HOBBES: A VOLUNTARIST ABOUT THE PERMISSIBILITY OF STATE ENFORCEMENT?

  • Daniel Guillery PhD student in philosophy at University College London.

Abstract

I take up the question of what argument, if any, Hobbes has for state legitimacy, which term I stipulatively use to mean the general, exclusive permission to enforce compliance with their directives or laws that states are standardly taken to have. I will argue that, contrary to what one might imagine, the ground of state legitimacy for Hobbes is not to be found in the social contract or the authorisation of the state’s subjects, but rather in the sovereign’s simply not being subject to the kind of laws that rule out enforcement for subjects. The sovereign’s right to enforce is based in exactly the same sort of right that all have when not subject to any higher sovereign power. Though this must be nuanced (the sovereign does not literally retain its right to all things from the state of nature, since no sovereign existed in the state of nature), the permissibility of enforcement for Hobbes is to be found simply in the lack of anything that might make it impermissible.

Published
2018-05-14
Section
8TH BRAGA MEETINGS ON ETHICS AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, WITH GUSTAF ARRHENIUS