Hobbes surely spent the ten years (1641–1651) of greatest significance for his philosophical career on the Continent, in France, above all, in Paris. It was during this period that he published De cive; wrote the De motu, loco et tempore; produced a draft of the entire Leviathan as well as most of De corpore. His complicated relationship with Descartes has been studied closely, and Mersenne’s role has become clearer. There remains however the task of more carefully delineating the contours of Hobbes’s relations with the circles of “learned libertinism.” The Libertinism which will be dealt with here was not only French, instead of English, but also “theoretical” and “intellectual” rather than practical, and nothing at all sexual, contrary to the common usage of that word in the current language. French Libertinism was a philosophical trend aimed at promoting a non-conformist approach to religion, history, morals, and even politics.
Hobbes, in his political writing, is generally understood to be arguing for absolutism. I argue that despite apparently supporting absolutism, Hobbes, in Leviathan, also undermines that absolutism in at least two and possibly three ways. First, he makes sovereignty conditional upon the sovereign’s ability to ensure the safety of the people. Second and crucially, he argues that subjects have inalienable rights, rights that are held even against the sovereign. When the subjects’ preservation is threatened they are no longer obliged to obey the sovereign. Third, there is also a possible limitation on the absolute power of the sovereign in the form of restrictions Hobbes puts in place on what laws he may legitimately make. Finally, Hobbesian absolutism is compared to the absolutism of Carl Schmitt. This exercise demonstrates the limitations that Hobbes places on the power and authority of the sovereign.
J. Matthew Hoye
Scholars debate whether Hobbes held to a command theory of law or to a natural law theory, and to what extent they are compatible. Curiously, however, Hobbes summarizes his own teachings by claiming that it is “natural justice” that sovereigns should study, an idea that recalls ancient virtue ethics and which is seemingly incompatible with both command and natural law theory. The purpose of this article is to explicate the general significance of natural justice in Leviathan. It is argued that below the formal and ideological claims regarding the law’s legitimacy, the effective ground of the legitimacy of both the civil and natural laws is sovereign virtue. In turn, it is argued that the model for this idea was found in Aristotle. As such, this article constitutes a general recasting of Hobbes’s legal philosophy with a focus on the natural person of the sovereign.
This book was first published in 2014 as Marx an die Uni. Die "Marburger Schule" – Geschichte, Probleme, Akteure by PapyRossa Verlag, Cologne, ISBN 978-38-94-38546-0. With a new Introduction by Ingar Solty.