The History of Political Thought and the Problem of Liberty in Seventeenth-Century England
English department faculty lecture by professor Conal Condren (University of Queensland)
The history of political thought was developed towards the end of the nineteenth century as part of the institutionalisation of political science, in a reformed university environment. It was designed to give a chronological dimension to political science’s priorities and authenticate its presence in the University. In a number of ways it was analogous to other fledging disciplines such as sociology and English Literature. As a context for studying the texts placed within it, the History of political thought is an under-acknowledged distorting mirror. This paper draws attention to the informing nature of the genre by examining the putative presence of negative and republican liberty in seventeenth-century argument. Both notions, it is argued, are to differing extents misleading genealogical projections from modern, largely academic, political philosophy and theory. The principle example will be provided by Hobbes’s notions of liberty, but attention will also be drawn to the sort of text that is conventionally excluded from the history of political thought because it is ‘literary’.
Conal Condren is currently Honorary Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland and Emeritus Scientia Professor of Politics and International Relations at The University of New South Wales, Sydney. He is a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of the Social Sciences, and a member of Churchill College and Clare Hall, Cambridge. His main research interests are in political theory, language and argument in Early-Modern England; and in the theory of historical and textual analysis. Professor Condren is the author of numerous articles, edited collections, and monographs, which include: Argument and Authority in Early Modern England: The Presupposition of Oaths and Offices (Cambridge, University Press, 2006); Hobbes, the Scriblerians and the History of Philosophy (London, Pickering and Chatto, 2011); The Status and Appraisal of Classic Texts (Princeton, 1985); George Lawson's 'Politica' and the English Revolution (Cambridge 1989, 2002); The Language of Politics in Seventeenth-Century England (Macmillan, 1994); Satire, Lies and Politics: the Case of Dr. Arbuthnot (Macmillan, 1997); Thomas Hobbes (Twayne, New York 2000).