Kody W. Cooper, Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018).

  • Jackson Sawatzky


Challenging the widely held view that Hobbes is an atheist, Kody W. Cooper claims that Hobbes’s political theory is rooted inextricably in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of natural law. While there are clear departures from the Thomistic tradition in Hobbes’s civil philosophy, Cooper suggests that Hobbes is not advancing an a-religious, a-theistic political theory but is working consciously in the Thomistic-Aristotelian paradigm of natural law, a paradigm from which his own view emerges by way of modification. What is novel in Hobbes’s view, according to Cooper, is not the rejection of the Aristotelian-Thomistic belief that human person is a political animal, not the incapacity of reason to discover a common good, and not the assertion that the commonwealth, as the constructive effort of persons, is thereby independent of theistic design. The novelty, in Cooper’s view, is that Hobbes thins out the essential core of goods that Aquinas takes to be common to all human beings—which include bodily life and health, family and childrearing, friendship, knowledge, and religion—to bodily life and health alone (110, 112). Working within this modified Thomistic perspective, Hobbes then attaches to the pursuit of bodily security, via the laws of nature, as the compelling commands of God, the necessity of willing peace and reciprocity. The thrust of Cooper’s argument is that once recognized as working in a stripped-down, natural law paradigm, interpretive difficulties dissolve, and Hobbes’s theism emerges as an integral part of his political theory.

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