Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Maimonides on Job on Hobbes on Government

Gordon Hull has a fascinating article in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy titled 'Against this EMPUSA:' Hobbes's Leviathan and the Book of Job.

Early on he recounts Maimonides' interpretation of Job which would have been one of the prominent medieval readings leading up to the work of Hobbes. Maimonides specifically distinguishes between human reason's capabilities and the wisdom and understanding of God. Part of Maimonides' conclusion then is that human government should not be modeled on God: "the notion of his providence is not the same as the notion of our providence, nor is the notion of the governance of the things created by Him the same as the notion of our governance of that which we govern... There is nothing in common between the two except the name alone."

Hull explains that this distinction seems to resonate in the writings of Hobbes who thought "that the commonwealth should be conceived as 'like a creation out of nothing by human wit', that failure of the principles of moral philosophy (broadly conceived) occasioned political catastrophes like the civil war, and that theologians used clever misrepresentations of words to incite the masses to sedition..." (pp. 7-8)

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