Hobbesian causation and personal identity in the history of criminology

Intellectual History Review 31 (2):247-266 (2021)
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Abstract

Hobbes is known for bridging natural and political philosophy, but less attention has been given to how this distinguishes the Hobbesian conception of the self from individualist strands of liberalism. First, Hobbes’s determinism suggests a conception of the self in which externalities determine the will and what the self is at every moment. Second, there is no stable conception of the self because externalities keep it in a constant state of flux. The metaphysical underpinnings of his project downplay the notion of a purely individualistic conception of the self, pointing to a positivist theory of criminology relying upon external forces. This theory is especially prescient with respect to twentieth-century variants of positivism that focus upon how social organization affects personality. In a sense, then, modern criminological theory is indebted to Hobbes’s focus upon the connections between externalities and the self; a focus that illuminates new ways of viewing responsibility and accountability.

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Luke William Hunt
University of Alabama

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