Hobbes on Causation and the Project of Leviathan

Bex Sussman

Hobbes on Causation and the Project of Leviathan

November 03, 2022 / 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm / Add to Google

749 Social Sciences Building

Thomas Pink, Professor of Philosophy at King’s College London

What links Hobbes’s famous debate with Bramhall about free will to the political theory of Leviathan? And what is the relation between Hobbes’s attack in that debate on the late scholastic metaphysics of causation, and his invocation against Bramhall of a Protestant theology of free will – when those Protestant theologians Hobbes cited so approvingly employed the same causal metaphysics as the Catholicism and Arminianism that he denounced?

The paper will argue that the late scholastic accounts of legal authority Hobbes sought to displace depended on a metaphysics of causation as taking a variety of forms specific to rational nature. Causation might operate contingently rather than by necessity. Or it might take distinctively normative forms, as a force of truth or of goodness operative on the mind. In Catholic political theology this allowed the church to constitute a sovereign legal authority as much as did the state. Hobbes’s removal from metaphysics of these distinctive forms of power allowed for a new conception of sovereign authority that clearly excluded the church. It also cleansed Protestant theology of all remaining purchase for the accounts of free will which that theology opposed. Those accounts were left plainly absurd, if thinkable at all. As a result, Hobbes could establish new views of the state and of salvation that were highly revisionary, but in very consistent ways.

Thomas Pink is a Professor of Philosophy at King’s College London. He has published on ethics, political philosophy and the philosophy of law, on the metaphysics of action and free will, and on scholasticism and natural law theory in the early modern period. He is the author of an edition of the moral and political works of Francisco Suarez and is currently working on an edition of Of Liberty and Necessity and The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance for the Clarendon edition of the works of Thomas Hobbes. 

Presented by the Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science and co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.