Spinoza and Hobbes on Religious and Political Freedoms College

I. Introduction

Dominant interpretations of the Leviathan seem to always point to fear as the affect that convinces Hobbesian subjects to enter the social contract in the first place and to steadfastly obey the sovereign. Hobbes often defines institutions within the landscape in terms of either fear or anxiety. Hobbes even defines religion as, “Fear of power invisible, feigned by the mind or imagined from tales publiquely allowed (42).”

There has been a surge of scholarship in recent decades that moves away from this preoccupation with fear and obedience towards other conceptions of how Hobbes’s community operates. Some readings have proposed that Hobbes was in some ways a protoliberal, an advocate for toleration or a voice for bourgeoisie values. J. Judd Owen makes a case, in his 2005 article The Tolerant Leviathan, that Hobbes could be classified as a liberal philosopher as his doctrine of toleration is not too different from Locke’s tolerant worldview. Owen argues that although Hobbes does not grant unconditional rights to his subjects he does conceive of a type of government that has limited purposes (139). Owen’s reading of the text deemphasizes the ways in which Hobbes’s system is held together by violence or the threat of...

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