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An Age of RiskPolitics and Economy in Early Modern Britain$
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Emily C. Nacol

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691165103

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691165103.001.0001

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“Experience Concludeth Nothing Universally”

“Experience Concludeth Nothing Universally”

Hobbes and the Groundwork for a Political Theory of Risk

(p.9) Chapter Two “Experience Concludeth Nothing Universally”
An Age of Risk

Emily C. Nacol

Princeton University Press

This chapter begins with Thomas Hobbes' intertwined theories of knowledge and politics, as they emerged from his experience of a violent civil war and fierce struggles over epistemological and political authority. Hobbes provokes an early modern engagement with the concept of risk in politics by positing uncertainty as the main problem that political theory and political order are meant to solve. For Hobbes, uncertainty is the root cause of violence and insecurity, and thus it becomes a target for elimination when he begins to think about how to construct a safe political community. The chapter reconstructs Hobbes' commitment to a science of politics modeled on geometry, emphasizing its certain character by contrasting it with other ways of knowing about politics that are more experiential, such as prudence.

Keywords:   Thomas Hobbes, knowledge, civil war, uncertainty, political theory, political order, safe political community, geometry

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