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Hobbes, metaphor and political thought.

Willson-Quayle, James (1991) Hobbes, metaphor and political thought. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

The thesis examines the role of metaphor in political thought and, in particular, in the work of the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes. It is argued that, contrary to what many critics have suggested, Hobbes's use of images, metaphorical and otherwise, formed the basis for much of his political philosophy. Indeed, it is from a correct understanding of the use of the metaphoric image in political thought that varied Hobbesian concerns such as history, science, geometry, optics, poetry, and political philosophy can be united. Appropriately, chapter one narrates four distinct traditions of applying the subject of metaphor to philosophy. It is argued that, far from being marginal to political thought, metaphor partially forms the basis for much of the activity of political thinking. The second chapter develops a theory of the meaning of political metaphors. It is argued here that many twentieth century accounts of the meaning of metaphors are deficient for they fail to acknowledge how metaphorical images are used in political thought: namely, to unite the populace in a common political judgment. The remainder of the thesis is then devoted to the work of Thomas Hobbes. Based upon an understanding of political metaphor as outlined in the first two chapters, it is argued in chapter three that contempory theorists are wrong when they suggest that Hobbes contradicted himself when using metaphors to adorn his prose and yet, at the same time, condemning their very existence. On the contrary, it is argued that Hobbes's treatment and use of metaphors was highly consistent. More importantly, once Hobbes's alleged contradiction has been satisfactorily resolved, we soon find that the metaphoric image was to play a large role in almost all of his work, from his translation of Greek classics to his theory of rhetoric and of history. Chapter four then turns to Hobbes's optical theory of nowledge, for it is argued here that the starting point to Hobbes's understanding of science, geometry, and, ultimately, knowledge is primarily visual. Chapter five then analyzes the metaphorical imagery of Hobbes's most popular work, Leviathan. From a dose look at various aspects of this work we find that the metaphoric image is perhaps its most constitutive element. Finally, chapter six analyzes the double-edged sword to our political images. From looking at the role of metaphorical imagination in Hobbes's political philosophy, including a discussion of the poetic imagination of Michael Oakeshott and Martin Heidegger, it is argued that the act of imagination can be either politically creative or highly dangerous. This, indeed, is the consequence of the metaphoric image in political thought - it has the power either to save or enslave us.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, General, Philosophy
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/1204

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