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  • Cited by 20
  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: May 2006

9 - Hobbes's political philosophy


This chapter discusses some large questions in Hobbes's political philosophy. My aim is to identify what, if anything, Hobbes thought to be the central problem, or problems, of politics and to link the answer to an account of why the state of nature is so intolerable, of how we may leave it, and whether the manner of our leaving is well explained by Hobbes. I then turn to the implications for Hobbes's account of the rights and duties of the sovereign, and then to the contentions issue of the subject's right, in extremis, to reject his sovereign and rebel. In the course of that discussion, I also consider Hobbes's account of the nature of punishment and the question whether his two rather different accounts are not one too many. In answering these questions, I shall say something about Hobbes's conception of the law of nature, his theory of political obligation, and the role (or lack of a role) of religious belief in his political system. I say a little about Hobbes's account of liberty and link its oddities to the politics of his own day.