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Manuscript Workshop: Hobbes and the Two Dimensions of Normativity

Updated: May 29, 2019

Thomas Hobbes and the Two Dimensions of Normativity

Manuscript Workshop / Atelier de manuscrit

with / avec Arash Abizadeh

2015-12-15, Old Chancellor Day Hall, Room 16, McGill University

[le français suit]

The Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en philosophie politique de Montréal, the Centre de recherche en éthique, and the Research Group on Constitutional Studies are pleased to announce a day-long workshop on Arash Abizadeh's book manuscript "Hobbes and the Two Dimensions of Normativity."

Format: To maximize the quality of discussion, participants are expected to have read the manuscript beforehand. The workshop comprises four sessions dedicated to the manuscript. Each session will begin with brief critiques of chapters of the manuscript, followed by a brief response by the author and general discussion.

Registration: The workshop is open to everyone, but attendance is by registration and limited in number. RSVP the workshop coordinator: Cameron Cotton O’Brien <cameron.cotton-obrien at>


8:45 – 9:00 Welcome / accueil

9 – 10:30

Chair /président: Christian Nadeau (philosophie, Montréal)

Commentators / commentateurs:

1. Introduction: Sarah Stroud (philosophy, McGill)

2. Naturalism: Terence Cuneo (philosophy, Vermont)

10:30 – 10:45 Coffee Break / pause café

10:45 – 12:15

Chair / président: Dario Perinetti (philosophie, UQAM)

Commentators / commentateurs:

3. Mind, Action, and Reasoning: Laurens van Apeldoorn (philosophy, Leiden)

4. Subjectivism, Instrumentalism, and Prudentialism about Reasons: Stephen Darwall (philosophy, Yale)

12:15 – 13:30 Lunch / Dîner

13:30 – 15:00

Chair / présidente: Dominique Leydet (philosophie, UQAM)

Commentators / commentateurs:

5. A Theory of the Good: Felicity by Anticipatory Pleasure: Kinch Hoekstra (politics, Berkeley)

6. Accountability and Second-personal Reasons: Evan Fox-Decent (law, McGill)

15:00 – 15:15 Coffee Break / pause café

15:15 – 17:00

Chair / président: Daniel Weinstock (law, McGill)

Commentators / commentateurs:

7. Morality, the Laws of Nature, and Justice: Susanne Sreedhar (philosophy, Boston)

8. Rational Agency versus Personhood: Travis Smith (politics, Concordia)

19:00 Dinner / Souper

About: Since the manuscript partly considers Hobbes's ethics in light of recent philosophical treatments of normativity, the workshop brings together both Hobbes scholars and contemporary moral philosophers. The basic premise of the manuscript is that, despite Hobbes's materialism, he was committed to the existence of two irreducible and genuinely normative properties and types of claim, involving third-personal reasons for which one is responsible, and second-personal reasons for which one is accountable to others. As a result, despite widespread belief to the contrary, Hobbes cannot be fruitfully read as a substantive ethical naturalist for whom normative properties and claims are reducible to naturalistic, non-normative ones; nor was he is an expressivist or normative nihilist; nor was he a pure instrumentalist about practical reasons. Rational agents have genuine, irreducibly normative reasons to desire the preservation of a life worth living, and they have prudential reasons (independent of their desire to do so) to take the means that promote such an end; and rational agents who are also persons have genuine, irreducibly normative second-personal reasons to uphold their contracts, for which they are accountable to others. Moreover, Hobbes had neither a subjectivist (desire-fulfilment) theory of the good, nor a subjectivist theory of practical reasons. Reading Hobbes as an ethical naturalist, expressivist, or nihilist cannot properly account for his strongly cognitive account of reasoning, according to which reasoners infer conclusions by reasoning from premises that they take to furnish genuine, normative reasons; reading him as a pure instrumentalist about practical reasons fails to account for his commitment to prudential practical reasons (to care for one's future self) and to a notion of obligation as a type of second-personal normative reason.


Le Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en philosophie politique de Montréal, le Centre de recherche en éthique, et le Research Group on Constitutional Studies ont le plaisir d'annoncer un atelier d'une journée complète sur le manuscrit d’Arash Abizadeh, entitulé « Hobbes and the Two Dimensions of Normativity ».

Format : pour maximiser la qualité des discussions, on demande aux participants de lire le manuscrit au préalable. L’atelier comprendra quatre séances de discussions critiques sur le manuscrit ; chacune d’entre elles commencera sera lancée par des commentaires critiques d’une des sections du manuscrit, suivi d’une courte réponse de l’auteur et d’une discussion générale.

Inscription : L’atelier est ouvert à tous, mais l’inscription préalable est requise étant donné le nombre limité de places. RSVP le coordinateur de l’atelier : Cameron Cotton O’Brien <cameron.cotton-obrien à>


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