Luc Foisneau

The praise of common people. A different approach to Thomas Hobbes's thought

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The essay investigates the notion of 'common people' in Thomas Hobbes's philosophy. According to the author, Hobbes introduces a normative rendering of 'common people', based on a new anthropology that is intended to provide a theoretical foundation to an individualistic morality. On the one hand, in "Leviathan" Hobbes emphasizes the political and juridical competences of ordinary people, which are recognized being capable to obey the sovereign and to judge and punish according to the law. On the other hand, Hobbes furnishes a philosophical justification of power, considered as a universal dimension whose finality is the preservation of life and which allows the comparison between the various passions of common people as individuals. Thus, Hobbesian individualism refers to the 'superiority' of a person who compares himself to others on the common scale of power, and it is not the affirmation of the uniqueness of the aristocratic self. In Hobbes's perspective, the common person defines himself not in opposition to nobility, but by his right to make a good use of his passions and of his life.


  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Individualism
  • Power
  • Mind
  • Theory of Passions


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