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Hobbes’s Critique of Religion and Related Writings

Translated and Edited by Gabriel Bartlett and Svetozar Minkov

Leo Strauss’s The Political Philosophy of Hobbes deservedly ranks among his most widely acclaimed works. In it Strauss argues that the basis for Hobbes’s natural and political science is his interest in “self-knowledge of man as he really is.” The writings collected in this book, each written prior to that classic volume, complement that account. Thus at long last, this book allows us to have a complete picture of Strauss’s interpretation of Hobbes, the thinker pivotal to the fundamental theme of his life’s work: the conflicting demands of philosophy and revelation, or as he termed it, “the theologico-political problem.”

It is no exaggeration to say that Strauss’s work on Hobbes’s critique of religion is essential to his analysis of Hobbes’s political philosophy, and vice versa. This volume will spark new interest in Hobbes’s explication of the Bible and in his understanding of religion by revealing previously neglected dimensions and motives of Hobbes’s “theology.” At the same time, scholars interested in the intellectual development of Leo Strauss will find in these writings the missing link, as it were, between his two early books,Spinoza’s Critique of Religion and The Political Philosophy of Hobbes.

In addition, this volume makes available for the first time in English a letter, a book outline, an extended review, an engagement with legal positivism, and an account of Strauss’s work on Hobbes by Heinrich Meier, all of which shed light on Strauss’s concerns and his approach to Hobbes in particular, as well as to modern political thought and life.

184 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Philosophy: History and Classic Works

Political Science: Classic Political Thought


“All too often, Hobbes’s engagement with Scripture, revelation, and the possibility of miracles has been shunted to one side by readers focused on that great man’s political science and psychology. This scrupulously edited translation calls for a change of focus and enables it with abundant aid. Thanks to the exemplary rigor, clarity, and fearlessness of Strauss’s analysis, the neglected second half of Leviathan lies open for reconsideration. Many riches await those coming to it with freshly opened eyes.”

Ralph Lerner, University of Chicago

“This book sheds provocative light on Strauss’s analysis of the Hobbesian and Cartesian roots of modern rationalism in its response to the challenge of revealed religion.”

Thomas L. Pangle, University of Texas at Austin

“An indispensable resource for both students of early modern thought and for those interested in the thought of Leo Strauss. Strauss’s early essays on Hobbes address with remarkable force and directness key concerns of such well-known later works as Natural Right and History and What Is Political Philosophy? Strauss’s comparison of Hobbes and Descartes alone is well worth the price of admission. His analysis of parts 3 and 4 of Hobbes’s Leviathan is both painstaking in its detail and sweeping in its conclusions. Strauss’s early essays are a remarkable philosophic contribution in their own right and a significant aid to an understanding of Hobbes.”

Susan Meld Shell, Boston College

“This is a very impressive volume. Hobbes’s Critique of Religion and Related Writings will be a most welcome addition to the publications by and on Strauss.”

Richard L. Velkley, Tulane University

Table of Contents

Translators’ Preface
Introduction: The History of Strauss’s Hobbes Studies in the 1930s—Heinrich Meier

Hobbes’s Critique of Religion: A Contribution to Understanding the Enlightenment (1933–34)

§1. Occasion and Purpose of the Study
§2. Hobbes’s Politics and the Critique of Revelation
§3. The Different Versions of Hobbes’s Critique of Religion
A. The Critique of the Tradition
a. The Principle of Scripture
b. Spirits and Angels
c. The Kingdom of God and Eternal Life
d. Temporal and Spiritual Power
e. The Kingdom of Darkness
f. Characteristics of the Critique of the Tradition
B. The Critique of Scripture
a. The Knowability and the Believability of Revelation
b. The Knowability and the Possibility of Revelation
c. The Knowability and the Possibility of Miracles
d. Hobbes and Descartes
e. The Basis of Hobbes’s Critique of Religion

Addenda: Two Passages Deleted from the Manuscript

Shorter Writings by Strauss on Hobbes
Some Notes on the Political Science of Hobbes (1932)
Foreword to a Planned Book on Hobbes (1931)
Outline: The Political Science of Hobbes;
An Introduction to Natural Right (1931)
Letter from Strauss to Hans-Georg Gadamer and Gerhard Krüger (1935)

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