Political Theory

“Felicity” and “Makarismos”: Hobbes on Happiness and His Intellectual Sources



I argue that Hobbes recommends a moderate conception of human happiness as secure and calm satisfaction of desires, which makes large-scale achievement of happiness possible in the context of human co-existence. First, I call attention to the importance of “felicity” in Hobbes’ political philosophy and survey its definitions in Hobbes’ works to challenge the prevalent understanding of this concept as inherently expansive and competitive. Second, I consider “felicity” in the structure of Hobbes’ political theory and argue that conceiving felicity as competitive and expansive is the cause of the impasse of the state of nature, while a moderate understanding of it, contained in the laws of nature, is the way to widespread improvement in felicity. In the last two sections, I speculate about the sources of Hobbes’ conception of happiness and highlight the probable influences of Montaigne and of the Greek ethical lesson against understanding happiness as ever greater prosperity.


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