Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gert, Bernard. "Review of Quentin Skinner's HOBBES AND REPUBLICAN LIBERTY." NDPR (July 2008).

Skinner, Quentin. Hobbes and Republican Liberty. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. In this book Quentin Skinner contrasts two rival theories about the nature of human liberty. The first, which he traces back to antiquity, is now called republican liberty. It asserts, "freedom within civil associations is subverted by the mere presence of arbitrary power." (p. X) "One crucial implication is that liberty can be lost or forfeited even in the absence of any acts of interference." (p. XII) Skinner contrasts this account of liberty with the definition of liberty with which Hobbes begins Chapter XXI of Leviathan,
Liberty, or freedome, signifieth (properly) the absence of Opposition; (by Opposition, I mean externall Impediments of motion;) and may be applyed no lesse to Irrationall and Inanimate creatures, than to Rationall. For whatsoever is so tyed, or environed, as it cannot move, but within a certain space, which space is determined by the opposition of some externall body, we say it hath not Liberty to go further.
According to Skinner, Hobbes holds that citizens have liberty insofar as they are not physically prevented from acting as they would like. Reading this book made clear to me how different the fields of history, even intellectual history, and philosophy, especially analytic philosophy, are. . . . Read the rest here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=13687.

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