Elusive Unity: The General Will in Hobbes and Kant

in Hobbes Studies
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According to one interpretation of Leviathan, Hobbes sinks the democratic argument in favour of government by representation into his own argument in favour of absolute rule. This paper argues that Kant in turn sinks Hobbes’ argument for coercive political authority into Rousseau’s construction of the volonté générale. Why does Kant reject Rousseau’s argument in favour of popular sovereignty; why does he revert to Hobbes’ endorsement of a coercively unifying political authority? The paper examines the different responses given by Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant to the problem of political unity and unified political decision-taking. While for Hobbes and Rousseau political unity must be empirically real – there must be an actual unifying authority – in Kant the idea of the general united will is a rational criterion of just lawmaking. For Kant, it is not the form of government that matters, but the manner of governing.

Elusive Unity: The General Will in Hobbes and Kant

in Hobbes Studies




Skinner‘Hobbes on Persons Authors and Representatives’162.


 Cf. RousseauThe Social Contract185.


Riley‘Rousseau’s General Will’142.


Skinner‘Hobbes on Persons’173.


Skinner‘Hobbes on Persons’173.


Kant‘On the Common Saying’302.


Skinner‘Hobbes on Persons’173.


Skinner‘Hobbes on Persons’173.


Alexander Aichele‘Persona physica und persona moralis: Die Zurechnungsfähigkeit juristischer Personen nach Kant’Jahrbuch für Recht und Ethik 16 (2008) 3-24.


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