The Strength and Significance of Subjects' Rights in Leviathan

In Marcus P. Adams (ed.), A Companion to Hobbes. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 221–235 (2021)
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Abstract

Hobbes says a great deal about the rights of subjects, particularly in Leviathan, and yet, despite his apparent insistence on the importance of the rights of the subject, the prevailing view amongst modern Hobbes scholars has been that rights of Hobbesian subjects are weak. The dominant view of Hobbesian rights as weak and insignificant is the view of modern Hobbes scholarship, which analyses Hobbes's political theory at great distance from his intellectual milieu and from the dramatic political events of the time. Hobbesian absolutism is understood to rule out rights of any strength or significance on the part of Hobbesian subjects and particularly, any rights held against the sovereign. The significance of defining subjects' rights as Hohfeldian liberty rights is that liberty rights lack any correlative duties on the part of others. The sovereign's authority and right to rule are made dependent on his ability and willingness to protect the subjects' aggregate right to self‐preservation.

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Eleanor Curran
University of Kent at Canterbury

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