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The Making of Modern Liberalism$
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Alan Ryan

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148403

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148403.001.0001

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Hobbes and Individualism

Hobbes and Individualism

(p.186) 9 Hobbes and Individualism
The Making of Modern Liberalism

Alan Ryan

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines Thomas Hobbes's individualism. It first considers Hobbes's epistemological antiauthoritarianism and individualism before discussing his theory of obligation and its moral basis. It then defends the view that Hobbesian individualism is neither quietist, nor capitalist, nor “bourgeois.” It argues that Hobbes espoused a consistent (though not in all respects persuasive) form of individualism that was moral and intellectual, not economic, a doctrine of moral and intellectual autonomy. It also explains how Hobbesian individualism relates to the atomism of Hobbes's mechanical materialism. The chapter suggests that there is a conceptual affinity between Hobbes's atomism and his intellectual individualism, but something closer to a logical tie between his intellectual individualism and his political individualism. It concludes by asserting that Hobbes was impressed by the self-sufficiency of most individuals in everything other than mere self-preservation.

Keywords:   individualism, Thomas Hobbes, epistemological antiauthoritarianism, obligation, autonomy, atomism, mechanical materialism, self-sufficiency, self-preservation

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