Hobbes' Conception of Political Obligation: a Critical Exposition

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CHAPTER 3 THE STATE AT ITS CIVILITY AND THE HOBBESIAN GROUNDS OF POLITICAL OBLIGATION INTRODUCTION Without mincing words, previous chapters have preoccupied themselves with and launched us extensively into a consideration of the conceptualization of political obligation and sovereignty, and an overview of the nature of the pre-civil state characterized by unbearable miserableness and tomblike war. As a panacea to man’s natural condition, “Hobbes sees a way out of this unhappy predicament, a way which employs the passions and the reason of the natural condition as the basis of an artificial structure, the Commonwealth.” Thus, this escape of man from this natural state is neither non-haphazard nor illegitimate in the sense that the transition is unscientific or/and unhealthy for man. It is rather a law-bound, contract-sanctioned and consent-willed transition. Thus, Collison succinctly describes and recounts Hobbes’ description of the necessity for the transition from the warring state, thus: ‘that the only way to secure perpetual peace is for people to covenant together to place themselves under so powerful a sovereign authority that rebellion against its command is virtually impossible.’ The implication of this is that the sovereign is empowered and authorized by and for the people’s life insurance. However, Hobbes maintains that the sovereign is not party to the initial contract or covenant made by men, but bound by natural law which enjoins men to seek peace, stability and justice. There are contentious issues Hobbes sets to confront head-on in the submissions he made in these preliminary considerations, namely, that man moved from the state of nature out of an organic and legal contract, and secondly that even though sovereign authority is constituted and established by men, yet the sovereign and its authority is not party to the contract, but rather bound

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