Las Torres de Lucca. International Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol 5, No 9 (2016)

Subliminal Government: Secret Lessons from Hobbes’s Theory of Images, Representations and Politics

Johan Tralau, Javier Vázquez Prieto (Trad.)


Recent research on Hobbes has paid great attention to his use of images. Yet a serious possible objection remains: it could be argued that Hobbes relates his own production of imagery neither to politics nor to his theory of perception, and that we have hence no reason to believe that his images are an application of such a doctrine. The purpose of this paper is to show that Hobbes does indeed —in an implicit way— link his image-making and his psychological theory to political order. First, the paper reconstructs Hobbes’s theory of perception and its implications. Second, it is shown that Leviathan covertly establishes the link between the theory of images and political images, by implication including the ones created by Hobbes himself. Third, it is shown that Hobbes’s Leviathan on rare occasions uncovers its role as a device for seeing, for making the reader see the images that Hobbes considers necessary. Finally, we discuss the implications of this discovery for our understanding of Hobbes and for the understanding of visuality and images in political thought.