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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

Chapter 9 - Hobbes on Love and Fear of God

Summary

Hobbes clearly and consistently maintains that we have a duty to love and fear God. However, he also problematizes love of God and, by implication, other passions putatively directed “to Godward.” We lack any conception of God, and therefore cannot love God in any literal sense. Moreover, even if love of God were psychologically possible, it is not clear that it would be appropriate, since love is apt only when someone is good to us. Love also requires wishing for the wellbeing of the beloved, which is absurd in the case of God. Similar arguments apply to fear of God. I examine the way in which Hobbes deals with this tension in On the Citizen. Without being explicit about what he is doing, Hobbes effectively redefines "love" and "fear" in the case of God, so that they are exhaustively constituted by obedience to the laws of nature, and not by any sort of feeling or affective attitude.