Critics have often suggested that Hobbes is a paradigm case of a philosopher whose own style of writing violates the norms he sets down for rational discourse. Philosophy, he says, "professedly rejects not only the paint and false colors of language, but even the very ornaments and graces of the same." More specifically he says that metaphors must be "utterly excluded" from "the rigorous search of truth ... seeing they openly professe deceit, to admit them into counsel, or reasoning, were manifested folly.” Nevertheless, attention focuses on his flair for the dramatic or metaphorical, as in the great mise en scene that is the state of nature or in the overriding metaphor in which the state is regarded as an artificial man. Now while I agree that Hobbes is a crucial case in determining the interplay of philosophical themes and literary modes (and I approach this distinction with some caution), I want to attend to some rather different aspects of his philosophical writing. In doing so, I will limit myself to his acknowledged masterpiece, the Leviathan, which is the mature fruit not only of his thought on ethics and politics but also of his reflections on the problematics of philosophical communication.

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Copyright © 1980 Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Journal of the History of Philosophy 18, no. 2 (April 1980): 147-57. doi:10.1353/hph.2008.0004.

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