Hobbes and Locke on Natural Law and Jesus Christ

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The charge of Hobbism assumes a prominent position in some accounts of Locke's thought. This essay argues that the charge is misconceived, not least because it fails to appreciate the true character of Hobbes's thinking and its relation to Locke's. Hobbes's architectonic retains the traditional intellectual structure of natural law thinking, articulating it around the demands of his metaphysics in ways important for his political theory. Locke decisively rejects this structure and in doing so opens up the conceptual space that makes his own, very different political theory possible. At the same time, the essay establishes how Locke's account of natural law implies, and receives support from, views of Jesus Christ and Christianity quite different to those preferred by his contemporaries -- including Hobbes -- but consonant with the demands of his political theory.

Keywords: Christianity; Hobbes; Locke; Straussianism; contextualism; liberalism; natural law; toleration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Politics, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, Email: ts19@york.ac.uk

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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