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Hobbes's Religion and Political Philosophy: A Reply To Greg Forster

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A.P. Martinich's interpretation that in Leviathan Thomas Hobbes believed that the laws of nature are the commands of God and that he did not rely on the Bible to prove this has been criticized by Greg Forster in this journal (2003). Forster uses these criticisms to develop his own view that Hobbes was insincere when he professed religious beliefs. We argue that Forster misrepresents Martinich's view, is mistaken about what evidence is relevant to interpreting whether Hobbes was sincere or not, and is mistaken about some of Hobbes's central doctrines. Forster's criticisms are worth discussing at length for at least three reasons. He takes the debate about Hobbes's sincerity to a new level of sophistication; his misinterpretations of Hobbes may become accepted as correct; and his criticisms raise issues about the proper method of interpreting historical texts.

Keywords: Biblical interpretation; Divine command theory of law; Hobbes and atheism; Hobbes and self-preservation; Hobbes' orthodoxy; Hobbes' political philosophy; Hobbes' religion; Hobbes' religious views; Hobbes' obligation; Laws of nature; interpretation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, Austin, Texas 78712, USA, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2008


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