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Hobbes and Sex

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Hobbes could not have written Paradise Lost: the longest of his few references to the story of Adam and Eve drains their relationship of drama and complexity; most aspects of human sexuality he addresses only in classifying them as off limits because of their indecency, neglecting topics in some respects germane to the clarification of his philosophy; and his original English verse amounts to one line for each of that epic's twelve books. This short poem nonetheless represents an intriguing persuasion to love written in his extreme old age. Moreover, his treatment of “LUST” in The Elements of Law takes a significantly non-judgmental form by the standards of his time, though not marking so substantial an innovation as Simon Blackburn takes it to be. Most importantly, the anti-puritanical thrust of Hobbes's attack on Presbyterian preachers in Behemoth again illustrates his capacity for entertaining—however briefly—an essentially uncensorious view of human sexuality, this time in conjunction with a critique of sexual repression, as imposed by those clergymen in their role as spiritual advisers, that sheds invaluable light on the self-consciously scandalous libertinism of younger contemporaries often identified in his own day and since as “Hobbists”.


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