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Hobbes and Sexual Desire

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Hobbes has long been associated with the sexual ‘libertinism’ of the Restoration period. The connections that are commonly made are crude, misrepresenting his philosophy; moreover, the attitude to sexual matters expressed in many of his published works was quite puritanical. Yet there are elements of his thought that could be taken to support a libertine agenda: hostility to Augustinian teaching on lust and chastity; the idea that marriage laws are merely human; a recognition of self-regarding elements in sexual psychology; and the idea that desires in themselves are not sins. On this last point, however, Hobbes’s distinction between desires and intentions to act, combined with his account of the role of imagination in desire, does make it possible to attribute to him a distinctly non-libertine theory of how sexual behaviour is modified in civil society.

Affiliations: 1: Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford, ox1 4al, United Kingdom, noel.malcolm@all-souls.ox.ac.uk

10.1163/18750257-02802001
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/content/journals/10.1163/18750257-02802001
2015-10-27
2017-11-18

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