Human nature and stasis: On the influence of Thucydides on Hobbes’s science of politics

Milisavljević, Vladimir Ž. (2016) Human nature and stasis: On the influence of Thucydides on Hobbes’s science of politics. Zbornik Matice srpske za društvene nauke (4). pp. 689-707. ISSN 0352-5732 eISSN: 2406-0836

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This paper assesses the influence of Thucydides on Hobbes’s conception of man and, more generally, on his model of “Civil Science”. This influence can be traced back to the time when Hobbes worked on his translation of Thucydides’s history of the Peloponnesian War. Already at that time, Hobbes characterized Thucydides as the “the most politic historiographer that ever writ”, i.e. the historian whose work contributed the most to the true knowledge of politics. The main argument of the paper is that Hobbes’s admiration for the author of the History of the Peloponnesian War can be best explained by Thucydides’s ability to portray the essential conflictuality of politics. This thesis is confirmed by a comparative analysis of some important themes in Thucydides’s historical narrative and several major theoretical statements of Hobbes’s anthropology and political theory. There is an unmistakable similarity, which has often been commented on, between Hobbes’s account of the three principal causes of conflict between individuals in the state of nature - Competition, Diffidence and Glory - and the three main human instincts to which the Athenians appeal, in a speech that Thucydides conveys, to justify their striving for power. However, Thucydides influenced Hobbes mostly by his descriptions of internal war. The final part of the article examines in this light two topics from Thucydides’s famous description of the stasis which took place in Corcyra - the impossibility of justice and the perversion of language in time of sedition in the polis.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: history, justice, nature, polis, politics, science, stasis, war
Institutional centre: Centre for philosophy
Depositing User: Vesna Jovanović
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2020 11:18
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2020 11:18

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