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Thomas Hobbes assigned indispensable, peace-directed roles to conscience in his moral and political philosophy. This paper first locates Hobbes's definition of conscience in its historical context by highlighting commonalities with scholastic and seventeenth-century doctrines. Second, it shows that Hobbes imposed numerous stringent obligations on conscience in the natural condition. Third, it analyses Hobbes's account of conscience as 'shared knowledge' in Chapter 7 of Leviathan and considers the possible targets for his polemics. Finally, it lays out the chief responsibilities of conscience in society, clarifies the relationship between 'private' and 'public' conscience, and identifies major tensions in Hobbes's theory.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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