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Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law

Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law

Kody W. Cooper

Has Hobbesian moral and political theory been fundamentally misinterpreted by most of his readers? Since the criticism of John Bramhall, Hobbes has generally been regarded as advancing a moral and political theory that is antithetical to classical natural law theory. Kody Cooper challenges this traditional interpretation of Hobbes in Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law.

Hobbes affirms two essential theses of classical natural law theory: the capacity of practical reason to grasp intelligible goods or reasons for action and the legally binding character of the practical requirements essential to the pursuit of human flourishing. Hobbes’s novel contribution lies principally in his formulation of a thin theory of the good. This book seeks to prove that Hobbes has more in common with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of natural law philosophy than has been recognized. According to Cooper, Hobbes affirms a realistic philosophy as well as biblical revelation as the ground of his philosophical-theological anthropology and his moral and civil science. In addition, Cooper contends that Hobbes’s thought, although transformative in important ways, also has important structural continuities with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of practical reason, theology, social ontology, and law. What emerges from this study is a nuanced assessment of Hobbes’s place in the natural law tradition as a formulator of natural law liberalism. This book will appeal to political theorists and philosophers and be of particular interest to Hobbes scholars and natural law theorists.

“Just as Étienne Gilson showed that René Descartes owed more to the scholastic tradition than previously acknowledged, so Kody Cooper indicates that Thomas Hobbes adjusts but largely accepts Thomas Aquinas’s natural law account of God, church-state relations, and positive law. Among the book’s many virtues, it treats with sympathy and subtlety scholars taking a wide range of rival perspectives on the interpretation of Hobbes.” —Christopher Kaczor, Loyola Marymount University

“Challenging the customary views, this volume argues that Thomas Hobbes’s natural law is more than a set of rational but not morally obligatory rules. Kody Cooper argues that key aspects of Hobbes’s construction fall within the boundaries of the classical natural law tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas. Cooper’s argument for this position is the most thorough and persuasive to date, and is required reading for anyone interested in learning about Hobbes’s views on natural law and Christian theology.” — Laurie M Johnson, Kansas State University

“Kody Cooper’s reinterpretation of Hobbes is original and persuasive. It effectively upends most received opinions about Hobbes’s philosophy, political doctrines, relationship to preceding thought, and relevance to contemporary liberal democracies. This is a new and improved Hobbes—one sure to inspire new and improved inquiry into the natural law foundations of liberalism.” — S. Adam Seagrave, University of Missouri

“This study substantively advances the interpretation of Hobbes as a natural law theorist. Kody Cooper’s sure-handed treatment of Hobbes’s political philosophy and the tradition of natural law is impressive; and his engagement with the best Hobbesian scholarship is illuminating.” — Al Martinich, Roy Allison Vaughan Centennial Professor in Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

ISBN: 978-0-268-10301-9
328 pages
Publication Year: 2018

Kody Cooper is assistant professor of political science and public service at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

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Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law

Kody W. Cooper

 Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law
Cloth Edition

Has Hobbesian moral and political theory been fundamentally misinterpreted by most of his readers? Since the criticism of John Bramhall, Hobbes has generally been regarded as advancing a moral and political theory that is antithetical to classical natural law theory. Kody Cooper challenges this traditional interpretation of Hobbes in Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law.

Hobbes affirms two essential theses of classical natural law theory: the capacity of practical reason to grasp intelligible goods or reasons for action and the legally binding character of the practical requirements essential to the pursuit of human flourishing. Hobbes’s novel contribution lies principally in his formulation of a thin theory of the good. This book seeks to prove that Hobbes has more in common with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of natural law philosophy than has been recognized. According to Cooper, Hobbes affirms a realistic philosophy as well as biblical revelation as the ground of his philosophical-theological anthropology and his moral and civil science. In addition, Cooper contends that Hobbes’s thought, although transformative in important ways, also has important structural continuities with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of practical reason, theology, social ontology, and law. What emerges from this study is a nuanced assessment of Hobbes’s place in the natural law tradition as a formulator of natural law liberalism. This book will appeal to political theorists and philosophers and be of particular interest to Hobbes scholars and natural law theorists.

“Just as Étienne Gilson showed that René Descartes owed more to the scholastic tradition than previously acknowledged, so Kody Cooper indicates that Thomas Hobbes adjusts but largely accepts Thomas Aquinas’s natural law account of God, church-state relations, and positive law. Among the book’s many virtues, it treats with sympathy and subtlety scholars taking a wide range of rival perspectives on the interpretation of Hobbes.” —Christopher Kaczor, Loyola Marymount University

“Challenging the customary views, this volume argues that Thomas Hobbes’s natural law is more than a set of rational but not morally obligatory rules. Kody Cooper argues that key aspects of Hobbes’s construction fall within the boundaries of the classical natural law tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas. Cooper’s argument for this position is the most thorough and persuasive to date, and is required reading for anyone interested in learning about Hobbes’s views on natural law and Christian theology.” — Laurie M Johnson, Kansas State University

“Kody Cooper’s reinterpretation of Hobbes is original and persuasive. It effectively upends most received opinions about Hobbes’s philosophy, political doctrines, relationship to preceding thought, and relevance to contemporary liberal democracies. This is a new and improved Hobbes—one sure to inspire new and improved inquiry into the natural law foundations of liberalism.” — S. Adam Seagrave, University of Missouri

“This study substantively advances the interpretation of Hobbes as a natural law theorist. Kody Cooper’s sure-handed treatment of Hobbes’s political philosophy and the tradition of natural law is impressive; and his engagement with the best Hobbesian scholarship is illuminating.” — Al Martinich, Roy Allison Vaughan Centennial Professor in Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

ISBN: 978-0-268-10301-9

328 pages