Neither Behemoth nor Leviathan; Explaining Hobbes's Illiberal Politics
AbstractHobbes's Behemoth provides a vivid illustration of the historical consequences of ignoring his earlier philosophical critiques of efforts to limit or divide public authority. His history of the English Civil War warns us against extreme claims for exempting individuals and groups from general laws, but his prescriptions are ultimately unacceptable because they are insufficiently liberal. This paper argues that, while Hobbes points toward liberalism by undermining the teleological justifications of classical republican and natural law politics, he goes on to deny core liberal ideals. His rejection of commitments to individual dignity, the acceptance of diversity, and democracy reflect his metaethical voluntarism, his extreme determinism, and his portrait of citizens as pure subjects. Thus sum of these parts yields a defense of opaque and absolute sovereign authority that must be rejected in confronting our current circumstances.
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