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Made with Words:
Hobbes on Language, Mind, and Politics
Philip Pettit

Winner of the 2008 PROSE Award in Philosophy, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2009 | $28.95 | £23.95 | ISBN: 9780691143255
192 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 1 line illus.
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Hobbes's extreme political views have commanded so much attention that they have eclipsed his work on language and mind, and on reasoning, personhood, and group formation. But this work is of immense interest in itself, as Philip Pettit shows in Made with Words, and it critically shapes Hobbes's political philosophy.

Pettit argues that it was Hobbes, not later thinkers like Rousseau, who invented the invention of language thesis--the idea that language is a cultural innovation that transformed the human mind. The invention, in Hobbes's story, is a double-edged sword. It enables human beings to reason, commit themselves as persons, and incorporate in groups. But it also allows them to agonize about the future and about their standing relative to one another; it takes them out of the Eden of animal silence and into a life of inescapable conflict--the state of nature. Still, if language leads into this wasteland, according to Hobbes, it can also lead out. It can enable people to establish a commonwealth where the words of law and morality have a common, enforceable sense, and where people can invoke the sanctions of an absolute sovereign to give their words to one another in credible commitment and contract.

Written by one of today's leading philosophers, Made with Words is both an original reinterpretation and a clear and lively introduction to Hobbes's thought.


"This book is the best short introduction to Hobbes's philosophy now available, but it's more than that. It is a meditation on the ways in which language makes politics possible, and on the reasons why language makes politics so difficult. Pettit, one of the world's leading philosophers, brings a fresh eye to the work of one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived, and he opens it up to original insights and challenging new puzzles. Above all, he shows us why Hobbes's view of the human condition as made with words still matters."--David Runciman, author of Political Hypocrisy

"It might seem, then, that little more can be said about Hobbes, but Pettit's oblique analysis of the language and reasoning sheds a very distinctive light on Hobbes's political insights, and genuinely adds new ideas to an oft-trampled field. Not only do we get a clearly organized and coherent explanation of the ideas, within a convincing framework as the ideas grow from language itself to the body politic, but we instantly know we're in the hands of a writer who really knows his Hobbes: the arguments move steadily and logically through, supported by (in the best sense) eclectic quotations from the original works (all in English, since some of them originally appeared in Latin)."--Stuart Hannabuss, Library Review

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Table of Contents:

Introduction 1
Chapter One: Mind in Nature 9
Chapter Two: Minds with Words 24
Chapter Three: Using Words to Ratiocinate 42
Chapter Four: Using Words to Personate 55
Chapter Five: Using Words to Incorporate 70
Chapter Six: Words and the Warping of Appetite 84
Chapter Seven: The State of Second, Worded Nature 98
Chapter Eight: The Commonwealth of Ordered Words 115
Summary 141
Notes 155
References 169
Index 177

This book has been translated into:

  • Chinese (Simplified)

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