Hobbes & Descartes

In Carl Schmitt’s The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes, Schmitt makes a handful of comparison’s between Hobbes’s political theory, and Descartes on the mechanization of man, or the interpretation of man as a machine.  This is possible, of course, because in Les Passions de l’Ame Descartes articulates the division between body and soul.  At any rate, the decisive difference in how one can interpret the relationship between Descartes and Hobbes seems to be this.  One can side with Schmitt and believe that Hobbes took the mechanization of man from Descartes and constructed the “huge man” (makros anthropos), if one likes.  But this comparison of Hobbes and Descartes in the mechanization and “hugeness” of man in the form of the state is contrasted by Strauss’s interpretation of this relationship, where Hobbes follows Descartes’ “retreat into consciousness” for the sake of dismissing Descartes’ refutation of the Deus Deceptor in order to refute it on human bases alone (i.e. in the coming into contact with the world, pragmata).  So, either they are similar because the make man big, or they are similar because they reduce him to his ineluctable conscience.  The latter, not the former, allows for the full horizon of modern philosophy to reveal itself.    This horizon is also fully aware of its theologico-political presuppositions, or the account of miracles that opposes the premodern account of the same.  Now the “Account of the Chariot” begs to be read as a critique of miracles, or at least as being fully aware that it is contemporaneously an account and a critique of mystery.  Schmitt turns to sovereignty; Strauss turns to conscience, to synderesis/syneidesis.

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