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Recent studies of Michael Oakeshott have stressed the mutually constitutive importance of Hobbes to Oakeshott, arguing in part that Oakeshott's Hobbes largely reflected his own concerns and broader philosophical project. This article does not dispute this, but proposes a complementary account: Oakeshott's interpretation of Hobbes was also formed in large measure by both his sympathy for Leo Strauss's account and by his perception of it as the principal rival to his own. To demonstrate the existence of such a formative engagement, a close reading of Oakeshott’s essay The Moral Life in the Writings of Thomas Hobbes is undertaken. Not only is Oakeshott found to have absorbed much of Strauss’s interpretation (surprisingly including Strauss’s distinction between esoteric and exoteric doctrines), the key impetus of the essay is shown to be a refutation of Strauss's characterization of Hobbes as a 'moralist of the common good'.
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Keywords: Hobbes; Oakeshott; Strauss; bourgeois morality; character; esoteric writing; fear of death; honour; obligation; pride

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of International Relations, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AX, Scotland, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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