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Thomas Hobbes: Skeptical Moralist

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2013

Dana Chabot
Affiliation:
Indiana University

Abstract

Thomas Hobbes is usually held to have been a skeptic in matters of religion and morality. I accept the claim that there is a distinctive skeptical strain in Hobbes' thought but argue that his skepticism informs his moral vision, rather than depriving him of a conception of morality. As evidence for this reading, I situate Hobbes in a tradition of “skeptical moralism,” along with Montaigne and certain other Renaissance figures. As opposed to moral skeptics, skeptical moralists think of moral agents as divided selves, pulled in one direction by law and another by conscience. Skeptical moralists use skepticism to make people aware of this tension, and I argue that (especially in his remarks on religion) Hobbes was doing just that.

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Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 1995

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