Introductory course in Ethics
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is one of the most original and influential thinkers of the seventeenth-century. A central aspect of his work is the account of human agency and practical rationality that we find in the first part of Leviathan. This novel account of thought, reason, motivation and action was aimed to be consistent with the then emerging natural sciences and is worth studying in its own right, but also importantly informs his views in morals and politics.
In this course we subject some of Hobbes’s writings on these issues to close scrutiny, while taking into account, on the one hand, the intellectual context in which he wrote and, on the other hand, more recent developments in moral philosophy and the philosophy of action. We explore his analysis of practical reason and ask whether he adequately distinguishes between reason and causation. We scrutinize his account of moral value and ask whether he allows for a differentiation between desire and value. We look at conceptual analyses of liberty and ask whether he was a theorist of negative liberty. And we examine his views on motivation and agency and ask whether he was a precursor of Frankfurt’s hierarchical model of the will.
Finally, we look at the implications of these issues for his moral and political philosophy. In particular we look at his account of moral responsibility that underlies his views on praise, blame and punishment; his account of natural law; and his views on political obligation.
Course objectives will be posted on Blackboard by the start of the course.
Mode of instruction
Essay of 5.000 words.
Short weekly assignments.
- Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan: Revised student edition, edited by Richard Tuck, Cambridge.
Please register for this course on uSis.
Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.
Specialisation (MA in Philosophy): Ethics and Politics