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The Natural Laws of Good Manners: Hobbes, Glory, and Early Modern Civility

  • Clifton Mark


According to Hobbes, glory causes conflict in two ways: by causing competition over comparative recognition, and by making men violently sensitive to insult. Interpreters have generally depicted the sensitivity to insult as a manifestation of the desire for comparative recognition. This reading raises two problems. First, the two ways in which Hobbes uses glory are inconsistent. Second, if the problem with glory is comparison, then the law of nature enjoining the acknowledgment of equality should lead to war rather than peace. This paper illuminates these obscurities by placing Hobbes in the context of the contemporary literature on honor and civility. These sources reveal two concepts of honor which correspond to the two ways in which Hobbes writes about glory. Hobbes draws heavily from these sources, but intentionally elides the two concepts of honor in order to undermine an ideology of honor that was used to justify disobedience and unlawful violence.



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1 L 17.8, 108. Citations to Hobbes's works are abbreviated as follows: EL equals The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic: Human Nature and De Corpore Politico (1640), ed. Gaskin, J. C. A. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); DC equals On the Citizen (1642/1647), ed. Tuck, Richard, trans. Silverthorne, Michael (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); L equals Leviathan (1651), ed. Curley, Edwin (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1994); B equals Behemoth; or, The Long Parliament (1668/1681), ed. Holmes, Stephen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994); and C equals The Correspondence, ed. Malcolm, Noel, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994). Where possible, references are given by chapter and paragraph, with a page number following.

2 DC 2.12, 49.

3 Strauss, Leo, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis, trans. Sinclair, Elsa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), 18; Slomp, Gabriella, “Hobbes on Glory and Civil Strife,” in The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes's “Leviathan, ed. Springborg, Patricia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 181–98; Walzer, Michael, Spheres of Justice (New York: Basic Books, 1983), chap. 11; Pettit, Phillip, Made with Words (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); Oakeshott, Michael, Hobbes on Civil Association (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1975), 87.

4 Quentin Skinner, “Hobbes and the Social Control of Unsociability,” in The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes, ed. A. P. Martinich and Kinch Hoekstra, published online Dec. 2013, p. 6.

5 Cited in Peltonen, Markku, The Duel in Early Modern England: Civility, Politeness and Honour (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 25.

6 [Saviolo, Vincent], The Booke of Honor and Armes (London: Richard Jones, 1590), frontispiece.

7 Saviolo, Vincentio, His Practise (London: John Wolfe, 1595), frontispiece.

8 Bryson, Anna, From Courtesy to Civility: Changing Codes of Conduct in Early Modern England (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 136.

9 Dewald, Jonathan, The European Nobility, 1400–1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 168. See also Bryson, From Courtesy to Civility; James, Mervyn, English Politics and the Concept of Honour, 1485–1642 (Oxford: Past and Present Society, 1986); Neuschel, Kristen B., Word of Honor: Interpreting Noble Culture in Sixteenth-Century France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989); Peltonen, Duel in Early Modern England; Adamson, John, “The Kingdom of England and Great Britain: The Tudor and Stuart Courts, 1509–1714,” in The Princely Courts of Europe: Ritual, Politics and Culture under the Ancien Régime, 1500–1750, ed. Adamson, John (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), 95117.

10 Cited in Peltonen, Duel in Early Modern England, 41, emphasis mine.

11 Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, A Pvblication of His Majestie's Edict, and Severe Censvre against Priuate Combats and Combatants (London, 1613), 4243.

12 Casa, John Della, Galateo (London: Raufe Newbery, 1576), 101–2.

13 Ashley, Robert, A Treatise of Honour (Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie, 1947), 70. The original manuscript is dated between 1596 and 1603.

14 L 10.16, 51.

15 Romei, Annibale, The Courtier's Academie, trans. Kepers, John (London: Valentine Sims, 1598), 7980.

16 In contemporary language, the two forms of honor map roughly onto respect and esteem or, in Stephen Darwall's terminology, recognition respect and appraisal respect. See Darwall, Stephen, “Two Kinds of Respect,” Ethics 88, no. 1 (1977): 3649.

17 Ellis, Clement, The Gentile Sinner; or, England's Brave Gentleman (Oxford: E. & J. Forrest, 1660), 124.

18 Bryson, From Courtesy to Civility, 67.

19 Ashley, A Treatise of Honour, 69,

20 Walker, Obadiah, Of Education, Especially of Young Gentlemen in Two Parts (Oxford, 1643), 211.

21 Teresa M. Bejan, “Acknowledging Equality,” 7th Annual Balzan-Skinner Lecture, University of Cambridge, April 22, 2016.

22 Romei, The Courtier's Academie, 80.

23 Della Casa, Galateo, 45. Cf. L 10.29, 52.

24 Cf. L 10.24, 52.

25 Cited in Peltonen, Duel in Early Modern England, 59.

26 Cited in Bryson, From Courtesy to Civility, 224.

27 Cited in Peltonen, Duel in Early Modern England, 43, emphasis mine.

28 Romei, The Courtier's Academie, 105–6.

29 Skinner, “Social Control of Unsociability.”

30 Selden, The Duello; or, Single Combat: From Antiquity Derived into This Kingdom of England (London, 1711); Bacon, Francis, The Charge of Sir Francis Bacon Knight, His Maiesties Attourney Generall, Touching Duells (London, 1614).

31 Quentin Skinner, “Social Control of Unsociability,” 432–52.

32 L 15.40, 100.

33 Bryson, From Courtesy to Civility, 223–24.

34 Peltonen, Duel in Early Modern England, 15; Bejan, Teresa M., Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).

35 L 13.7, 76.

36 L 13.14, 78.

37 For an account of glory as an “organizing” cause of war, see Abizadeh, Arash, “Hobbes on the Causes of War: A Disagreement Theory,” American Political Science Review 105 (2011): 300.

38 L 6.39, 31; L 10.2, 50. In Hobbes's early Elements of Law, glory is defined in explicitly comparative terms: “GLORY, or internal gloriation or triumph of the mind, is that passion which proceedeth from the imagination or conception of our own power, above the power of him that contendeth with us.” Although Hobbes drops this part of the definition in Leviathan, there is plenty of evidence to conclude that he continued to see glory in comparative terms. Most prominent is the “ants and bees” argument in which he argues that men can “relish nothing but what is eminent.” For the continuing importance of comparison in Hobbes's later work, see Slomp, “Hobbes on Glory and Civil Strife.”

39 L 10.17, 51. Cf. E 9.1, 50 and DC 1.2, 23.

40 L.17.8, 108.

41 Strauss, Political Philosophy of Hobbes, 18; Slomp, “Glory and Civil Strife,” 189.

42 L 13.7, 76.

43 Abizadeh, “Causes of War,” 300.

44 L 15.20, 96.

45 DC 1.5, 27; EL 16.11, 86.

46 L 15.20, 96.

47 L 10.19–36, 52–53.

48 DC 1.2, 25–26. See also L 10.30, 52. For laughter as insult in Hobbes, see Skinner, “Social Control of Unsociability,” and Skinner, Quentin, “Hobbes and the Classical Theory of Laughter,” in Visions of Politics, vol. 3, Hobbes and Civil Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 142–76.

49 Abizadeh, “Causes of War,” 309; Bejan, Teresa, “Difference without Disagreement: Rethinking Hobbes on ‘Independency’ and Toleration,” Review of Politics 78 (2016): 12.

50 See Skinner, “Social Control of Unsociability” and “Classical Theory of Laughter.”

51 Cited in Bryson, From Courtesy to Civility, 71 and 79–80.

52 Strauss, Political Philosophy of Hobbes, 12.

53 Walzer, Spheres of Justice, 253.

54 Pettit, Made with Words, 101.

55 E.g., Bejan, Teresa and Garsten, Bryan, “The Difficult Work of Liberal Civility,” in Civility, Legality, and Justice in America, ed. Sarat, Austin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 26.

56 Abizadeh, “Causes of War,” 309.

57 L 10.37–52; EL 8.5, 48–49.

58 L 15.21, 96.

59 L 27.20, 196.

60 DC 12.13, 148. One of the ways that the sovereign does this is through the distribution of titles of honor: L 18.15, 115.

61 EL 10.2; L 14.31, 87.

62 DC Pref. 20, 13.

63 C 28, 52.

64 L 14.3, 79.

65 L 15.40, 100.

66 L 13.5, 75–76; EL 14.4, 78; DC 1.5, 26.

67 L 15.21, 96.

68 Abizadeh, “Causes of War,” 303; Kidder, Joel, “Acknowledgements of Equals: Hobbes's Ninth Law of Nature,” Philosophical Quarterly 33 (1983): 133–46; Slomp, Gabriella, Thomas Hobbes and the Political Philosophy of Glory (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), chap. 2; and Cooper, Julie E., “Vainglory, Modesty, and Political Agency in the Political Theory of Thomas Hobbes,” Review of Politics 72 (2010): 241–69.

69 For a more comprehensive treatment of Hobbesian equality, see Hoekstra, Kinch, “Hobbesian Equality,” in Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century, ed. Lloyd, S. A. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 76112, and Bejan, “Acknowledging Equality.”

70 EL 17.1, 93. See also EL16.5, 89: “injury, which is the injustice of action, consisteth not in the inequality of things changed, or distributed, but in the inequality that men (contrary to nature and reason) assume unto themselves above their fellows.”

71 DC 3.15, 50.

72 L 26.17, 179; L 26.26, 183; DC 4.12,62; B 37; L 26.28, 184.

73 Pettit, Made with Words, 96.

74 L 15.20, 96.

75 L 15.21, 96.

76 L 13.5, 75. See also L 10.24, 52.

77 E 14.4, 78; DC 1.5, 27.

78 DC 1.2, 23.

79 Bejan, Mere Civility, 106.

80 L 21.8, 140.

81 B 23.

82 Bacon, The Charge, 10.

83 Ibid., 9.

84 Romei, The Courtier's Academie, 125. For Romei, glory is much closer to “perfect” or “acquired” honor, which I have been calling “comparative honor.” Between these, the only distinction is that glory appears to require some public monument or recognition, whereas honor, “without any other signe or reward, may be preserved in the memory with men, through infinit ages.”

85 Strauss, Philosophy of Hobbes, 121.

86 Fukuyama, Francis, The End of History and the Last Man (London: Penguin Books, 1992). Bagby, Laurie Johnson, Thomas Hobbes: Turning Point for Honor (Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2009), argues that Hobbes's philosophy has moved us into a world of instrumental calculation at the expense of honor.

87 L 27.19, 196.

88 B 38.

89 L 10.49, 54.

90 Aubrey, John, Brief Lives, ed. Clark, Andrew (London: Clarendon, 1898), 373.

91 E 16.11. Cf. DC 3.12, 49; L 30.15, 226.

92 L 30.16, 227.

93 B 26.

94 L 15.40, 100.

95 L 15.1, 89.

I would like to thank the following people for their comments on earlier drafts of this article: the Graduate Political Theory Workshop at the University of Toronto, Laurens van Apeldoorn, Ronit Levine-Schnur, Jacob Levy, Mara Marin, Emma Planinc, Paul Sagar, and the anonymous readers at the Review of Politics.

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