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Title: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and 'Le hobbisme le plus parfait' : an historical and philosophical study of Rousseau's engagement with Thomas Hobbes and Hobbism
Author: Douglass, Robin Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 2713 4893
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis provides a comprehensive analysis of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s engagement with the political thought of Thomas Hobbes and Hobbism. This involves tracing Hobbes’s French reception in the first half of the eighteenth century amongst authors with whom Rousseau was familiar, thereby elucidating the context in which he responded to Hobbesian ideas and arguments. When situated in this context, many of the difficulties in understanding Rousseau’s engagement with Hobbes are overcome, and the deeply polemical character of the engagement is revealed. In particular, Rousseau’s state of nature theory sought to collapse the prevalent bifurcation between Pufendorfian sociability and Hobbesian Epicureanism in order to show that Hobbes’s natural law critics were in fact no better than Hobbes; a line of argument that Rousseau also pursued in the Social Contract. In addition, Rousseau’s invocation of Hobbes was intended to support his republican critique of doux commerce theory, by revealing that the modern defenders of commercial society rested their theories on a Hobbesian picture of man’s natural condition. This picture closely resembled the neo-Augustinian account of man’s post-lapsarian state, and by rejecting this Augustinian-Hobbesian depiction of man Rousseau was able to offer a vision of a well-ordered republic for men who were yet to be corrupted by the onset of luxury and entrenched relations of inequality. In examining Rousseau’s engagement not just with Hobbes, but also with natural law, republican and Augustinian contexts, an original interpretation of his political thought is advanced throughout the thesis. This interpretation stresses the importance and interplay of three themes, the problematical relationship between which often leads to much confusion in the scholarly literature on Rousseau: first, nature understood as a normative standard; second, free will as an inalienable gift of nature; and, third and finally, the role of the passions in general and of amour-propre in particular.
Supervisor: Hampsher-Monk, Iain Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Rousseau ; Hobbes ; Hobbism