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Hobbes's Voluntarist Theory of Morals

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Two interpretations of Hobbes's theory of morals dominate the subject: the Egoistic Reading (ER) and the Naturalist Reading (NR). According to ER, all of Hobbes's moral concepts are self-interested at their core. According to NR, Hobbes's Laws of Nature set down genuine moral obligations/virtues both inside of the state of nature and out. This article rejects both of these interpretations in favor of a Voluntarist Reading (VR). On this reading, morality is an artifact of human endeavor, specifically covenanting. Unlike both ER and NR, VR takes seriously Hobbes's claim that there is “no obligation on any man which ariseth not from some act of his own”.


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