Agnes Cuming Visiting Speaker 2015

Prof. Quentin Skinner, 
Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities
Queen Mary University of London

Quentin Skinner


The UCD School Of Philosophy is delighted to announce that the Agnes Cuming speaker for 2015 will be Quentin Skinner, Barber Beaumont Professor of Humanities, Queen Mary University of London. Professor Skinner will give two public lectures and in November 2015.  The lecture series will be entitled "Hobbes and the state".

Lecture 1: Hobbes and the person of the state on Wednesday, 18 November 2015 in Newman Theatre 1 (NTh1 lower ground floor Newman Building)

Nowadays when we speak about the state we generally use the word simply to refer to an apparatus of government; in common parlance, ‘state’ and ‘government’ have become virtually synonymous terms.  My first lecture traces the emergence in early-modern political theory of the strongly contrasting view that the state is the name of a distinct person.  Hobbes is seen as the major contributor to this way of thinking about public power.  The central section of the lecture analyses his claim that the state is a ‘person by fiction’, as well as examining Pufendorf’s rival but closely associated view that the state ought to be conceived as a moral person.  My lecture ends by attempting an assessment of the idea of state personality.  Has anything of significance been lost as a result of our abandonment of the belief, central to so much early-modern and Enlightenment discourse, that the state is the name of a person distinct from both government and the governed?

Lecture 2: Hobbes and the iconography of the state on Thursday, 19 November 2015 in Newman Theatre 1 (NTh1 lower ground floor Newman Building)

Hobbes received a humanist education, in which one central element was the study of rhetorical theories of persuasion and proof.  According to the rhetoricians, if we are attempting to induce belief we must know how to arouse the emotions of an audience in addition to offering evidence and proof.  One powerful method of persuasion was held to be that of making an audience ‘see’ what is being argued.  This commitment helps to account for the rise to prominence in early-modern humanistic texts of complex iconographical frontispieces.  Hobbes commissioned and helped to design three such frontispieces for his own works: for his translation of Thucydides (1629), for his De cive (1642) and for his Leviathan (1651).  My lecture attempts to uncover the insights offered by these illustrations into the character and development of Hobbes’s theory of the state.

QUENTIN SKINNER, Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities. Professor Skinner has broad interests in modern intellectual history, and have also published on a number of philosophical themes, including the nature of interpretation and historical explanation, and on several issues in contemporary political theory, including the concept of political liberty and the character of the State.  He has several key publications available on his website.

We are delighted to welcome Prof Skinner to the UCD School of Philosophy this Autumn.

2015 Agnes Cuming Speaker - Prof Quentin Skinner