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“Of Darkness from Vain Philosophy”: Hobbes’s Critique of the Classical Tradition

“Of Darkness from Vain Philosophy”: Hobbes’s Critique of the Classical Tradition

Devin Stauffer, University of Texas

The early modern revolution in political philosophy not only transformed political philosophy itself; it also played a crucial role in shaping the character of modern politics. This article contributes to our understanding of that revolution through an examination of Thomas Hobbes’s critique of the classical tradition. Although it is well known that Hobbes was a critic of that tradition, the details of his critique have not been sufficiently uncovered. Hobbes’s key target was Aristotle, whom he regarded as the most important source of the tradition he opposed. Hobbes’s critique of Aristotle consists of two main lines of argument—one moral-political, the other metaphysical—that ultimately prove to be connected. An examination of Hobbes’s twofold critique can help us understand what was at stake in the reorientation of political philosophy that eventually gave rise to modern liberalism. Read more.


American Political Science Review / Volume 110, Issue 3 August 2016,  pp. 481-494