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Hobbes on the Artificiality of (His Own) Authority

In: Hobbes Studies
Author:
Evan Oxman Uihlein Assistant Professor of American Politics, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL, 60045, USA, oxman@lakeforest.edu

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Despite advocating for the necessity of absolutism, Hobbes is adamant that authority can only properly be derived from an act of human artifice and consent. But if the institution of sovereignty is subject to genuine choice, how can it be necessarily absolutist? I argue that one way of resolving this apparent dilemma is to focus on how Hobbes constructs and defends his own claim to authority in the Introduction to Leviathan. By encouraging his readers to read themselves and others, rather than rely on books, Hobbes ironically calls into question his own authority at the outset of his own book. But rather than subverting his claim to authority, it only strengthens it. After examining how this seemingly paradoxical tactic works, I demonstrate how an analogous claim applies to Hobbes’s account of politics.

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