Nowadays when we speak about the state we generally use the term to refer to an apparatus of government; in common parlance ‘state’ and ‘government’ have become synonyms.
This lecture begins by tracing the emergence in western European political theory of the strongly contrasting view that the state is the name of a distinct fictional person. Thomas Hobbes is seen as the leading contributor to this development, and the central section of the lecture analyses his concept of the state. The lecture ends by attempting an assessment of the idea of state personality.
Has anything of political significance been lost as a result of our abandonment of the belief, central to early-modern political discourse, that the state is the name of a moral person distinct from both rulers and ruled?
Prof. Quentin Skinner
Prof. Quentin Skinner is Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London.
On 27 May, Quentin Skinner will be holding a second Spinoza Lecture entitled ‘Hobbes and the Iconography of the State’.
The Spinoza Lectures
The Spinoza Lectures are given by high-profile thinkers of our time. They are intended for a wide audience that would like to keep abreast of current developments in philosophy. The lectures are delivered by professors holding the Spinoza Chair of the Department of Philosophy of the Faculty of Humanities.
Admission is free (no reservation required).