The Problem of the Unity of the Representative Assembly in Hobbes’s Leviathan

Hobbes Studies 30 (2):178-201 (2017)
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In _Leviathan_, Hobbes embraces three seemingly inconsistent claims: (i) the unity of a multitude is secured only by the unity of its representer, (ii) assemblies can represent other multitudes, and (iii) assemblies are, or are constituted by, multitudes. Together these claims require that a representative assembly, itself, be represented. If that representer is another assembly, it too will need a unifying representer, and so on. To stop a regress, we will need an already unified representer. But a multitude can only speak or act through its representer, and an assembly is a multitude, so any representing done by the assembly is actually done by this already unified, regress-stopping representer. That is, if (i) and (iii) are true, (ii) cannot be. I will argue that this inconsistency is only apparent and that we can resolve it without rejecting any of these three claims. We do this by appealing to a representer-as-decision-procedure meeting certain criteria. Such a procedural representer breaks the transitivity of representation such that the assembly it represents can properly represent some further multitude. I proceed in my defense of the procedural representer view by addressing a series of problems it faces, the solutions to which give us a progressively clearer picture of the criteria this representer must meet.

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Douglas Wadle
University of Southern California

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Hobbes on Representation.Quentin Skinner - 2005 - European Journal of Philosophy 13 (2):155-184.

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