Hobbes’s Leviathan, Chapters XVI-XXV

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These discussion questions are meant to serve as jumping-off points for wider conversation about the issues and questions raised in the text.

Hobbes, of course, has something of a bad reputation. This stems in part because of the manner in which he is often taught: people today often read chapter XIII-XV, and think that they have understood the Leviathan. This leads to the assumption that Hobbes argues in favor of absolutism or tyranny of some sort. But in truth, as we can see, Hobbes actually brings us toward a liberal regime. Hobbes is very much the father of liberalism. How does the liberal commonwealth, dedicated to the protection of the citizen, emerge from the state of nature? What do you see in the earlier chapters (for example, XIII) that point toward this liberalism?
How are the rights and duties of the sovereign and citizen related? Some critics think Hobbes is an authoritarian, and that the government doesn’t really have any obligations to the citizens. Carl Schmitt (an influential 20th century German legal philosopher) criticized Hobbes for being a “bad” authoritarian – i.e., Hobbes accidentally leaves room for claims against the sovereign, individual autonomy, etc. Do you think he si right that this is an error on Hobbes’s part? Or is it intentional? What evidence do you see for both positions?

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