Hobbes’s Fool the Insipiens, and the Tyrant-King

Political Theory 39 (1):85-111 (2011)
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Hobbes in Leviathan, chapter xv, 4, makes the startling claim: “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘there is no such thing as justice,’” paraphrasing Psalm 52:1: “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” These are charges of which Hobbes himself could stand accused. His parable of the fool is about the exchange of obedience for protection, the backslider, regime change, and the tyrant; but given that Hobbes was himself likely an oath-breaker, it is also self-reflexive and self-justificatory. For, Hobbes’s fool is not a windbag, or one of the dumb mob, led astray by priests. He is, in the terminology of Psalm 52, an insipiens, a madman or raving lunatic, whose rebellion against God the King is his own destruction and that of his people. A long iconographic tradition portraying the fool as insipiens, Antichrist, heretical impostor and tyrant king, was at Hobbes’s disposal.
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