Hobbes Seminar

Philosophy 185s, Spring 2013


This is an advanced seminar on the moral and political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Students are expected to have some familiarity with philosophy, political theory, early modern history, or theology. The course is restricted to Juniors and Seniors in the catalog; if you are younger than that but have some of the relevant background (such as Philosophy 33) and would like to take the class, please contact me.

Topics for discussion include: the place of Hobbes's natural philosophy in Leviathan, the state of nature in anthropology and international relations, rights in Hobbes’s moral and political philosophy, Hobbes’s philosophy of law, and Hobbes on miracles and other theological matters. Readings will come from Hobbes’s Leviathan, Hobbes’s contemporary critics, and the scholarly literature on Hobbes.

The class

Class picture


The syllabus (PDF) contains a schedule of topics for discussion, readings, and assignments. It also describes the standards for grades and other policies for the class.


Are philosophy papers different? Not really, but there are some points of emphasis that it’s good to know about.


The best way for registered students to access the site is through Sakai. The Sakai site has links to everything you see here but it also has announcements and pdf files of the readings. When the term ends, the Sakai site will no longer be published but this site will still be here.


The instructor for this class is Michael Green.


  1. January 23. Researching Hobbes
  2. January 28. Cognition
  3. January 30. Science and reason :: Science vs. experience (handout, PDF)
  4. February 4. Reason and religion (updated April 5) :: Hobbes on science (handout, PDF)
  5. February 6. More complex psychology
  6. February 11. Natural religion :: Chapter 12 outline (handout, PDF)
  7. February 13. The state of nature
  8. February 18. International relations
  9. February 20. Anthropologists on the state of nature
  10. February 25. The laws of nature
  11. February 27. Kavka on the right of nature (updated March 4) :: Inalienability (handout, PDF)
  12. March 4. Finkelstein on inalienability (updated March 5 and March 6) :: Inalienability, again (handout, PDF)
  13. March 6. Obligation :: Contractual and natural obligation (handout, PDF)
  14. March 11. Justice :: Justice and obligation (handout, PDF)
  15. March 13. Hume on justice (updated March 24)
  16. March 25. Hume vs. Hobbes :: Prisoner’s dilemma and coordination games (handout, PDF)
  17. March 27. Background on absolutism :: Background on absolutism (handout, PDF)
  18. April 1. Authorization :: Authorization (handout, PDF)
  19. April 3. The rights of sovereignty :: Authorization in the social contract (handout, PDF)
  20. April 8. Liberty
  21. April 10. Punishment, the critics
  22. April 15. Punishment and authorization :: Punishment and hostility (handout, PDF)
  23. April 17. Two social contracts :: Commonwealth by acquisition (handout, PDF)
  24. April 22. Representation and popular sovereignty
  25. April 24. Law
  26. April 29. The sovereign’s duties :: Material necessity (handout, PDF)
  27. May 1. Miracles :: Hobbes and the cessation of miracles (handout, PDF)
  28. May 6. Mortalism (updated May 19) :: The afterlife (handout, PDF)
  29. May 8. Epilogue