Leviathan and Political Epicureanism: A Critical Discussion on Theological Reading of Hobbes

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 A PhD Candidate, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran



Interpreting the ideas of early modern philosophers through the lens of theology and secularization thesis has arguably been one of the controversial issues in contemporary political philosophy. Following this thesis, religion is not simply discarded; instead, it interacts with the worldly sphere, by which some of its transcendental components become immanent. It underscores theological reading of modern theories and undermines their legitimacy as modern. Thinkers like Carl Schmitt, Carl Löwith and John Milbank support this standpoint. The aim of this article is to provide a critical account on this interpretive horizon in the case of Thomas Hobbes and his concept of civil religion. Following Quentin Skinner’s methodological contextualism as method, this essay tries to defend what it calls political Epicureanism of Hobbes as a radically modern idea against theological readings of Hobbes. The main questions of this investigation are: What kind of relationship is there between Hobbes and Epicurus? and, What is the fundamental problem between theological reading of Hobbes and his political Epicureanism? This article assumes that Hobbes’s Epicureanism is fundamentally in contrast with Judo-Christian theology and thus, is broadly incompatible with theological readings of him. By investigating Hobbes’s philosophy and its context, its relationship with Epicurean philosophy, this article draws a conceptual association between Hobbes and Epicurus in terms of their ontology, epistemology, ethics and their attitude toward politics. It also distinguishes Hobbes’s Epicureanism by what is termed as theological lying and concludes that what appears to be Hobbes’s theological expression is in fact an Epicurean theological lie.


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