A Dialogue Between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England

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University of Chicago Press, May 1, 1997 - Philosophy - 168 pages
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This little-known late writing of Hobbes reveals an unexplored dimension of his famous doctrine of sovereignty. The essay was first published posthumously in 1681, and from 1840 to 1971 only a generally unreliable edition has been in print. This edition provides the first dependable and easily accessible text of Hobbes's Dialogue. In the Dialogue, Hobbes sets forth his mature reflections of the relation between reason and law, reflections more "liberal" than those found in Leviathan and his other well-known writings. Hobbes proposes a separation of the functions of government in the interest of common sense and humaneness without visibly violating his dictum that the sharing or division of sovereignty is an absurdity. This new edition of the Dialogue is a significant contribution to our understanding of seventeenth-century political philosophy.

"Hobbes students are indebted to Professor Cropsey for this scholarly and accessible edition of Dialogue."—J. Roland Pennock, American Political Science Review

"An invaluable aid to the study of Hobbes."—Review of Metaphysics
 

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Contents

II
1
III
49
IV
53
V
57
VI
77
VII
101
VIII
122
IX
132
X
140
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About the author (1997)

Thomas Hobbes was born in Malmesbury, the son of a wayward country vicar. He was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and was supported during his long life by the wealthy Cavendish family, the Earls of Devonshire. Traveling widely, he met many of the leading intellectuals of the day, including Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, and Rene Descartes. As a philosopher and political theorist, Hobbes established---along with, but independently of, Descartes---early modern modes of thought in reaction to the scholasticism that characterized the seventeenth century. Because of his ideas, he was constantly in dispute with scientists and theologians, and many of his works were banned. His writings on psychology raised the possibility (later realized) that psychology could become a natural science, but his theory of politics is his most enduring achievement. In brief, his theory states that the problem of establishing order in society requires a sovereign to whom people owe loyalty and who in turn has duties toward his or her subjects. His prose masterpiece Leviathan (1651) is regarded as a major contribution to the theory of the state.

Joseph Cropsey (1919-2012) was a distinguished service professor emeritus in the department of political science at the University of Chicago, where he taught since 1958. He previously was on the faculty of the City College of New York and the New School for Social Research. His scholarly work examined classical political thinkers such as Socrates and Plato, as well as the foundations of modern liberalism in Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith. He also collaborated with Leo Strauss, co-editing the inflential overview of Western political thought History of Political Philosophy.

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