The inconvenience of the legislator’s two persons and the role of good counsellors

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I focus on Hobbes’s distinction between the natural and political persons embodied in one sovereign and show that, driven by their passions, ignorance, or bad judgement, rulers qua natural men may undermine the end they ought to pursue qua political actors, namely the protection of the well-being of the people. In particular, as legislators, they may make laws that are unnecessary, or that the people cannot endure, or that give rise to their impatience and discontent. I argue that in Hobbes’s argument, the notion of good counsel provides a safety net against bad commands being issued by rulers. I claim that the process of consultation of good counsellors is an essential component of Hobbes’s understanding of law-making. I suggest that the Hobbesian notions of counsel and counsellor provide a valuable framework to illuminate aspects of contemporary global law-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-85
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Sovereign
  • Legislator
  • Natural person
  • political person
  • Command
  • Counsel


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