobbes's conventionalist theology, the trinity, and God as an artificial person by fiction’, Historical Journal, 60 (2017), pp. 915–41.

I would like to thank Jeffrey Collins, Daniel Kapust, and Quentin Skinner for their comments on and incisive criticisms of this article. For their generosity, encouragement, and advice, I am especially grateful to Mary Dietz, Loubna El Amine, and above all James Farr.

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