By Ellen Meiksins Wood

The formation of the trendy kingdom, the increase of capitalism, the Renaissance and Reformation, the clinical revolution and the Age of Enlightenment have all been attributed to the “early modern” interval. approximately every thing approximately its background is still debatable, yet something is sure: it left a wealthy and provocative legacy of political rules unrivaled in Western historical past. The techniques of liberty, equality, estate, human rights and revolution born in these turbulent centuries proceed to form, and to restrict, political discourse this present day. Assessing the paintings and historical past of figures resembling Machiavelli, Luther, Calvin, Spinoza, the Levellers, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, Ellen wooden vividly explores the guidelines of the canonical thinkers, no longer as philosophical abstractions yet as passionately engaged responses to the social conflicts in their day.

“This e-book is obviously written, incisively argued, and immensely informative.” —CHOICE

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Extra info for Liberty and Property: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Renaissance to Enlightenment

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According to Skinner, Hobbes underwent “a remarkable change of mind . . ”17 This second reversal proposed by Skinner is the one that deserves scrutiny. For while it is true that Hobbes believed eloquence would make his argument more attractive, that fact alone is not enough to make Leviathan a “contribution to” or an “endorsement of” the Renaissance humanist rhetorical tradition. That tradition is best characterized not only by the use of rhetorical techniques, but also, and more fundamentally, by the function that those techniques were meant to perform.

Their judgments would return to them only indirectly, filtered by the sovereign. Why did Hobbes mistrust men’s judgment so? 64 But Hobbes was not the first to have recognized or worried about the lack of a clear criterion on which to base practical judgments. We should not imagine that humanist rhetoricians were unaware of the uncertainty and subjectivity inherent in human judgment. As followers of Cicero, they could hardly have ignored Academic skepticism. ”65 But whereas Hobbes used such arguments to suggest why citizens should allow a sovereign to judge for them, Erasmus thought that one could take the lessons of skepticism as reasons to avoid dogmatism and to try to improve one’s own judgments.

The character of Hobbes’s rhetoric was closely tied to the structure of his political theory, and it reveals his intention to base politics on a shared and overwhelming interest in avoiding controversy about the most fundamental political issues. Hobbes did not use metaphors and other rhetorical tropes as a way to articulate an argument for deliberating citizens. 10 He sought to persuade citizens to alienate their judgments to the sovereign, to agree to abide by its determinations on controversial matters rather than judging for themselves.

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