Presenter: Simon Kennedy (Confirmation milestone)

Theories of the origins of society and the ‘state of nature’ have been a prominent feature of political thought throughout history. Political philosophers and theorists of the early modern period often created elaborate accounts of the origins of human society and civil government. These accounts served as a basis and justification for their political and social ideas. This paper will give an overview of a larger project which will elucidate the nature and implications of changes in ideas of societal origins in a set of thinkers who held in common a particular view of human nature. John Calvin (1509-1564), Johannes Althusius (1563-1638), Richard Hooker (1554-1600), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) all had anthropologies which were centred on the Fall of Adam and original sin. Despite this common ground, the earlier and later thinkers diverged significantly, in that the former held that human society was natural, whereas the latter propagated conventionalist views. The significance of this change is underappreciated in histories of political thought, and holds implications for our understanding of both past and present political ideas.


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