Hobbesian resistance and the law of nature

Samuel Mansell*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Hobbes’s account of the individual’s right to resist sovereign authority is nuanced. His allowance for cases where a sovereign’s command falls outside the terms of the social contract, despite recent reappraisals, cannot rescue him from the accusation that his system is contradictory. It has been suggested that some Hobbesian rights can be transferred whilst others are quarantined, or that it is the institution of law, rather than the particular commands of the sovereign, which Hobbes ultimately upholds. By reconsidering Hobbes’s concept of sovereignty alongside his theory of natural law, I argue that his system remains in tension with itself. Hobbes’s prioritisation of sovereign judgement over that of the individual, when combined with the principles he retains from the natural law tradition, renders his theory of resistance irreconcilable with his position on sovereignty.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalIntellectual History Review
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date9 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Feb 2023


  • Hobbes
  • Resistance
  • Sovereignty
  • Natural law
  • Thomism


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