[hist-analytic] McPherson on Hobbes: status/simple market/possessive market

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Tue Feb 16 09:55:54 EST 2010

My first impression was that Hobbes offers very little to the 

analytical philosopher. But I think now that this was mistaken. 

Whereas Rawls moves to assert the primacy of the political 

over the moral ("comprehensive views"), Hobbes seeks, 

as MacPherson points out, a reduction of obligation to 

purely material principles related to the "possessive 

individualism" in the "possessive market place." 

What I will show is that having linked Rousseau and 

Rawls I can also show that Hobbes belongs in this 

group rather than those who adopt a more Lockean 


Much will depend on how we understand the idea of 

freedom. There is a seamless connection between 

Hobbes on Man and Hobbes on the Commonwealth. 

Rawls tries the same thing, but his success is doubtful. 

Rawls loses sight of the individual, whereas Hobbes who 

would probably be somewhat sympathetic to Rawls 

does not. 

Everything depends on the nature of reciprocity which 

has not been sufficiently examined by past scholars. 

Once this is done we see much more clearly. 

Now ESSENTIAL to this, I think, is coming to grips 

with D. Lewis's treatment of Grice in his work on 

convention. I am deferring that until I get clearer on 

freedom among contractarians . Then back to Grice ! 

What Rawls doens't capture is the relation of individuals 

in a market economy (of any of the sorts discussed) 

to contract. Understandablyt since his "methodological 

avoidance" of "comprehensive views" leads him down 

that road. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: Jlsperanza @ aol .com 
To: hist-analytic@ simplelists .co. uk 
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2010 4:17:56 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: McPherson on Hobbes: status/simple market/possessive market 

In a message dated 2/14/2010 6:48:23 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,   
Baynesr @comcast.net writes: 
"What characterizes all of them  are 
certain market conditions. They are The Status Society, 
the Simple  Market Society and the the Possessive  Market 

These are very good. As you say _anything_ that analyses or cares to   
analyse what was meant by Hobbes by his state of 'nature' is welcome! 
--- A good point about the 'myth' , other than the Cassirer thing you quote   
(I like Cassirer ) is the idea of 
   'evolutionary' . 
Wonder if McPherson talks about it, or considers that the passage from   
those three sub-varieties onto 'the state we're in' is viewed as   
'evolutionary' . 
I tried to track down the use of 'evolutionary' in Grice , but failed (to   
what extent, for example, the conventional, arbitrary, system of signs we 
call   'language' we have is an evolution over pooh-pooh). 
   If McPherson is abstracting, and thinking as you say that this  is 
counter-factual, etc he must be keeping at leas the _desires_ as fixed. No   
evolution there. So he may need a 'change' of conditions, environment, or   
whatever, to 'justify' or at least 'explain' the change from one status to the   
other (or state to the other). This would be, as you say, 'de facto' . (If you   
say that). Rather than 'de iure' . 
  At this point, he (or your reading of him) may want to consider  whether 
that is not a bit 'rough' , or too rough. We may claim that our desires  have 
NOT changed, but the point for a philosopher to (at least) conceive is   
whether they should NOT have changed. It is when we find Hobbes's views as   
_explanatory_ rather than descriptive that we start caring for him as a   
'philosopher' . For an account of how the transition from one state to the other   
is achieved along empirical lines we go to palaeontology, archaeology, 
history,  prehistory, sociology, biosociology , ethology, even economics. For a   
philosophical _theory_ or as I prefer 'analysis' , we go to philosophers: we go 
 to Hobbes. (We may NOT go to McPherson if you'll tell me he only taught, 
say,  Ethology at ... -- just joking!) 
  (So perhaps you can provide briefly, in terms of agents's desires,  in 
what ways those three substates consist and diverge. And what main   
'transmutation' is effected in the State 2 -- with the previous ones as State 1,   
State 1' and State 1".). 
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