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From nature to history, and back again : Blumenberg, Strauss and the Hobbesian community

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  • Majid Yar
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>08/2002
<mark>Journal</mark>History of the Human Sciences
Issue number3
Volume15
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)53-73
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This article explores the origins of the problematic of political community by considering it in relation to the founding principles of 'modern thought'. These principles are identified with the extirpation of moral values and ends from nature, in keeping with the rise of a 'disenchanted' and mechanical scientific world-view. The transition from an 'ancient' to a 'modern' world-view is elaborated by drawing upon the work of Hans Blumenberg and Leo Strauss. The 'demoralization' of nature, it is claimed, projects the formation of the political commons into the space of history, a space within which community must be produced via artifice on the part of the willing subject. This Leitbild of modern community is examined through a reading of Hobbes's Leviathan which, it is claimed, stands as the founding attempt to remember the political commons from the sphere of human immanence, without recourse to natural or theological externality. However, it is argued, nature occupies an intermediary and ambiguous position in Hobbes's thought, at once transcended and reinscribed into political life as a 'hedonist anthropology' that defines the human animal. Further, Hobbes's insistence that conventionally produced standards need be misrecognized as necessary and non-contingent undermines their legitimacy from the standpoint of human autonomy. This failure to break decisively with the appeal to nature leads to a political community that is at best a simulacrum, far removed from the vision of ethical unity that characterizes the classical conception of the polis and political life. Yet, it is argued, Hobbes's strategy nevertheless presents the key to subsequent attempts to complete a political 'revolt' against nature, as developed in the thought of Rousseau, Kant and Hegel.