Two Psychological Defenses of Hobbes’s Claim Against the “Fool”

Hobbes Studies 28 (2):132-148 (2015)
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Abstract
_ Source: _Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 132 - 148 A striking feature of Thomas Hobbes’s account of political obligation is his discussion of the Fool, who thinks it reasonable to adopt a policy of selective, self-interested covenant breaking. Surprisingly, scholars have paid little attention to the potential of a psychological defense of Hobbes’s controversial claim that the Fool behaves irrationally. In this paper, I first describe Hobbes’s account of the Fool and argue that the kind of Fool most worth considering is the covert, long-term Fool. Then I advance and critically assess two psychological arguments according to which the Fool’s policy of self-interested covenant breaking is prudentially irrational. The first argument holds that, taken together, the deep guilt from early-stage covenant breaking, the cumulative guilt from continued covenant breaking, and the high statistical risk of detection during high-volume covenant breaking render the Fool’s policy irrational. The second argument holds that the Fool’s policy is irrational because it puts him at risk of adopting a psychologically intolerable view of his fellow covenanters and, specifically, the extent to which they can be trusted.
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
Latest version: 2 (2015-11-21)
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2015-10-30

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